By: Pastor Bob Myers
There are two ways for me to live each day. I can either live out of my relationship with Christ, or I can live out of my own resources.
Whether it’s a high stress day or a care-free day off, I still will be booting off either the Christ-led system or the Self-led system.
The worlds we inhabit are accustomed to the self-led and fed system. You and I can accomplish our “to do” list by powering through it and grinding it out. We can fake it with a smile on our face that is not drawn from our relationship with Christ. I have a PhD in living out of my own resources. But I feel like I’m in pre-school when it comes to living out of a loving union with Jesus. Biblically, I see these phrases as calling me to this: “Abide in me as the branches abide in the Vine”- John 15, “Walk in the Spirit and you will not carry out the deeds of the flesh” - Galatians 5, “Those who look to the Lord are radiant” - Psalm 34. There are also several people who inspire me by the way I have experienced them living this out.
Here are Four Things that are helping me:
1. Beginnings and endings matter.
How I begin the day matters. If I start it by looking at emails or open up my computer as I’m tempted to do right off the bat, I start the day with a deficit. I need to disrupt these inputs with Jesus. This means, His Word and Prayer come first.
But there are lots of beginnings to tend to. How I enter a room, or meet new people, matters. How I close up the impact of one meeting before I commence another meeting, matters. If I don’t tend to this, I will bring the other meeting into the next one. If I don’t tend to this, I will be shaped by everything but Jesus.
How I begin being at home after a day of ministry matters. I need to leave unfinished work and ministry behind me and commit it into God’s hands. As I drive off Covenant’s premises, I literally pray “Lord, help me place this in your hands, Thy Will Be Done”, “the government is on your shoulders”, “Jesus take the wheel!”. I have to put these prayers on rinse and repeat cycles. Life may at times be hard, but His yoke is easy because He calls me to lean upon Him when I am weary and heavy laden.
The Bible calls ministry hard work in many places. It’s not a series of prayer meetings closed with singing Kum By Yah. Ministry takes a lot out of me and if I let it, it will leave me burnt over and less present. It can take me a long time to downshift into normalcy and attentive, loving, interaction with those I love best. This is why many preacher’s kids come to resent the church. They feel like it is always bleeding over so that they see it competing for the parenting they long for. We’ve had these discussions in my family and at times I have wounded them by not being present. I can’t justifiably blame Jesus for this. But it’s not just ministry jobs that stay with us. It’s true of your life and interactions. Tending to beginnings and endings is important. When I am Jesus-shaped, when I’m mowing the lawn and my wife returns home from grocery shopping, I stop, greet her with a kiss, and help her bring the groceries in. When I’m living in the flesh I just power through efficiently.
2. Give the Lord Full Access.
I’m working at giving the Lord full access to me. Of course, at one level He sovereignly has it. But at another level, and many levels, I can be resisting, hiding, and denying Jesus access. When you are in a public “job” or ministry, you learn how to power through. Powering through means I am efficient and professional. But the dark side of this means I don’t evaluate and process my feelings. We don’t allow ourselves to feel our feelings and to live life. We allow the way people want to experience us to become our default presentation even to God. I’m impressed by how many psalms basically start with complaints and confessions and validate the feelings of the author.
- Does the Lord have full access to my most hidden thoughts, relationships, feelings, hurts, hang-ups, stresses, etc.?
- Am I too busy for Jesus?
Jesus will never ask me to do something that pushes Him out of my life. What is pushing Him to the sidelines? I need to give Him full access to me. It’s a process I am learning, and it has made me work harder at listening to Him and soaking in His presence in silence and expectation. I endeavor to spend time each day saying, “Jesus, what do you want to say to me?” The goal is to live every moment in harmony and responsiveness to Him.
3. Include Others:
My best friend is my wife. The Scriptures call us to see marriage as a sacred calling meant to be a signpost to our ultimate and eternal marriage to Christ. (The reality is, singleness is no less of a sacred calling, requiring the same attentiveness and maintenance and holy purpose. I have less experience with singleness, but I lived that out for a few years, and was equally called to singleness as I am now called to marriage.) That means the pace of my life depends on the pace I live out with my wife. It means we are called to process life’s experiences, make decisions, and calibrate the pace of life based on our marriage. God uses what we are tempted to think of as our individual struggles to impact each other to Christ-likeness. There is no individual weakness my wife or I feel that is not a shared burden. My wife is the supreme human instrument of sanctification in my life. Our lives are interwoven sovereignly by God. My heart’s complaints, my challenges, my failings, stresses, and my brokenness will always impact her. My faith, my nurture and resources from Christ, the things that thrill my soul, the things that make me feel the most delight and joy, my most unshared thoughts, and even my most intimate, mystical experiences with the Holy Spirit spill over into her life. That’s true of every married person. There is a union that God effected through marriage that makes it impossible to compartmentalize marriage and section it off from our spiritual life.
4. Exclude Others:
Solitude. Unplug. I. Need. To. Slow. Down. And. Be. With. God. As great as marriage, delightful adult children, family, friends, and connection is, solitude matters a lot. Ultimately, I follow no one but Jesus Christ. Getting alone with the Boss is critically important. It means I have to rebel against efficiency and the expectations of others to do this.
Every day is in some measure a rebellion I must carry out against my own flesh, the expectations and approval of others, and being yoked to technology. I get away for prayer and solitude, unplugging for one week a year. I resolve to expand that to two days a quarter, one day a month in addition to the one time a day (personal time sitting with Jesus). I am also seeking to stop a few times a day and am learning to beware of the sense of “hurry” that makes it easy for me to miss Jesus. I kid myself if I say I follow no one but Jesus but never spend time with Him alone.
These are the lessons I am seeking to put into practice so that I live out of the Fullness of Christ and so that my life is a life of listening to Him first, leaning into Him, and then letting him lead me. When I do this, it changes how often I speak in a meeting, and how I prioritize the duties of a day in a Jesus-shaped direction. These are four things I am working on:
1. Beginnings and endings matter
2. Give the Lord Full Access
3. Include Others
4. Exclude Others