On the second day of 2017, I invited you to experience joy. Coupled with that invitation came the challenge to seek God for a spiritual focus you should intentionally pursue this year. Several times in this short year, I’ve already strongly encouraged you to develop a daily discipline of spending time in the Word with a plan for study. But my prayer is that none of you will take that course of action because of guilt.
Jesus didn’t call us to a guilt-ridden life, but invites us to daily joy!
[box]These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full (John 15:11).[/box]
There are the “shoulds” of life and we all have them.
Brush your teeth
Eat fruits and veggies
Get plenty of sleep
Make your bed
Some of those are automatic, we do them without thinking, our “should” urge kicks in and we take care of it, check it off the list. Our should urge can become a guilt motivator for doing things that are not so automatic: cleaning out the closet, emptying your inbox, exercising daily.
But a guilt-ridden life will zap you of joy.
Spiritual disciplines like daily time in the Word, fasting and prayer, worship and praise . . . these are “shoulds” that should never end up in the category of guilt-driven activity.
If you are entering your time in the Word because guilt drove you there, you’re missing the joy that Jesus calls you to experience. And there is much joy to be found by spending time in God’s Word. If reading the Word is laborious and boring to you, I’m guessing it may have become a guilt-motivated activity.
Here are a few things I would suggest:
Prepare your Heart
Before opening your Bible, ask the Holy Spirit to use His Word to speak to you, instruct you, and open your eyes to where you are and where He wants you to be. Ask these things, but determine that God’s Word is worthy of your attention even if you’re reading through “begats” and seem to receive absolutely nothing. Reading God’s Word is demonstrating that you honor God and appreciate that He would communicate with us—it is a small gift of devotion in light of His gift of love.
Watch for God
Look for what God is doing in this passage and seek to have a deeper understanding of His ways. When you recognize a character trait of God, pause and spend a moment reflecting on that, lifting up words of thanks, letting Him know your gratefulness for times you’ve experienced Him in that way.
Take Time to See
It is helpful to journal your thoughts as you read a passage, or jot down questions and mull them over through the day, or take time to research until you find an answer. Don’t rush through a passage that seems confusing; it is better to take the time to “see” what is there than to get all of your day’s reading accomplished.
Take it With You
Don’t leave the Word behind, but take a thought with you throughout the day. What did you learn? What about God stood out to you? How did the passage relate to what is happening in your life? Were there principles you could glean from the passage? Why is this passage important? Share with someone what you are getting from your study.
Get to God
There is a precious promise in Psalm 16:11 that lets us know how to experience real joy. Get in God’s presence—and that’s where you will experience joy! Ask Him. Ask Him what that means, what that looks like, how you can abide in His presence and experience the joy He describes in John 15.
Are you motivated by joy?
I pray you will experience the deep joy of abiding with Christ while living out the “shoulds” of life!
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