A couple of months ago, my husband and I decided to get away for a few days to the East Coast. We began in Boston and then drove up to a beautiful and quaint town in Maine. We discovered that Maine has 65 historical lighthouses spread out along its 5,000 miles of coastline. We decided one day to drive to see one of those lighthouses, the Portland Head Light, which was constructed at the command of George Washington in 1787. It was a breathtaking sight! For hundreds of years it had stood as a beacon of light, guiding sailors safely into harbor. Standing on the edge of the jagged cliff overlooking the crashing waves and the sharp rocks, I could imagine the relief of the sailors when they saw this beacon of light piercing the darkness and showing them the way to shore. But it wasn’t enough for a sailor to see the beacon, he had to point the rudder (steering device) toward the light and intentionally move his vessel in the right direction. I was deeply affected that day by what a powerful picture the lighthouse was of God’s faithful love and guidance, and just like a sailor on the uncertain seas, I want to keep my course set on the unchanging beacon of Jesus Christ.
My hope and prayer for each one of you is that you will set your course towards Christ in 2017. For all of us, this will mean intentionally forsaking lesser things to gain what is most precious, friendship with Jesus and a life of purpose. It’s easy to say that we want to grow in our relationship with God, but we have to take the necessary steps to make it happen. Anything in life that is truly worthwhile requires great effort, whether it’s a strong marriage, great friendships or some hard-earned achievement. A stronger walk with Christ will not happen by default, and this is why I want to encourage you today to press on in the spiritual disciplines of the faith – specifically spending time in God’s Word and Prayer.
I used to cringe at the word discipline because I associated discipline with legalism, but the opposite is true. Trying to live the Christian life apart from time in the Word and prayer leads to legalism because we begin going through the motions without cultivating the relationship. The disciplines become delights when we understand that they simply put us in the place where we can grow in our walk with Jesus and live a life filled with His power. When our motives are right, discipline doesn’t hinder our freedom, it unleashes freedom. Take a gymnast, for example, who has trained and disciplined herself. When she steps on the balance beam, what she is capable of doing is nothing short of amazing. Her discipline enables her the freedom to do what she loves and what she could not have done otherwise. Paul told his young mentee Timothy, “…train yourself in godliness for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (I Timothy 4:7-9). The spiritual disciplines open the door to a far greater joy and freedom than anything we’ve ever known. King David said in the Psalms, “I will walk freely in an open place because I seek Your precepts.”
Spending time in God’s Word – Set aside time each day to be in God’s Word. If you don’t know where to begin, there are many Bible reading plans available online, or you might want to delve into a guided Bible study. Personally, I love going through the One Year Bible. As you open the Word, ask the Holy Spirit to give insight and understanding as you read and wisdom to know how to apply His truths and promises to your current circumstances. Meditate on it, and take it to heart. The Word of God renews our minds (changes our thinking and perspective) and transforms our lives (Rom. 12:1-2). I would be lost without the beacon of God’s word in my life. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” I can recall so many times of being on my knees, tears streaming down my face, Bible open, asking God to speak. His Word has lifted me up off of the floor time and time again, and I have come to love Him more and cherish His Word because of it. I can testify that the scriptures are living and active and powerful (Heb. 4:12). When you are reading scripture and the Holy Spirit seems to highlight a passage that speaks directly to your current circumstance or the thing you’ve been seeking Him about, there is nothing more thrilling. Just knowing that the God of the universe has spoken to you is in and of itself jaw-dropping!
Prayer – In addition to spending time in the Word of God, the discipline of prayer is essential. Without prayer, we will be weak Christians. Prayer is often the counterintuitive thing because as Americans we value a “can-do” spirit, but prayer is what brings God’s power. In scripture we’re told to pray constantly and to pray about everything (I Thess. 5:17, Phil. 4:6-7). James says that the urgent prayers of a righteous person have a powerful effect. There are things that will not happen without prayer. God has given us access, through Jesus, to walk right into the throne room of Heaven, pour out our hearts to Him and make requests (Heb. 4:16). There are many things in life that make us feel helpless, but faith-filled prayers can move mountains. If you are burdened by the injustice and suffering in the world, begin to pray! I’m not saying you can’t do more, but as John Bunyan once said, “You can do more after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.”
I also want to say that if you find yourself in the wilderness or in a spiritually dry season, don’t lose heart! Persevere and press into God even if your spiritual hunger has waned. In time you will find this remarkable statement by Richard Foster to be true: “In the physical word we eat to get full, but in the spiritual realm, we eat to get hungry.” God promises to draw near to those who draw near to Him (James 4:8).
We are living in uncertain times, and many are searching for meaning and something constant they can build their lives upon. As believers, the world needs us to reflect the light that is in us. Let us resolve to press on and to pursue Godliness with everything we have – He is worthy! Let us set our course and determine to follow Jesus, and no matter what storms may come, we will always find guidance and refuge in the arms of our loving and faithful Father.
We are delighted to have Leigh as one of our speakers at Redeemed Girl Institute. If you’re interested in attending our annual discipleship conference, check out our website: redeemedgirlinstitute.com We hope to see you there!