Private Devotions: A Balanced Approach to a Common Problem, Pt 5
In this last post we are going to consider 3 other things that can help us with those times when we do not feel like spending time in the Word of God and prayer. May we take them to heart and put them into practice.
A good passage to remember when it comes this feeling issue is 1 Peter 2:1. “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy, and envy and all slander, like new born babes, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord” (NAS). Peter speaks of longing for the Word as a babe does for milk. Longing for something to eat or drink registers in our feelings. In fact, we use feeling language all the time when it comes to our physical sustenance. “I feel like something to eat”, or “I don’t feel like anything”. The feeling we should have when it comes to the Word of God should be analogous to the feeling we have when we are hungry and thirsty. Notice however, that Peter identifies several things we need to put aside in connection with longing for the Word. A genuine Christian has already put these things aside once and for all at conversion in that they are no longer unbroken patterns in his life. Yet, as we have seen in a past article, a Christian has a residue of them still in him from which he needs continual cleansing, and such things going on unchecked will hinder him from feeling hungry for the Word. Whenever you find yourself without a felt longing for the Word do some self examination to see if these things are in your heart and life. If they are, purge them out of your system by confession, repentance and fresh cleansing in the blood of Christ, and you will find it easier to feel as you should about the Word.
Malice– wickedness; evil intent
Deceit-dishonesty in word; intent to mislead (even if the words are accurate-if the intent is to mislead it is still deceit); duplicity of any kind
Hypocrisy-pretence; wearing a mask and appearing to be one way when in reality you are someone else; covering things over that need to be revealed and acting as though they are not there
Envy-jealousy; desiring what someone else has (things, opportunities, abilities, etc) in a sinful way; you are not happy he has it; often joined to it are ill feelings toward the person with a desire to see harm and misfortune come to him
Slander-unnecesarily spreading around information about another person that is insulting and harms his reputation. Even if it is true and you think people have a “right to know”, it is still slander unless the principles of righteousness demand it be passed on to other people. If it is none of our business then we should not be on the telling or receiving side of the information.
You Gotta Mutter
Psalm 1 is a familiar passage for many. It is the Psalm in which the blessed man is described. “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and it whatever he does, he prospers (Ps 1:1-3 NAS). The picture of the blessed man is that he is as strong as a healthy tree which is always producing fruit. Such a spiritual life is possible if we do what produces such a life, namely, meditating in the law of God day and night. “Law” in this context means scripture as a whole. The picture is not of a person who sells all he has, moves into a shack deep in the woods, and reads his bible all day and night. Meditate literally means to mutter-like a low muffled talking to oneself. The picture is of a person who throughout the course of the day and evening, even as he is engaged in other activities, is constantly turning his mind and heart to the scripture. He is continually muttering it to himself, if not with his lips, at least in his mind. What does this have to do with the relationship between our feelings and times of private devotion? It is like this. If the only time I try to focus my heart and mind on the scripture is once a day for a few minutes, and the rest of the time I am meditating on other things then I am going to have an awfully hard time getting my feelings to be what I want them to be only one time a day. Develop the discipline of meditating on the Word day and night, and you will find that your “feelometer” will more consistently give you the readings you desire.
The other morning when I sat down to have quiet time with the Lord I was feeling under the weather. As I began to pray to the Lord, two texts of scripture came to my mind and heart in a fresh and powerful way. “For since He himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Heb 2:18 NAS). “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). As the realities of those two verses came to me I actually “felt” physically stirred up to pray and lay hold of my Lord in the secret place. Why? Those texts teach us that the Lord Jesus has been there. He lived as a real man on this earth. He experienced what it is like to be tired and, yet necessity calling upon him to minister to a needy soul (Jn 4:6-7). He experienced what it is like to feel the pressure of demands upon Him that made it hard to find time to get rest (Mk 9:30-44). He experienced what it is like to have to make time for prayer in a busy schedule (Lk 6:12). According to those texts in Hebrews, now that He has gone back to Heaven, He has not forgotten what it is like. Therefore, He is able to sympathize with us, and He is eager to draw near by His Spirit to give us help as we face the same pressures. Some times our not feeling like it is not an issue of sin. We are just tired, do not feel well, or we are so busy with fulfilling our obligations that it is hard to pull aside and get ourselves in the proper frame. The next time that is the case remind yourself of the Lord Jesus, your faithful High Priest. Remember that at that moment He is looking down on you with sympathy, not disgust. As you fill your mind up with those comforting truths, pray in His supernatural aid. You will find yourself encouraged as you begin to feel His love and grace. There is nothing, I mean nothing, that makes you feel like spending time with Christ more than to remember who He is and what He is like.
I hope that these articles have been of some help to you.
<p><a href=”http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=987″>Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net</a></p>