December seems to be the month of relaxation. Christmas time can be hard for many, due to absent loved ones, but overall the season is one where people relax. Work slows down. School is out. Beaches (in the Southern Hemisphere) are full. This year we noticed that it was also a season where many people seem to take a spiritual holiday. I found this an interesting observation, given it is meant to be when we remember Emmanuel, God come down to be with us.
This year, I realised that I was amongst the spiritual vacation-ists. I certainly spent plenty of time reflecting on what Christ did for us, and had fun starting to teach my toddler about Christ’s birth, the Word made flesh. Yet, as church activities wound down for the year and many of our congregation went away to their family homes, I noticed that my form of relaxation also took me away from intimacy with my Father. I reflected on the story, but didn’t engage with our God, the centre of the story! It was easier to enter my usual form of escapism – reading fiction. (Perhaps, for you, it is social events, computer games, beach time, cooking, . . .).
Now, don’t get me wrong, reading wholesome novels in itself is not bad. The fault lay in that I became completely absorbed in them, taking all my free time (not much with a toddler!); there was no time left for conversing with my Father. I put myself before God. I didn’t trust Him to fill up my cup, which was feeling mighty empty at year’s end.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5).
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11).
The Spirit started prompting me. He started gently reminding me of my need for time with Him. My soul cried out for more time in His presence.
A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1)
It is easy to ignore the Spirit’s nudge and choose not to return to a place of intimacy with God. It takes effort to engage in any relationship; effort I didn’t feel I had the strength for. I hope that if you are feeling similar promptings that you will prick up your ears at this point. Thankfully this time I am choosing to heed the gentle nudge. If you’re in a similar place, thinking it easier to put it aside for “tomorrow”: don’t. We need God daily. We need to interact with Him daily. He is our daily bread. He is our sustenance.
Give us this day our daily bread, (Matthew 6:11).
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. (John 6:35-36).
Choosing to submerge yourself again into a deep relationship with God can seem tiring. It is tempting to continue to pursue your escapes – whether wholesome or worldly – but they will not satisfy. God is the One who satisfies the longings of our souls.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, (Psalm 63:5).
So, as this new year starts, choose to renew your relationship with God. Choose to make time to sit and dwell in the presence of the Almighty. Seek Him. Meditate on His Word. Sing songs of praise. Intercede for family. Listen to His wisdom for your work, family, finances, free time. Enagage in Bible study. Listen to Bible teachings. Allow Him to mould your character into that of Christ.
when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:6-8).
Yes, it will take discipline of mind and body, but this is part of being a child of God. Self-control appears repeatedly in the epistles as a fruit of the Spirit, and a part of a godly life (1 Cor 9:25, Gal 5:23, 1 Tim 2:9, 1 Tim 2:15, 2 Tim 1:7, 2 Tim 3:3, 2 Pet 1:6). Proverbs sums up the alternative, what we’re like if we choose to live an undisciplined life:
Like a city with breached walls is a man without self-control. (Proverbs 25:28; ISV*)
It takes discipline to cut off the areas in our life that hold us back from intimacy with God. Do you have such self-control? Do you think God worth pursuing? Cut off what holds you back and enter into the presence of the King of kings. Make a commitment to escape into daily times of intimacy with God and enjoy the rewards.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, (Psalm 63:2-5).
*Scripture taken from the Holy Bible: International Standard Version® Release 2.0. Copyright © 1996-2010 by the ISV Foundation. Used by permission of Davidson Press, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY.