Putting it all together
Jeffrey D. Enderle
Getting there. That’s the tricky part. Sitting in your aunt’s cozy home with delicious smells wafting past the expanded table, that’s the good part. Carving up turkey and dishing up stuffing, that’s the payoff. Sinking deeper into couch cushions after eating one too many slices of pie while football blares in the background and nieces giggle in the next room, that’s the sweet spot. All the effort just to get to that moment and be in that Thanksgiving environment, that’s the hard part.
Using God’s Word and prayer along the way
Christians live in this constant tension between where we are and where we want to go. There is tremendous terrain over which we travel in this Christian life. When life feels like we are cruising along at 70 miles per hour without obstacles, we don’t want to leave God’s Word behind. When the bumpy turbulence of life’s trials sends us into the ditch, we want to turn to God in prayer as our immediate response instead of our last resort. Getting there can be a challenge.
For Martin Luther, time in God’s Word and time spent in prayer were responses to the struggles he faced. Those perpetual and persistent attacks caused inner turmoil. The devil’s ploys drove him to deploy the weapons that God provides to his people.
Luther’s experience shows us how to respond wisely to our own personal struggles. Dive into Scripture. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Concentrate on the Bible as God’s living and active Word (Hebrews 4:12). Apply God’s Word in light of the trials and temptations we face. Pray in response to Scripture to bring that truth before God’s throne (Hebrews 10:19-23) and into our hearts.
At the conclusion of catechism instruction, I ask middle schoolers to come up with a spiritual growth plan. Often their plans involve reading through the entire Bible in the year after they are confirmed. Ambitious plans. As brash as a couch potato planning to run a marathon after buying a new pair of shoes.
God’s people can formulate bold plans for spiritual growth. But we are wise to be realistic. Start small. Consider your starting place. Determine the first steps to get you going in the right direction. Stretch out for a few minutes on a few verses from the Bible. Factor in other helpful habits. Schedule a time and pick a place. Mornings with a cup of coffee? Mid-day at the lunch break? Maybe at the end of a long day in a comfortable chair? Pray. Study. Meditate. Pray again.
Seeing God’s presence on our journey
For Christians, we don’t have to wonder about who we are. Through Christ we are holy in the sight of our God. We don’t have to struggle to become something we aren’t. The sacrifice of Jesus tells us everything is completed for our salvation. Our entire lives take place in the assurance of our righteous status because of Jesus. And still God’s people recognize we haven’t yet arrived at our ultimate destination.
You can’t control the events in the world any more than you can command the weather. But God’s people recognize the means of grace at our disposal. God has given us the gift of prayer and Bible study. God invites us to come to him in his Word. He promises his Spirit will work powerfully through his Word. We have God’s promise to deliver us from our struggles (Romans 8:32) in his way. God guarantees getting us to the destination and going along on the journey.
This is the final article in a ten-part series on ways to enrich your personal devotional life.
Author: Jeffrey D. Enderle
Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 2019