The Necessary Thing

Many years ago, when I first started following the the Lord, a friend excitedly shared some advice that changed the course of my life.  That moment was so pivotal, I still remember, vividly, where we were at the time. He had been struggling spiritually and had found a secret that helped him, and he wanted to share it with me. 

         What was it?

         It was making time to meet with the Lord every day for at least an hour. 

         Let’s break that down. First, it is about making time. This was not just an hour that happened to be idle.   Instead, it was about intentionally carving out an hour in the beginning of my day, every day, for the purpose of doing nothing but seeking Him.  It was an intentional act of either going to bed a little earlier or missing some sleep so I could put this important activity first. 

Putting first things first is good advice – but we need to first recognize what the “first things” are.  There is a story in Luke 10: 38-42 about two sisters, named Mary and Martha. Jesus visited them and, as it always was with Jesus, there was a crowd with Him!  With little advance notice and Door Dash being a couple of millennia away – there was a lot of work that had to be done. While Martha was scurrying around trying to get everything ready, Mary was sitting at Jesus’s feet calmly listening to His words.  Martha was upset and asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her.  Jesus responded this way:

Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.  (Luke 10:41b-42)

         There will always be more things that need to be done, but there is only one thing that is really needed – to stop and prick up our ears to what the Master is teaching us.  This is what is meant by “making time.”

         That brings us to our second point – what does that mean to “meet with the Lord?” All too often, we approach our devotions as a time to keep up with our Bible reading and say our prayers. Although this is good, it is only setting the stage for what God wants to do. If we are not careful, our devotions can become just another box to check as we sail through our busy schedules.

We meet the Lord in His word, the Bible.  The Scriptures are not just words on pieces of paper.  They are alive and powerful.  Their words are sharp and two-edged.  They can instantaneously cut through all the other “stuff” in our lives and pierce into the innermost part of our being (Hebrews 4: 11 – 13).  The Scriptures are likened to bread (that nourishes), a hammer (that breaks) and a fire (that consumes and cleanses) because of the effect they can have on our psyches (Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4; Jeremiah 23:29).  The Word of God is the sword that the Holy Spirit uses to do His transforming work in our lives and the lives of those we meet (Ephesians 6: 17).  This is why the Word should occupy the central place in the day of every follower of Jesus.  

The great thing is that the Lord has also provided a Comforter – the Holy Spirit who comes alongside of us as we read the Word.  He is the One who “unfolds” God’s word and brings light to our understanding (Psalm 119:130).  The Holy Spirit is He who “speaks” Scripture to us as we read and creates faith in our hearts (Romans 10:17).  His work is to teach us “all things” and to bring us into “all truth,” (John 14:28; 16:13; 1 John 2:26,27). 

This is why it is important to meditate on His word.  What does that mean? It means to “turn” the portions of Scripture we hear, read, or study around in our mind – like a diamond under a light.  It also means to “ruminate” on the Word.  Just as a cow will eat grass and later bring it up to chew on it again and again, it is best practice to make time to memorize verses, sections, or even whole books of the Bible that we can “bring them up” into our minds as we go about our day. Praying Scripture (especially the Psalms) back to the Lord is another way of doing meditating on His Word.

All this is done for one reason – to give the Holy Spirit the time He needs to engraft God’s word into our hearts (James 1:21-25).

In his book, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, Dr. Howard Taylor tells the story of someone traveling through China with the great missionary.  After a busy day, they retired to their beds for the night.  During the night, Taylor’s companion was awakened by a light coming from behind the curtain where the missionary was supposed to be sleeping.  As he got up to investigate, he saw Mr. Taylor on his knees, in front of an open Bible, praying the psalms.

This was his spiritual secret – and it can be yours as well.  I like to carve out my hour in the morning so I can orient myself for the day, but evening may be a better time for you. The important thing is:  it MUST be carved out. 

My encounter with my friend was a long time ago and I have never regretted an hour I have carved out since.  God has met me there many times with refreshment, correction, and wisdom for the most important decisions of my life. Every good thing I have in my life today can be traced back to those special hours with Him. I shudder to think of what I would have missed if I had not taken my friend’s advice.

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