The elders of New City and I have devoted this day to praying and fasting for God’s clear direction and fierce protection in 2009. So today I have had the opportunity to “get alone.” I have spent most of the day in solitude, praying, studying, reading, preparing my sermon, and otherwise communing with God. O how I need this. An uninterrupted day with God. It’s amazing how clear God’s voice can be when you’re still. In fact, I told Kim that unless I devote myself to extended times of solitude, I’ll never make it. Concentrated times with God, just being with him, is something all of us desperately need. I need it. You need it. In our world of noise and distraction, we need to recover some of the ancient, but proven, spiritual disciplines that Christians before us have practiced: fasting, solitude, systematic Bible reading and meditation (this is, of course, where we hear God’s voice–in his Word), extended times of prayer (a far cry from our “sentence prayer” culture) whereby we listen more than we talk, etc.
I have been amazed at how much I’ve learned about God and myself–the areas in my life that need attention, how to handle the pressure’s I feel, the frustrations I face, and the disappointment’s I fret over. God’s presence, God’s voice, proved once again to be the voice I need more than any other. I have been reoriented, recalibrated, and reordered as a result. God is so good. His mercies are underserved. His grace is amazing. I feel like a new man.
For the sake of your soul, and those around you, get alone with God. Listen to his gentle instruction. Enjoy his soothing presence. I realized once again that, in the end, God is all I need. In fact, God is all I want. Minimize the noise in your life. Your spiritual life depends on it.
Here is one firm lesson God has reminded me of today: work on Tullian first and foremost and God will take of the rest.
I don’t do anyone in my life any good if I don’t put my pursuit of God first. Sounds kind of selfish, doesn’t it? Let me give you an illustration.
When I was a kid I used to get so offended by the stewardess on an airplane instructing parents that in case of an emergency they need to place the oxygen mask on their own face first before they place it on the face of their child. How self serving, I thought. “A good parent would put their child’s needs before their’s.” And then one day I realized, “A parent who is not breathing is no help to the child who needs him/her.” In this case, the most loving thing a parent could do for their child is to put the oxygen mask on their own face first.
The fact is, my greatest contribution to God’s Kingdom is not a good sermon or a growing church or the writing of books. My greatest contribution is a holy life. A life lived loving God, fighting sin, serving others, and in a thousand dfferent ways, dying to myself. When Tullian works on Tullian first and foremost, I become, by God’s grace, a useable man. Every effort I put forth before my effort to “work out my salvation with fear and trembling” becomes an effort without the fueling energy of God. And any effort without the fueling energy of God becomes, ultimately, an ineffective effort. The Scottish preacher Eric Alexander once said in my hearing, “God must first do a mighty work in a man before he does a mighty work through a man.” This is true for all of us. Husbands, when you work on you before you work on your wife, you become an agent of transformation for your wife. Wives, when you work on you before you work on your husbands, you become an a woman who can now be used by God to change your husband.
Perhaps C.S. Lewis put it best when he said, “When I have learned to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now.” Yes. That’s it. Not only as it concerns our husbands and wives and closest friends and family members, but as it concerns all of life. I needed to learn that once again. We all do.
“Come thou fount of every blessing; tune our hearts to sing thy grace.”