Scripture Reading: Romans 7
I placed faith in Christ as a twelve year old, some fifty-five years ago. At the very first of this series of devotions, I want to say honestly that the struggle to maintain a spiritual walk with the Lord and to consistently grow in my faith has been an on-going battle. That may seem strange to some coming from a man who has been in the ministry for over forty years. Thankfully, Paul wrote of the same issues that he faced. Note the following words; “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me: but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (Romans 7:14-18)
Look carefully at the words “carnal,” “flesh,” and “spiritual.” These are important words when considering our topic of growing as a believer, in developing in faith. In Verse 22 and 23 Paul gives us an important thought that helps make sense of our current situation as followers of Christ. He wrote, “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” This is such an important key in understanding the struggle we endure in trying to be what we are supposed to be in and for Christ. A major part of us has yet to be “redeemed;” our “flesh.”
Paul knew that the problem he battled everyday in his walk with Christ was his own “flesh,” the part of his being that still struggled with those things that were not pleasing to God; those things that he knew that he should not do, which he still had a tendency to do. (See again 7:15-17) You see, believer, some things come naturally, while other things do not. Because we are still in the “flesh,” and because that part of us is yet to be “redeemed,” those things that pertain to the flesh come naturally to us. And, unfortunately, the things that come naturally to the flesh are not in many cases the things that are pleasing to God.
Now understand this, everything about our flesh is not contrary to God or His will. While I was typing these words, Lynn said, “Are you hungry?” My answer was, “Yes.” She then said, “Can you stop long enough to eat?” Again, my answer was, “Yes.” And beginning right here, there was a pause in my writing. There is nothing about that that is sinful, or contrary to the will of God, and that is all “flesh.” So, beloved, everything about your flesh is not the problem, just those things about your flesh that are contrary to God.
The things about our flesh that are contrary to God are where the problem lies. In Galatians 5:16-21, Paul provides a list of the “works of the flesh” that are quite atrocious. The “works” include “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, variance, emulations , wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envying, murderers, drunkenness, revellings.” Let’s look at a few of those words. Those words which deal with sins of the more sensual nature are “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, and lasciviousness” The word “fornication” comes from the Greek word where we get our word pornography. It really speaks of all scripturally forbidden acts of sensuality. The word “uncleanness” speaks of moral and lustful impurity, while the word “lasciviousness” carries the thought of unbridled lust. These are all prevalent deeds of the flesh in our very immoral, promiscuous day. While these deeds of the flesh most certainly should not be found among professing followers of Jesus Christ, the reality is that these are found in professing Christians. The words “idolatry and witchcraft” are easily understood, but unfortunately even these are found among those who profess faith in Christ. Idolatry would be anything that we devote ourselves, our time or our money to that is contrary to God, or takes the place of God in our lives. Rebellion would be disobedience to the revealed will of God. And Samuel told Saul that “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” (1 Samuel 15:23) So, as you can see, these “works of the flesh” can be named among those who call themselves “Christians.”
“Hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife and seditions” are all words which speak of works that can be found in anyone. “Hatred?” Do you think feelings of “hatred” are ever found in God’s people? “Variance” is quarrelsomeness or contentiousness, while “emulations” means a zeal or fierceness of indignation in an area that is contrary to Christ-mindedness. “Wrath” and “strife” go hand in hand, for “wrath” speaks of passionate anger and “strife” means a fierceness in putting one’s self forward, passionately trying to get the upper hand, as it were. “Seditions” is that trait of being divisive, causing a break in unity. Has that ever been witnessed in a person who names the Name of Christ? Of course it has!
Then there are the other “works of the flesh,” such as “heresies,” (Meaning the act of taking or capturing, as a body of men following their own tenants and doing so like soldiers might storm a city.) “envying, “murders” (See what John said about that in 1 John 3:15), “drunkenness,” and “revellings.” (Meaning a nocturnal and riotous procession of half drunken people.) One might say, “Preacher, none of these qualities are evident ever in professed Christians, surely!” O, how I wish that were true, but these are things I have seen and dealt with in professed Christians for my entire 42 years of ministry.
These are “works of the flesh” that are contrary to God, and whether or not we want to admit it, these are tendencies that we all have within our “flesh,” which is yet to be redeemed. Herein lies the struggle, and the challenge and the command to “move on.” If we are not actively working to overcome these tendencies, if we are not fervently laboring to “move on” in our Christian development and growing spiritually, the potential of falling into one or more of these “works of the flesh” are extremely high. To do so is to fail in our Christian walk, and to bring a reproach to the Name of the Savior. This provides an incentive for believers to be fervently seeking to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord....” (2 Peter 3:18)
Scripture Reading: Galatians 5:16; Romans 8
The struggle we face in overcoming those things that displease God, and doing those things that please Him, comes from the fact the our flesh is yet to be redeemed. (Romans 8:23) Consequently there is a conflict that is ongoing between our flesh and our spirit that was quickened by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:1-11 with Galatians 5:17-18) It is so vitally important that we understand this, for if we do not we might even be brought to questioning our salvation when we endure times of testing and struggle.
Only the saved have this struggle. Paul wrote, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” When sinners are drawn to saving faith in Christ (by the Holy Spirit, John 16:8), and call upon the Lord for His wonderful salvation, the Holy Spirit does a great work. He regenerates them spiritually, birthing them into the family of God. (Titus 3:5) He then secures them eternally by indwelling them as the “earnest” (or down payment) of their completed redemption. (Ephesians 1:13-14) So when Paul speaks of those “having the Spirit of Christ,” he is speaking of those who have been saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the Lord Jesus, and have been “quickened” and “indwelt” by the Holy Spirit. Thus, having the “Spirit or Christ” indwelling them, the saved find themselves in the struggle; the struggle between their flesh (or their natural man) and their spirit. As noted earlier, only the saved have this struggle.
The struggle can only be overcome when we learn the secret of “Walking in the Spirit.” “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Beloved, there are some things in your life that once done, they are done forever. You only have to be saved one time. You will never need to be “born again” again! Praise the Lord! But there are some things that need to be done continually. You never complete these things. There will never be a time when those things do not have to be revisited. This struggle between your flesh and your spirit are one of those things. It’s like washing your face or brushing your teeth. You never get through doing that, and you never get through with the conflict that goes on between your flesh and your spirit. Look again at Galatians 5:16. The word “Walk” is an action word speaking of the way we progress or make our way, the way we make use of opportunities. Being an action word, it is in the present tense. This means it is an action that is to be taken at the present, meaning that it is ongoing; not just something to look forward to, to something that once it is done it is completed. It is to be done continually, or in the present. The word is in the active voice, meaning it is something that must be done by the subject, not done for him, but by him. And, the word is found in the imperative mood, meaning that it is a command to be obeyed. Putting all this together, when the Holy Spirit had Paul write, “Walk in the Spirit” He was issuing a command that is to be obeyed, it is to be obeyed continually and it is to be done by those who are receiving the command. (The saved!) There are many things that God does for us, but this is one thing that He requires of us, and we are the only ones that can accomplish this task He has assigned us. We must “Walk in the Spirit.” If we do not do so, then we will “fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” If obedient to this command, we “shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”
Before I leave this thought let me note this one thing, the “lusts” of the flesh may not be referring to desiring immoral, ungodly things. It can just be desiring something that takes us away from our Lord, from our devotion to Him and His will for our lives. It could even be something that in itself is not bad at all, but it could be detrimental to our walk in Christ. Remember, beloved, it is the “little foxes that spoil the vine.” (Song of Solomon 2:15) Even the best things can become harmful to our spiritual life if they crowd out our time with God and His Word. There is a word used in Scripture that is most important when it comes to things. It is the word, "temperate." Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:25; "And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible." The word "temperate" means "to be self-controlled." The word is drawn from athletes who, in preparing themselves for a competition, practice moderation, self-control and self-government. This then is a good word for believers seeking to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Even good things in our lives may have to be moderated as we ever seek to draw closer to our Lord. A good illustration of that could be the reading of books or magazines. If all my time is absorbed in the reading of good books at the expense of neglecting the best Book, God's Word, I need to cut down on the time spent on my good books. This may seem strange to consider when the admonishment is concerned with those things that our flesh may long for, or "lust after," but as noted, some of the things my flesh may long for are not bad in themselves, unless they take us away from a close walk with the Lord. Absolutely nothing is worth sacrificing our time with Him Who loved us and gave Himself for us.
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 2
Our topic for these devotions is spiritual growth; "Let's Move On." Paul said, "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection...." (Hebrews 6:1) Of course, we understand that he was not speaking of sinless perfection, for none are sinlessly perfect other than the Lord Jesus. No, the word "perfection" speaks of completion, or spiritual maturity. Many problems have been caused for the body of Christ through the years by the spiritual immaturity of those in her ranks.
Everyone starts out as a "babe in Christ." Peter wrote, "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby...." (1Peter 2:2) When sinners place faith in the Lord Jesus, they are "born again." Scripture tells us that they become new creatures in Christ. (See 2 Corinthian 5:17) As newly-born, new creatures in Christ, all believers start out as spiritual babes. There is nothing bad about that. Where the bad comes in is when the new born believers in Christ remain spiritually immature rather than growing in their faith. Parents would be distraught if their children never grew or developed properly. Lynn and I have two ewes. They are about 2 years old, but they have not really grown to what would be considered a fully developed sheep for that breed. They are very small. One of those ewes has a definite muscular problem for which there is really no cure. Because of this she has difficulty at times maneuvering through our steep mountain pasture. Their development has been hindered in some way. When believers do not grow in grace and develope in their faith, something is hindering that growth.
In dealing with this very subject, Peter, encouraging believers to "desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" admonished them to "abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation." There are a couple of points emphasized to believers in reference to their spiritual development that are worthy of note. First, spiritual growth does not come naturally. When Peter wrote, "Desire the sincere milk of the word," that was actually a command to be obeyed rather than a suggestion to be considered. Incidentally, the Holy Spirit Who inspired Peter's words has every right to make demands of those He has quickened by His infinite power. The command to be followed reveals that it is going to take some effort on the part of the believer. Growth does come naturally when the requirements of growth are met, and it is the responsibility of each believer to make sure that happens in his or her life.
Along with the duty expressed in the word, "...desire the sincere milk of the word," which we will examine further, followers of Christ are admonished to lay some things aside. "Malice" means ill-will, or a desire to hurt. This is a trait we are well aware of, for our world is filled with malice. We have witnessed this in an undeniable way in the political world in our country. It seems to have been the on-going past time for many over the past years. Malice is one of those traits that does come to sinners naturally. There is that desire to advance self at the expense of others. Malice is seen in young and old alike, and if we are honest there have been times in our lives that the desire to strike back and hurt someone for something that they had done to us has been present. Rather than acting in ill-will or malice, the believer is admonished to overcome evil with good. In this same epistle, Peter wrote, "Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing." (1 Peter 3:8-9)
Another thing that must be "laid aside" in the process of growing in grace is "all guile," meaning craft or deceit. Have you thought or said lately, "You can't trust anyone?" Why did you say that? Because, unfortunately, there are many that are simply not trustworthy. Honestly, we do need to be as "wise as serpents" while at the same time being "harmless as doves," because we live in a world as "sheep in the midst of wolves." (Matthew 10:16) It is a good thing to think the best of your fellowman, while at the same time being sure to check the receipt, examine the work and check the figures. That is to be expected when dealing in and with the world, but not when dealing with brothers and sisters in Christ. The challenge for us individually is that, regardless of what others are doing, we are endeavoring to lay aside any sign of "guile" from our lives.
Next, we are told that we need to lay aside "all hypocrisies." "Play acting" might have been alright when we were children, but there comes a time to "put away childish things." (1 Corinthians 13:11) Play acting has not place in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ. When Peter wrote that word, he was speaking of one who stands up on a stage acting out a part. It is not who they really are, it is simply pretending. Acting has its place in human life, but not in the daily life of the believer who is endeavoring to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. This must be "laid aside."
By now we should be getting the picture. Spiritual growth is a struggle because we are in a battle with our own flesh. That's why things like "envy" and "evil speaking" comes naturally, but overcoming those things which come naturally is part of the spiritual maturing process. When Peter said, "Desire the sincere milk of the word," he was not simply meaning that we should desire to know it better. He was implying that need to "desire the sincere milk of the word," that we might know it, and apply its truths to our lives. To know the Word of God and not to do it is a sure sign of spiritual immaturity. As James wrote, "For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was." (James 1:23-24) Spiritual growth demands knowing God's Word and applying its truths. This takes effort of the part of the believer who is seeking to grow spiritually. As noted earlier, this does not come naturally, and it does not come effortlessly.
Lynn and I like to watch cooking shows. The other night, we watched a show on making a type of Lebanese meal that really looked interesting. The next night when trying to come up with supper, we decided to try the dish we had seen the evening before. We used a bread dough that we make when having homemade pizza; fried up some hamburger, onions, mushrooms, potatoes and cheese and made the Lebanese meat pies we had seen prepared the night before. O man, they were good. It took some effort. Required some clean up afterwards, but they were good. Spiritual growth takes some work on our parts, but the "feeding" on God's Word, and the response to that Word delivers some "good" results. "Desire the sincere milk of the word that ye might grow thereby."
Scripture Reading: Colossians 3
In our last devotion, we looked at some things in our lives that needed to be laid aside; things like "malice, guile, and hypocrisy." In considering spiritual growth, Colossians 3 is a good place to look. Paul begins with the admonition, "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." Think about this; we have been examining the fact that when we were saved, we became new creations in Christ. We ceased being just flesh. (Remember Galatians 5:17-21) The Holy Spirit regenerated the believer in Christ, giving new life through the "new birth." Consequently, those who have been "born again" are "risen with Christ." Paul wrote in Romans 6:3-6; "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." That "natural man," the "old man" was crucified with Christ on Calvary. And, just like Christ was raised from the dead, the believer has been raised a new creation in Christ. Hence, the saved are risen with Christ.
Now here comes the challenge. Because believers have been "risen with Christ," there are some things that must be changed in their lives; practices, habits, accepted norms that are not accepted norms for the redeemed. Paul speaks of it as "mortifying," or putting to death some things of the "old man." (See 3:9) Please remember that part of the "redeemed" is yet to be "redeemed," that is the flesh. Consequently, there are some "flesh" things that need to be crucified with Christ. "Mortify," or put to death, "therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry...." We looked at "fornication" and "uncleanness" earlier. The term "inordinate affection" speaks of passionate obsession. It is an obsession with something that is forbidden. "Evil" hardly needs defining, speaking of that which is of a bad nature, is troublesome, injurious, destructive and just simply wrong. The word "concupiscence" means a desire for the forbidden, a lustful craving for that which is contrary to holiness and purity.
Then there is "covetousness," which Paul declares is a type of idolatry.
If you look down beginning in Verse 8, Paul mentions some other vices that must be laid aside for the believer who longs to develop spiritually for Christ. "...put of all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. "Lie not one to another...." Because the flesh is yet to be redeemed, (Romans 8:23) it still has a natural tendency to do those things listed above that are not of God. So the answer to that is that we lay those things aside that are not of God, but of the flesh. Herein lies part of the struggle. It does not come naturally, and at times not so easily. I led a man to Christ early in my ministry who had been an alcoholic for many years. After his conversion, he struggle with his alcohol addiction. We have all heard testimonies of people in similar situations that have said, "I never wanted to drink again. God took that desire away from me completely." Some don't have it so in their lives. A former cocaine addict told me that years after his conversion he still literally smelled cocaine every time he inhaled through his nose. He was absolutely sure of his salvation, but this addiction that had been such a stronghold on his flesh still gave him difficulties.
How do we accomplish this overcoming of fleshly tendencies, this "laying aside" of attitudes, actions and even thoughts? Paul spoke of, "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5) To be totally honest, this is really not possible for those whose bodies are yet to be redeemed. You might be asking, "Why would the Lord make demands of us that we are incapable of fulfilling?" We are incapable, but He is not. In Philippians 4:13 we read, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." While we cannot, He can, and He can for and through us.
When the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, they were totally dependent upon Him. They could not escape the taskmasters. When they came to the Red Sea, there was no way they could cross over. There was no way they could find enough food in the wilderness to sustain their lives, nor enough water to satisfy their demands for such in that harsh, desert environment. There would be one obstacle after another that they would be unable to overcome, but God could for them, and through them. He parted the Red Sea, rained down manna from above, supplied 2 to 3 million people plus all of their livestock with an ample supply of water from the Rock that was smitten. When meat was needed, God brought in quails. What a mighty God we serve! The thought here is, you cannot do this on your own, this overcoming of your own fleshly tendencies and weaknesses. You can't, but He can!
Part of growing in grace and maturing in Christ is learning how to depend upon Him for strength. As Paul said, "...through Christ which strengtheneth me." Have you ever observed a child trying with all its might to lift something to no avail? You may have stepped up and said, "Here honey, let me help you with that." That child just kept straining and struggling, but you reached down and lifted that heavy load, helping that child do something that was totally impossible to be done without you. That is the way our Lord is. He knows your limitations. He is fully aware of your weaknesses, and He will ever step in and say, "Here honey, let me help you with that." There is nothing too hard for our Lord! (See Genesis 18:14; Matthew 19:26) His strength is made perfect in your weakness. (See 2 Corinthians 12:9) You will never be able to overcome the natural tendencies of your own flesh apart from His Divine strength, but with Him "all things are possible." Incidentally, this is part of the maturing process; learning to depend upon the strength of the Lord to overcome flesh and “walk in the Spirit.”
Along with “putting off” those traits of the flesh that are hindering spiritual development, there are some traits that must be “put on.” In Verse 12, we are told to “Put on…bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another….” The “bowels of mercies” is an interesting thought. The “bowels” were regarded as the seat of the emotions, such as anger or love. The Apostle John wrote the following words in 1 John 3:17; “But whoso hath this world’s goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him.” (1 John 3:17) The prophet Jeremiah used this word in Lamentations 2:11, “Mine eyes do fail with tears, my bowels are troubled….” Paul instructs believers to add “bowels of mercies,” or compassion and pity. With “bowels of mercies” it would easily be carried over into “forbearing one another, and forgiving one another.”
Next, we are told to “put on charity,” or love. Remember that the Lord said that “love” was the thing that would identify you as one of His followers. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35) Note also what Paul writes, “…put on charity, which is the bond of pefectness.” The word “perfectness” means completeness, and that is exactly what we are talking about when dealing with the subject of spiritual maturity. See the following pasages; Matthew 5:48; Philippians 3:15; James 1:4. We all know that this is not speaking of sinless perfection, for none have ever been sinlessly perfect, excepting only the Lord Jesus Christ. The word “bond” speaks of something that binds things together, acting like a ligament as it were holding the various components of spiritual maturity in the believer together. Compare this to what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13, the chapter on “charity” in the believer. Everything done by way of endeavoring to mature in Christ is bound together with “charity,” or love. By the way, if the heart is filled with love, it will prevent the believer from being lifted up in pride due to his advancement in faith, and it will prevent feelings of superiority over those who are not so advanced.
Added to the things that are to be “put on” is “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” Many things can be allowed to govern the believer’s heart; anger, fear, dread, and a host of other things can rule from within. The Lord Jesus left us His peace, (See John 14:26) and that peace is what best rules the hearts of His own. And, what better way to allow our Lord’s peace to rule in our hearts than by filling our hearts with the truths of His blessed Word. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” (Compare with Psalms 119:11)
Please do not miss those other attitudes and attributes that must be added to our lives in our quest for spiritual maturity; “kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Remember, these traits do not come naturally upon conversion. If so, they would not be given as commands. These are all things that need to be added to, or “put on” in our lives when we place faith in Christ. This is all part of “growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” In the next studies of our devotion we will consider ways that we can do just that. May God help us to takes the truths we discover in His Word, apply them to our lives and experience the spiritual growth He intends for all the saved.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:44; 6:5-15; 14:23; 21:22; Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Philippians 4:16
Our topic of consideration is spiritual growth, moving on to the place that Scripture refers to as “perfection,” or spiritual maturity. In our last studies, we looked at things that we are to “put off,” and things that we are to “put on” as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the things we talked about in those studies was the reality that we cannot do this on our own. It is not possible for us to overcome the natural tendencies of our own flesh; flesh that is yet to be redeemed. We did learn, however, that where we cannot, God can. While we do not have the strength to overcome natural tendencies of our own flesh, we can do all things thought Christ Who strengthens us. (See Philippians 4:13) For the next few days, let's look at one of the most important aspects of finding that strength, and of overcoming those things about our flesh that hinder our spiritual growth; that is prayer.
Honestly, there is so much about prayer in the Bible that it is a bit overwhelming when launching a study on the topic in a limited work such as these devotional studies. It is, however, one of the most important aspects of our spiritual development. There is a given; spiritual maturity will be impossible for those who do not pray, and pray regularly. Spiritual growth demands communion with our Lord. There are two ways in which this is accomplished; through His Word and through the avenue of prayer.
Scripture is filled with wonderful and inspiring illustrations of prayer, and the results of prayers that were made in faith. James wrote, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” (James 5:16-18) Why do you suppose the Holy Spirit had James put that in his epistle? It was given as an encouragement to us, God’s children, to get a glimpse of the possibilities of prayer. If ever the Church of the Lord Jesus needed to grasp the promise and power of prayer it is now.
What is prayer? As stated earlier, prayer is communion with our Lord. The best example of prayer is given by our Savior. During the days of His earthly ministry, He was given often to seasons of prayer. For sure, He was in constant communion with the Father in heaven. When Paul wrote, “Pray without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) one can know for sure that this was the practice of the Lord Jesus. He did, however, have seasons of prayer, times when He drew Himself away from all others and secluded Himself in prayer. In Luke 5:16 we read, “And he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.” This incident came after He had healed a man of leprosy, which resulted in “great multitudes” coming to Him to hear Him, “and to be healed by him of their infirmities.” His schedule must have been hectic, with crowds of people gathering around Him. He loved them, and gladly taught them and healed their sick, but He needed time alone with the Father. In Luke 6:12 we read, “And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” Child of God, it is so easy to allow busy schedules and hectic days to rob us of time spent with our Lord in prayer. There are daily demands on our time and attention that scream at us to attend to this task, to take care of this chore, or to focus our energy on this time consuming responsibility. These “squeaky wheels” in our lives get grease, as the old saying goes, while prayer can be neglected. Jesus showed us by His example what must be done. There must be a “withdrawing” apart from all those time and attention grabbers to seclude ourselves alone with our Lord in seasons of prayer, times of communion with Him. What an example our Lord left for His followers to imitate!
Scripture Reading: Luke 6:12-16
In Luke 6, Jesus was ready to chose the men that would follow Him, the men to whom He would entrust the preaching of His gospel (Matthew 28:19-20) and the establishing of His Church. There were many disciples following Jesus, but these men would be ordained for a very special ministry. These men would be His Apostles, chosen and sent forth by Him for the great work that continues to this very day. Before choosing them, He spent all night in prayer to the Father. Here is an example for His people to follow; when faced with decisions in life, take this to the Lord in prayer.
Turn to Exodus 3 and 4 and read again the call of Moses to return to Egypt to deliver the Children of Israel from their bondage. See Chapter 3, Verses 11 and 13. Then read Chapter 4, Verses 1 and 10. These were serious questions Moses had when considering the great work to which the Lord was calling him. He felt inadequate, incapable of such a great task. Moses brought those concerns to God in prayer at the burning bush, leaving us an example. When we are faced with challenges for which we feel inadequate, when additional information is desired, as the song says, “Take it to the Lord in prayer.”
When Brother Russell Rice contacted me about pastoring Good News, I told him I would pray about it, but that I felt I was where I needed to be for the following years. Over a period of a couple of months he would ask, “Are you praying about what we talked about?” I would answer that I had been, but I really had not been spending much time in prayer about it, for I felt the timing just was not right for me to make that move. Finally, one Saturday night, he called me and asked, “Have you been praying about this? I am going to resign the church in the morning.” I really had not been praying at all. I walked outside that night in the dark, paced through the yard telling the Lord that I just didn’t feel that it was time to leave the church where I was serving. But that night, in prayer to God for His wisdom and guidance, I felt His will was for me to pastor Good News. I called Brother Russell back and said, “I feel that the Lord gave me His direction tonight. If Good News calls me to be their pastor I will come.” That was almost 40 years ago now. I learned that when facing major decisions in life, “Take it to the Lord in prayer.”
Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:1-18
Who better to instruct us on the subject of prayer than He Who set the perfect example of praying? There are several lessons Jesus taught on prayer in this passage. Let’s enumerate these:
Prayer is a private matter, not for show or display. “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love…to be seen of men.”
Prayer is personal communion between a believer and His Lord. “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when you hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”
Prayer should be uttered from the heart, not recited or read, not an uttering of memorized words. “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking."
Prayer should be spontaneous, but it should be planned and approached in a Scriptural way. Note Verses 5 through 15, what we refer to as “The Lord’s Prayer.” He had just gotten through saying, “use not vain repetitions,” so obviously this is not a prayer that is to be repeated regularly. No, this was a pattern given for prayer. Carefully examine this pattern and see if you can determine the various components of this pattern. For instance, our prayers should ever contain worship and praise; “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” They should also contain a seeking and surrendering to God’s will; “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done....”
Prayer should be mindful of God’s gracious provisions, and totally dependent upon His supplies for our everyday needs; “Give us this day our daily breatd
Prayer should be a time of repentance, of seeking forgiveness for those things in our lives that are not pleasing to our Lord; “...forgive us our debts....”
Prayer should be a time of finding strength and guidance for our battles, battles which we surely face as God’s people; “...lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil....”
The Lord Jesus gave this pattern to one of His disciples after being asked the question, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” Our prayer life should be directed by our Lord, and the Holy Spirit will do just that if we will but seek His guidance in this most important aspect of our spiritual growth.
Scripture Reading: Luke 6:27-36; 23:34; Acts 7:60; Romans 12:14; 1 Peter 3:9
Our topic of study for these devotions is that of spiritual growth, of moving on to the place of spiritual completion and full development. A most imporant part of that is prayer. In the verses we are looking at today, we an see the importance of prayer in our current state of spiritual conflict, and followers of Christ are in a spiritual conflict. The conflict is not always within. Sometimes it comes from without. There are those who “persecute” the redeemed, that “curse,” “revile,” and “rail” upon God’s children just because they are God’s children. Child of God, if you seek to live for Christ in a lost and sin blinded world, you will always face some type of opposition. This is part of what Paul was speaking of when he wrote, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
Many of you reading this devotion actually have more contact with the unsaved world than I do because you are in the workplace daily. If not now, you were in the past. As such, you know what believers face that try to live from Christ among the unregenerate. There is ever some type of opposition, of trying to influence believers to do wrong and just trying situations that are faced daily. We learned earlier that the struggle in growing spiritually is that it does not come naturally. Because we live in flesh that is yet to be redeemed, our natural tendencies when faced with opposition, persecution or even temptation to do wrong are to strike back, to be overcome with anger or frustration at the inner conflict we endure when facing these challenges. Prayer is an important key for the believer who is endeavoring to face the world in a Christ-like manner.
How does the old man deal with things that are unpleasant, painful or frustrating? How does that old Adamic nature deal with someone who is mean natured, always ridiculing or abusing? It strikes back. The flesh seeks ways to execute revenge, to give back as much if not more that what has been given. This is not the answer, child of God. Our Lord gave us the perfect illustration of the very best response; prayer. Stephen, when being persecuted for his faith responded by praying for those who were abusing him. By the way, his prayer had a definite impact on at least one. The Apostle Paul, Saul before his conversion, was definitely impacted by the prayer of that godly deacon.
The very best response that God’s people can given when being abused or persecuted for their faith is prayer. It’s not easy to “love your enemies,” to “do good to them which hate you,” to “pray for them which despitefully use you,” but it can be done through the strength that our Lord will surely give if asked. Striking back may give a temporary feeling of satisfaction, but it will never result in anything positive. Prayer definitely will. It will be healing for you, and it may just result in your persecutor being brought to faith in the Lord Jesus. That’s exactly what happened to the repentant thief that died on the cross just opposite of our Lord. He had been railing against the Lord, only to hear Him pray for forgiveness of those who were so sinning against Him. “The dying thief rejoice to see the fountain in his day.....” Jesus’ prayer effected that man’s eternity, and so can ours. The next time someone mistreats you, curses you, or treats you unfairly, “Take it to the Lord in prayer.”
Scripture Reading: Luke 18:1-8
We are looking at the importance of prayer to our spiritual growth. Let’s concentrate on one verse where we read, “…men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” The Strong’s Concordance defines “faint” as to be weak or weary, while Thayer’s defines it as to be utterly spiritless and wearied. This is a condition that all Christians face at some time in their lives or this admonition would not be given. For those who are endeavoring to live their lives for Christ, and to “move on” to the place of spiritual maturity, the “fainting” condition is one they most surely face, and most likely more than once.
One of the things we have noted in the quest for spiritual maturity is the struggle we find ourselves in between our flesh and our spirit. Flesh can become very wearied and “spiritless” in this battle for spiritual maturity. When the Lord Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, He returned to find His disciples sleeping. He said to them, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) Beloved, when it comes to doing those things that please God, and those things that add to spiritual development, it is a given that “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
How can the believer overcome this “weakness” that brings on “fainting” that Jesus was speaking of in Luke 18? That first verse in the Chapter gives the important key, “…men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” It would not be an injustice to this verse to say that it implies that prayerlessness adds to the believer’s “fainting,” the utter weakness of the flesh toward spiritual things. Neither would it be wrong to say that this verse is teaching us that one important key in achieving and maintaining spiritual maturity is prayer. It is teaching us that we ought to “always pray, and not faint.”
We noted earlier that we simply do not have the strength within to overcome our own natural tendencies of the flesh, and that we can only do that through the strength of Christ. (Philippians 4:13) Prayer is such an important aspect of receiving that strength from our Lord. Beloved, we must “always pray” and not “faint.” May He help us to do so!
Scripture Reading: Luke 18:1; 21:36; 1 Thessalonians 5:17
When should believers pray? Jesus said that His house should be called the “house of prayer.” (See Matthew 21:13) So, we should conclude that believers ought to pray when they come together to the house of God. Jesus set for us an example in praying over His food, so we could assume that believers ought to pray over their food. Our Lord also set an example for us in praying before making a major decision when He prayed all night before selecting His twelve disciples. (See Luke 6:12-16) Jesus prayed for those who opposed Him, giving us another example for us to follow. All of the above, and much more actually, are examples Jesus left us to let us know when we ought to pray. Of course, there is the word “always” used in Luke 18:1 and 21:36, which tell us that we ought “always” be in prayer. Paul said it this way, “Pray without ceasing.” When should believers pray? All the time, “always,” and “without ceasing!
Believers that are in that on-going process of developing spiritually, of become fully developed followers of Jesus Christ, are people that are “always” praying “without ceasing.” About now some are thinking, “But I have to work. I can’t spend all day everyday praying.” No, you cannot, but you can “pray without ceasing.” There are things that demand our time. There are jobs that must be attended to, things around the house that demand our attention and a host of other good duties that require our time. So, how can we “pray always,” and “pray without ceasing?”
Believer, you have a blessed advantage when it comes to fulfilling this command from our Lord. Let me ask you something, when is our Lord with you? Is He with you just while you are in church? Goodness no! He is always with you, for He promised never to leave or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5) Your body became the temple of the Holy Spirit when you were saved, and He has never left you. (See John 14:17 and Ephesians 1:13-14) There will never be a part of any day where the Lord will not be with you. You can commune with Him at all times. You can be in a mindset and state of prayer “always.” Times of secluded, intense praying are wonderful, but as a believer, you can pray at any time, and actually all the time. Try it today. Just spend the day doing all you do, and talking with Him while you are doing it. While you are working, thank Him for the ability to do so. While you are driving, ask Him to guide you as you are guiding your vehicle. Thank Him for the scenery, for the day, and for the strength to make it through the day. “Pray without ceasing.” He’s right there and ready for the conversation.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:9; 1 John 3:22; 5:13-15; James 1:6
We are examining the place of prayer, communion with God, in the quest for spiritual growth. From what we can learn from Scripture, it is a given that spiritually mature Christians are praying Christians. Prayer is an inseparable part of spiritual growth and maturity. Without regular communion with our Lord, we can not reach our full spiritual potential.
Before we move on from the subject of prayer, there are several things that must be noted. There is a lot of misunderstanding on the subject of prayer. God’s Word is the only place where trustworthy light on this most important topic can be found. For instance, prayer is communion with God which can only be enjoyed by those who have been brought into a saving relationship with Him through the Lord Jesus Christ. When He taught His own how to pray, He began by saying, “Our Father which art in heaven….” God is not the Father of all. We are brought into that relationship with Him through the New Birth. (Note John 1:10-13) Almighty God is the Creator of all, but is only the Heavenly Father of those who have been saved through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The first thing, therefore, we learn about prayer is that it is God’s children speaking to their Heavenly Father.
Another thing that needs to be understood is that prayer has some conditions that must be met before it is answered. John tells us that prayer is heard and answered when those who are praying are keeping His commandments and doing those things that please God. Now we know that none of us are perfect, and that we are all sinners. As such, we are ever coming short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) But, if as a child of God, the believer is endeavoring to seek God’s will through His Word and through the leading of the Holy Spirit, and seeking to keep His Word and do those things that please Him, that believer can have confidence that He hears and answers prayer.
There is another consideration. Prayer must be “according to His will.” John wrote, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, he hearth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.” That’s pretty plain is it not? We must pray “according to His will.”
One last thing, prayer must be asked in faith. We have all heard about the woman that read that if she prayed and asked the Lord to move a mountain, that mountain would be removed. She got down on her knees, asked the Lord to move the mountain that she could see from her house. She got up the next morning and the mountain still stood where it had for as long as she could remember. Looking out her window, the woman said, “Just as I figured. I didn’t think that mountain would be gone.” Unfortunately, much of our praying is of that mindset. Prayer must be uttered in faith. Repeatedly our Lord taught this to His disciples. If prayers are to go past the ceiling into the very presence of God, they must be prayed in faith. “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering….” Father, please help our unbelief. Amen!
Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 2:15; 1 Peter 2:2
In our last studies on the subject of spiritual growth, we looked at the necessity of prayer, of communion with our Lord. Communion with God is fundamental. When I think of prayer, I think of the cool Garden walks of Adam with His Gracious Creator. How precious and special that must have been. I feel certain that of all the things Adam missed because of sin, he missed most those walks with God in the cool part of the day in the Garden of Eden. Communing with the Creator is one of the most blessed privileges of the redeemed.
Communion with the Lord is a two way street. We commune with Him through prayer and meditation. He communes with us through the Holy Spirit and through His Word. God’s Blessed Word is essential for spiritual growth and maturity. That is why Peter said that we should “desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby….” We looked at this thought earlier, but we need to examine this thought in a more practical way if we are to be fully developed and complete as followers of Christ.
When I was seventeen, I began reading the Bible for myself. The first book I read in Scripture was the Book of Romans. As you can imagine, it has always been one of my favorite books in the Bible. (Of course, I say that about all 66 books.) When Lynn and I were first married, we lived in Brevard, NC. We attended a small church near our home. On Wednesday nights, the church was going through a Bible study that used a study guide called, Ropers Bible Study. We received booklets that were about the same size as these devotional books. There was no commentary, no explanations of Biblical passages in the study guides; only questions. A chapter in Scripture would be assigned, and a series of questions given. Along with the questions were Scripture references that had to be looked up in answering the questions. It was then that I began really studying the Bible, and the result was that I began to grow spiritually. I still look back to those days as foundational in my development as a Christian. To grow in grace requires regular communion with our Lord, and part of that communion comes from His Word.
Anyone can sit down and speed read through a portion of Scripture. I don’t think that is what Paul and Peter had in mind when they admonished believers to spend time in the Bible. Peter wrote, “Desire the sincere milk of the Word….” To desire something is to long after it, to really want it with all your heart. This must be our attitude toward the Scripture. We should desire the Bible for it is the way our Lord communes with us. He designed it that way. It is through the Word we learn about Him, about the way He thinks, about what pleases Him and what displeases Him. While I will never fully understand God, His Word does introduce Him to me in understandable ways. It lets me know what He does not approve of, what He considers to be sinful and harmful. His Word lets me know those things that bring Him honor and glory, that reflect to others around me His goodness and mercy. His blessed Word is spiritual food for the souls of the redeemed. We must feed on it regularly for growth, for strength and spiritual vitality. It is our “manna,” sent down from heaven, this heavenly gift that nurtures us and matures in our walk with Christ.
Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 4:13; Acts 26:24-25
This was Paul’s last letter. He was facing execution for his faith. (See Verses 6-8) Of course, Paul had no idea how much more time he had, and none are really sure how much time passed after the writing of this epistle until his martyrdom. There is, however, something very interesting in verse 13. Paul was sending this letter to Timothy in which he was charging the younger preacher in some very important areas. He was also requesting that Timothy come to Rome to see him; “Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me….” When he was able to come, Paul requested that he bring him his “cloak” which had been left at Troas with Carpas, and the “books” and “parchments.” We are not sure what these “books” and “parchments” were. The “books,” according to the Greek words used here, were writings on papyrus. The “parchments” were writings on skins that had been tanned and prepared for the purpose of recording important information. It’s possible that these writings were books of the Old Testament, or even copies of Paul’s epistles to the churches. These could have been copies of epistles written by others of the Apostles. Undoubtedly, these “books” and “parchments” were important for the Apostle Paul in his study of and meditation on God’s Word. Here was a man that had been walking with the Lord for many years, had been used by the Lord to pen 14 of the books of the New Testament, and he was still consumed with the study and understanding of God’s Word.
Paul had challenged Timothy earlier, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” This was more than just advice from an elder to a younger pastor. This was a command from the Lord Himself to one of His own, and Paul could issue the command though the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and also through his own example. He was a student of God’s Word, and neither his age nor his circumstances made him want to neglect God’s blessed Book.
Spiritual growth demands time spent in God’s Word. Paul was known as a devout student of God’s Word, even among those who were not believers. (See Acts 26:25) Studying God’s Word and reading God’s Word are two different things altogether. We can easily become guilty of just sitting down for a few moments, reading some verses or even a chapter of God’s Word, and fill that we have met our duty for the day. Unfortunately, that kind of reading really doesn’t stay with the reader, but is quickly forgotten. Study is a different prospect altogether. When the Bible student is studying God’s Word, he is looking for the message in the passage, for the in-depth meaning God had in mind for those who take the time to study. It is truly “feeding” on God’s Word, sincerely “desiring the sincere milk” as Peter instructed his readers.
When studying God’s Word, the disciple needs to have the time to seek seclusion with the Lord and His Book. This time should begin with prayer. There is no better way to prepare the heart and mind for a season of Bible study than that of praying. This is an intensely spiritual exercise, and to do so effectively requires the wisdom, leadership and insight of the Holy Spirit. Before a time of study, I like to set everything else aside, and come before the Lord in prayer. “Father, be with me today as I look to Your Word. Help me to concentrate today, and open my heart to Your wisdom. Guide me as I seek the meaning of Your Word, and help me to glean from its blessed truths. Help me to retain what I learn and to apply it to my life.” While I am reading, I often commune with God concerning the things I am reading, sometimes seeking insight into a passages that I may not fully understand.
Beloved, we are challenged and commanded by our God to study His Word. Nothing can help in spiritual development like the regular feeding on the Word of God. Know this; if He has commanded us to do this, He will supply the strength to do it, and He will provide the understanding needed as we delve deeply into the Book. In our next look at this important subject, I will share with you some of the things I do personally in my study of God’s Word. May the Lord help us as we seek to fulfill His will at gaining a deeper understanding of His Blessed Book!
Scripture Reading: Joshua 1:1-9
Joshua was about to embark on a great work. He was replacing one of the greatest servants of God (See Numbers 12:7) as leader of the nation of Israel. It would be through his leadership the Israel would cross the Jordan and enter into the land of Canaan. He would lead them in realizing the fulfillment of the great promise God had made to their father, Abraham.
How does one prepare for such a tremendous responsibility? Actually, Joshua had been a servant, a helper of the man Moses for many years. There are many examples of this throughout the wilderness journey. His greatest preparation, however, is found in Verse 8, where the Lord said to him, “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” The Lord said nothing about managerial courses that Joshua should take. He said nothing about remembering the things he learned from Moses. What the Lord did say was that the key to having “good success,” and of making his way prosperous was inseparably connected to the “book of the law,” the Word of God.”
He was told to “meditate therein day and night.” The word in this context means “to ponder.” It means to dwell on any thing in thought, to turn or revolve any subject in the mind. The Psalmist said, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” The Psalmist knew the secret of the “Blessed man,” the same secret that the Lord shared with Joshua, and that is the meditation on the Word of God.
True study of the Scripture is an exercise of the mind and of the heart. In a recent Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting, we noted how that Paul instructed the Colossians to “seek those things which are above,” and to “set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2) Meditating on God’s Word is a seeking of those things that are above and a setting of the affections of the things of Christ. As we study His Blessed Book, and meditate on its truths, we are setting our affections on Him and His Will, not on things of the earth. O, how we need to study the Blessed Word of God.
Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 2:1-4
David’s counsel to young Solomon was, “keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that you mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersover thou turnest thyself....” David was saying, “Son, if you want to succeed in being king of Israel, get in the Book; know it, understand it and live it out in your life.” David knew that his advice was what Solomon needed more than anything else. He needed that more than he needed to study the lives of great leaders of men of the past. He needed that more than he needed to understand the economics of the kingdom, or the strengths and weaknesses of those kingdoms around him. He needed to know and to do the Word of God. So do we!
When I am studying the Bible for me, as opposed to studying for a message or series of messages, I normally read a portion of the Old Testmant and a portion of the New Testament. I try to have a notebook, or a computer handy, for jotting down notes, thoughts and verses of special interest. This does several things. First, it helps me to keep up with where I am reading. Then, it helps me to keep a running record of themes and the emphasis of passages that I am reading. Sometimes I will make a note, “To Be Studied in Depth Later.” Often I will write, “Sermon Thought:....” Another thing I like to write down at times is my personal thought on the passage, and even my prayer before or afterwards. I have been known to write, “Lord, I don’t understand this. Please help me to grasp what You are telling me in this passage.” It is really exciting to be able to go back later and write, “Thank You, Lord, for opening my mind to this truth.”
Studying God’s Word is a personal matter, but you never have to do it alone. What I mean by that is that our Lord will ever be with you to help you in your feeding upon His Word. In Luke 24:45, Jesus did something very special for the two disciples He met on the road to Emmaus. Here we read, “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.” He will do the same for you, my friend. Just call upon Him as you read His Blessed Word.
Scripture Reading: Psalms 89:15; Ephesians 4:1 - 5:2
Our topic of study has been spiritual maturity, of growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus and reaching our full potential as believers. This is an ongoing process, one that is never fully reached but must always be striven for. It is “perfection,” or completion.
Notice the times “walk” is used in what we read for our Scripture reading. You will recall that we spent some time discussing the idea of walking in the Spirit. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16) “Walk” speaks of more than just the steps one takes. It speaks of the whole of life, the way we carry ourselves, the way we think, the way we act and react in all situations. It is a mindset. As followers of Christ, we are to walk in His light, the light He has given us in His Word and the light He has shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which He has given us. (Romans 5:5)
Walking with the Lord is a day-by-day proposition. It is a getting up with Him in the morning, and a communing with Him throughout the day. It is a “thinking on these things,” (Philippians 4:8) rather than things that draw us away from our Lord. A song we often sing says, “When we walk with the Lord, in the Light of His Word, What a glory He sheds on our way.” How true that is!
Spiritual growth is just that; it is a consistent walking with the Lord. It is a continual fellowship with Him through His Word and through the Person of the Holy Spirit. It is not a magical, mystical experience. Spiritual maturity is simply natural growth that is attained through a life of submission and obedience to the will of God revealed in His Word. That’s why it is so important to regularly feed on the Scriptures. This will not come naturally to your flesh, as we saw earlier, but will come naturally to your Spirit as you yield to the Lord, love Him and spend time with Him. But only you can do this. No one can do this for you.
Our Lord expects none of us to be super Christians. He does expect us to hear Him through the pages of His Word. He does expect us to commune with Him through prayer, meditation and that consistently. This takes work on our part, but it is work that pays great dividends. The life of the spiritually mature is one of peace, of joy and of contentment. It’s not a life that has no problems. I was just reading in Job this week in my devotions and came across that familiar verse that I often refer to; “Yet man is born of trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7) Walking consistently with the Lord does not exempt us from troubles, but it makes those troubles bearable because of the One upon Whom we are leaning.
I want to encourage you, child of God, to seek Him, commune with Him and walk with Him. It is very easy to let those things slip which we have heard, and neglect the things which make for growth in the Lord. I don’t have to worry about skipping meals because I get hungry. I don’t have to worry about skipping paying my bills, because I will hear from my creditors if I do. I don’t have that kind of reminders to do my Bible reading or to spend time with the Lord. This must come through self discipline, as Paul said, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)
Take time to walk with the Lord. Schedule time with Him in your day. Start the day with Him, and continue with Him throughout the day. Feed on His Word throughout the day and “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) He knows and fully understands our weaknesses, and will help as as we look to Him. This Christian walk, this striving for spiritual maturity is a lifetime endeavor. It never ends and we are never through with the efforts needed. I have been saved for 55 years, and in the ministry for 42 years. I still need to spend time with the Lord and His Word. I am still learning, still realizing areas in my life that need some extra work. The Holy Spirit still must direct my path, rebuke me for errors and remind me of my responsibility to do those things that please Him.
Early on we talked about the struggle between flesh and spirit. There is a struggle, but it is a struggle that when attempted through faith and obedience will always be victorious and pay great dividends. Let’s seek to be spiritually mature Christians! Let’s seek to walk with the Lord today!