Life has a way of overwhelming the senses – it screams at us every moment of every day.
Scripture, on the other hand, seems always to whisper.
The power and noise of life has a way of taking over – moving us without stop from project to project, crisis to crisis, event to event. Subtly it becomes the whole of our lives. The Word of God (and the quiet disciplines of study and prayer) are edged further and further into the corner where they begin to seem less and less meaningful.
Here we find ourselves in the desert.
It’s not the only one we face, but it may be the most prevalent. It’s this desert that underlies one of our most asked questions:
How do I find balance?
Wonderfully, I think the scripture has a clear answer for us, but strap on your helmets, we’ll have to dive deep to get there.
//The World We Live In//
It’s controversial, but I want to start by making you think.
Picture Adam in the garden of Eden. Who taught him to speak? To garden? To care for the animals?
If Adam was listing his sources (a bibliography of sorts) for all the information gained in his life, how long would the list be?
(I’m hoping you came up with just one name – God).
Now imagine your bibliography.
How long is that one? Thousands of names? Millions?
It’s a stark difference. There was a beautiful clarity to the life of Adam before the fall – a single authoritative voice that spoke meaning into his existence.
Never has that voice been more cloudy than it is today.
We’re constantly flooded by an unending stream of opinions, worldviews, advice and “truth” until we’re all pulled into the current.
We may try and stand against the weight, but in some ways we find ourselves falling into the trap of modernism – lost in a world where there are no facts, only “opinions”. No right ways, only “options”. No clear meaning, only “events”.
“You have only to ‘stay tuned’ and you can arrive at a perpetual state of confusion and, ultimately, despair with no effort at all” -Dallas Willard
That’s only half the problem.
The other half exists within us. A pull outside us would be hard enough to resist, but we carry without ourselves an equal power to deceive.
It was no joke when Jeremiah warned us that the heart is “deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9). Even the redeemed heart of a Christian still battles with the deception of sinful nature.
The consequence is this – I can’t trust my instincts, they’re often untrustworthy. No matter how deep is my desire to do the right thing, my instinct for right is easy to lead astray. I’m being pulled by my own heart in the wrong direction.
With a world this confused, with a heart this deceptive, it’s no wonder we’re left feeling overwhelmed, ever-guilty and ever-unsure.
Most days we’re lying on the ground trying to walk on the ceiling and wondering why we aren’t going anywhere.
//The Gospel We Believe In//
For those of us in Christ, turning to the scripture often seems to offer no solace.
We find instead a complicated, distant, aged-text that seems to offer no comfort and help in our struggles.
We can easily fall into the trap of thinking of Christ as a future plan – a guarantee that, though this life may be crap, the next is going to rock. So, we do our duty, take a quick stroll through a Psalm, and then gear up to head back out into the the “real world”.
Meanwhile, the truth of the scripture seems further and further away, and our need for happiness and help becomes our responsibility – a burden that we struggle daily to carry.
We become a people trapped in a confusion of events we’re unsure how to react to, problems we’re unsure how to solve. The scripture, though we know it’s important, feels so distant from these immediate struggles that we often feel we have no choice but to side-line it. How else can we find the time to do with all we’re supposed to do?
Here is where that question finally arises – “In the daily bitter struggle of work and life and responsibility, I know the small time I give to prayer/study isn’t enough, but how can I possibly find more?”
Would it shock you if I told you that finding more time wasn’t the answer?
//The Gospel That is True//
Your life is rich in meaning.
Ephesians 2:10 – For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
In this seemingly ever-shifting world, there are some things that have deep meaning, and steady purpose. What a joy that one of them is your life.
I don’t just mean your existence, I mean your life with all it’s trappings. The place you work, the people you see, the children you raise, the house you clean – each of these not only carries within it beautiful pictures of your redeeming Father, but each lends itself to his eternal plan.
Read that again because it’s really important. The things that you do (great and small) are designed by God with the purpose of furthering his mission here on earth.
Nothing is outside his scope. Nothing is beneath his notice. Nothing is separate from life with and worship of him. The consequence is this, while reading your bible gives you valuable knowledge of the Lord, showing up at work gives you valuable opportunity to glorify him. To pray to him. To engage with him. To see him in the world. The same goes for laundry. For meal planning. For shopping. For coffee with friends.
Our “time with God” is all day. Every day.
You have clarity of purpose.
Proverbs 3:5-6 —
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
There is truth. There is a right way. There is an answer to the questions we have. There can be certainty in life.
We know those things, but do we really believe them?
Too often we come to the scripture with a critical eye – evaluating (often unwittingly) whether or not we’re willing to undertake what it requires.
Some commandments of God we write off as “impractical”, “impossible” or “outdated”, or maybe we dress it in humility and tell ourselves that living a life like Christ “isn’t possible” for a sinner like me.
In those moments, we’ve forgotten what the scripture is for. It carries within it the VERY WORDS OF GOD – an opportunity to escape from futility and indirection into the very life of God. An opportunity to live as God lived – to access the heavenly life now. Real life. Life as it was meant to be.
It offers us clarity – a straight path. From eyes unclouded, from a mind unswayed by culture and circumstance, from a heart undarkened, from the creator of the Earth. Do you want rest? Do you want to know what is best? Do you want to find truth? Here it is. Come and enjoy it.
You have present, active, help.
John 15:4 — Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
God is not a distant God. His companionship is not the companionship of your childhood friends or adult love. It’s a intimacy that brings our life into His – binds our fate to His. An intimacy that promises that when we act in Him, He acts with us – empowering, filling and satisfying on the deepest level.
In him, we are capable – the life He asks of us is also one He gives us the strength for. The joy He promises is one He provides. The strength we require is found only in Him.
The question simply becomes this. Do I really really believe it? Do I believe that God is not simply good, but is smarter, more capable, more business-saavy, more relationship aware, more culturally relevant, more brilliant at navigating the intricacies of human life than I could ever hope to be?
Because if I do, why wouldn’t I follow him?
In the end, it really wasn’t ever a question of balance (balance always was a yuppie word anyway). It was always a question of integration.
Not the integration (ignore what the bumper stickers tell you) of you inviting Christ into your life, but rather of you entering into His.
We must learn to stop holding our “bible time” in a separate hand from our regular life. We must train our eyes to see the lessons and encouragements of Christ that litter the pathways we walk. Then this question of bible study, or “time for God” solves itself. You know how much of your time is God’s — all of it.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17
One of the many great things about our prayer life is that it can be an easy access point to think about our daily commitment to Christ.
Think about yours – what times of day are you more inclined to pray? What sorts of things do you pray about? When crisis or difficulty arises (especially in the middle of the day) is prayer your first recourse? Can you remember days that slipped by without a prayer at all?
Do the answers reveal some places in your life where God is largely absent? What would it mean to surrender those areas to him?
It’s a great day to pray through your to-do list.
As you pray ask the Lord to remind you of His presence and His kingdom work that give value to the events of our lives. Ask him to reveal how He would have you do the work ahead.
(Gosh, wouldn’t this be sweeter with a friend? Why don’t you call one and find out?)
Again, unable to resist two options (I feel no guilt)
1. Our Favorite Option (Because, practical.)
Take a minute to read through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
As you read ask yourself the question, “What would it mean if this were REALLY true?”
When you find something convicting, feel free to stop right there. (It took me about 3 verses). Spend a little time thinking through how your life would change if you truly (deeply!) believed that this was not just sincere instruction, but invitation into the kind of life you were made for. Feel free to engage in more prayer.
2. The Speedier Option (Because, life.)
I’m hoping in the midst of this lesson you’re feeling that time with Christ doesn’t steal time from your life, but makes up the whole of it and enhances every part, but time constraints are real things, and these ideas are BIG. If you need or want a little more time to consider, here’s a sweet little article from Jayne Clark called “Hurry Up and Rest” that draws some of the same ideas out by looking at a story from the Life of Christ.
You all are very much in my prayers. Hope your journey this week brings sweet surprises and more of the Lord.