Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Here’s a basic principle for remaining healthy: eat the right stuff, don’t eat too much, and exercise. That same concept can be applied to spiritual health as well. Study God’s Word, but don’t just sit around studying, put it into action. Serving others is spiritual exercise.
Someone once told me early on in my Christian life that it was time for me to stop just reading all the time and put the Word into practice. I was afraid to do it, worried that I was unqualified because I still had so much to learn. But he was right, if I was ever going to start living the way God wanted me to live, I’d have to walk out of my room and start serving other people.
Let’s look to our example of how to love and serve: Jesus. If anyone ever had a right to be served by everyone else, it was Jesus. Despite the fact that He simply could have ordered everyone to bow down to Him as their King, He chose instead to become servant to all. He didn’t come to earth to be served, but to give His own life.
Now, what’s holding us back from giving unselfishly for the sake of others knowing Him?
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
The most important commands we’re ever given by God are to love Him above all else and to love other people. This starts with loving our own fellow believers. By our love for “one another,” Jesus says, the world will know we’re His. We don’t always do real well at that, do we? Truth is, the outside world often sees the church as a bunch of bickering people who can’t get along.
It’s unfortunate that the people we call brothers and sisters in the family of God are often the ones who we’re least likely to get along with. It shouldn’t be this way. I submit to you that the leading cause of problems within the church is pride. If we’d put others’ needs before our own, we’d find a much healthier church with healthier individuals.
Pride eats away at the soul of a Christian, causing spiritual health to decline. We can’t get the other commands right if we can’t get the love part. No amount of prayer and Bible study is going to get us unstuck spiritually if we’re not willing to love.
Love is an absolutely essential element of the life of a believer. Without it, we’re flat and ineffective, not living out the calling God has given us.
Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Are you ready? Here’s the subject most people don’t want to hear about when it comes to living for God. Money and tithing. You may cringe when you hear a pastor or teacher speak on this topic, but I’m going to ask you to bear with me for a moment.
One reason that many Christians remain spiritually unhealthy is because they choose to ignore this one principle from God’s Word. If you’re spending time with God in prayer, reading and studying the Bible, trying to love your neighbor as yourself, and everything else, but you’re holding something back from God, you’re never going to succeed. It’s not about funding the church. God doesn’t ask us to give because He needs our money. What He wants most is us, and if we’re possessed by our possessions, we can’t be His.
Tithing really isn’t about the amount. It’s about the way in which we give it. If we’re glad to give and have a good attitude, it’s good for our spiritual health. If we give, but it’s with great hesitancy, we’re not doing ourselves any good. Tithing is more about giving the first than it is about giving a tenth. When we trust in God enough to give back to Him some of what He’s given us, we’re actually worshipping Him. When we worship, we’re saying He’s in control and we’re not.
Presenting to God some of what’s already His to begin with is good for spiritual health. Holding on to our stuff and hoarding it, that’s not. Wise people know the difference.
Psalm 1:1-3 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
How are you doing at Bible study? Does that question make you nervous? I’ll be honest, I hate being asked questions like that because it implies that there’s this level to be achieved, like those who are doing really well are experts, and that makes me feel like a rookie. Maybe I’m the slacker in the room, but I’m willing to assume that many of you can relate.
There are lots of Bible study tools online and it’s not my intention to point you to all of them today, but my emphasis is this: context. To really study the Bible, it’s not about what other books or other people say about it. It’s about what the Bible says about itself. Did that make sense? If I’m studying a subject in Scripture and I have a question about what it means, it’s best to find other places where God inspired someone to write on the same subject within Scripture. We could all save ourselves a lot of trouble and false doctrine in our lives if we’d stick to this basic rule.
It’s also important that we follow the instructions of James in being “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). It’s not enough to just study God’s Word. It’s not enough to just read and consume. It’s good to do so, but if we don’t put the Word into action, we’re missing the point. That’s precisely why so many Christians are unhealthy spiritually. They’re consuming and consuming without getting any spiritual exercise (we’ll talk more about that in a future devotion), becoming lethargic and spiritually flabby.
Study the Word and DO it!
Proverbs 8:34 Blessed is the one who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates,
waiting beside my doors.
In the world of Christianity, we’ve come to refer to prayer time spent with God as “quiet time,” but in my life there’s very little time that could be qualified as “quiet.” With three little kids running around, it’s not easy to etch out time for a daily devotional time. Waking up earlier is not always an option, because certain kids in my home (who shall remain unnamed) wake up at incredibly early hours. So am I doing this quiet time thing all wrong? Am I less of a Christian if I don’t follow the many people who get up SO early and spend that time dedicated to the Lord?
The thing is, when we boil down time with God to a few minutes first thing in the morning, we do two things: 1) we cause people who don’t do well at that to feel very guilty or like a failure, and 2) we make prayer to our Father into something that can just be checked off of a list. Time with God is so much more than something to get us going in the morning, though it’s a great way to start the day. It’s an ongoing conversation throughout the day with Him.
Reality check: All that said, if we don’t take some time every day to intentionally meet with God, it may never happen at any other time during the day. If you’re like me, that may not mean you do “quiet time” when you first wake up. I’m willing to be that many of you, like me, don’t function at all until the first cup of coffee has been consumed. I spend time with God after I’m capable of processing what I’m reading from His Word and able to communicate coherently in prayer. Maybe that’s not the way everyone does it, but the important thing is that I spend time with my Lord every day.
He’s always got something to say to me, and I’ve always got something to say to Him. It’s time well spent. Better than anything else I could be doing, as a mater of fact. If you don’t take specific time to meet with God daily, will you give it a try? Start today.
Mark 12:30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
Someone once asked Jesus what God’s greatest command was (Mark 12:28). He answered that it was to love God with everything we have, more than we love anything else. That’s a difficult thing for most of us. We love a lot of things.
Think about some things that you love. You love your family. You may have a pet that you love. Maybe there is a hobby you can’t get enough of. Or there could even be things like your career or the success you’ve achieved that have become objects of your love. God is saying to love Him more than you love anything else. Anything at all.
There was another person in the Bible that asked Jesus what He had to do to get into heaven (Matthew 19:16). Jesus answered Him that he had to give up all of the things that he loved more than he loved Jesus. The very rich man had a ton of stuff he had acquired. The man couldn’t part with his possessions because he had begun to identify himself by them, so he didn’t give up anything and he went away from Jesus very sad. What that man needed to realize was that Jesus is better than anything that he loved in his life. What you and I need to realize is that anything we could give up for Jesus is worth it.
We should love Jesus so much that we want what He wants. We should want to be like Him and want to do what He did. When we make Him most important in our lives, we’re starting to really live for God. When He’s our treasure, and we love Him above all, we can be transformed.
John 13:15-16 If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever
Have you ever found yourself stuck in life? Maybe you had this great plan, but after time passed, you just never seemed to get to where you were headed. It could be that’s even true of your spiritual life. You’ve gone to church, tried to be a better person, and just seem to be spinning your wheels. I’ve been there.
It’s tough to be in a situation like that, when you feel like you’re doing all that you can to improve but not seeing any results. It’s infuriating, in fact. Part of the problem with our failed efforts is that we’re trying to make change on our own. It’s not possible apart from the help of the Holy Spirit.
There are seven key habits that are taught in order to improve spiritual health. These habits are not just more effort to transform ourselves; they’re daily choices we make to align what we want with what God wants. I’m going to go deeper into each of these habits over the next few days, but today I’ll just list them for you to ponder.
The 7 habits to improve our spiritual health are:
- Love Jesus more than anything else. (Mark 12:30)
- Meet with God daily. (Proverbs 8:34)
- Study and do the Word of God. (Psalm 1:1-3)
- Love other people. (Mark 12:31)
- Give the best to God. (James 1:17)
- Serve others unselfishly. (Mark 10:45)
- Share the Good News about Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:2)
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
God did an amazing thing for us in sending Jesus. He not only redeemed us and saved us from eternity in hell by forgiving us, but He adopted us into His family and now calls us His own children. Because we’re now His, He’s ours, we are not our own, we have been bought with a price. And our response to His mercy and grace is to give Him the one thing He wants – ourselves, to glorify God with our bodies. Our thoughts, our words, our work, our actions, our desires, our time, our talents, and our treasures. Not just all we have, but all we are. This may sound unreasonable, but trust me, the trade we make works in our favor. Like the man in the parable who sold all he had to buy a field where a great treasure was buried, our lives are so much richer with Jesus than with anything we’re unwilling to trade for having Him.
Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Submitting ourselves to Him pleases Him and brings about a transformation that we could never accomplish on our own. Jesus is better than anything we trade for Him.
Matthew 19:21-22 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
What is it that you want in life? Better question: is it what God wants for your life? I think this is the big hang up for people when it comes to presenting our whole bodies as a living sacrifice. The human heart wants what it wants, and sometimes that something destructive or sinful, and yet we can’t let go of it. Our desires can be very powerful. Look at the rich, young ruler in Matthew 19. He asked Jesus what he had to do to be saved. He said he kept the whole Law and obeyed God. Jesus told him the one thing he still needed to do was let go of what he was holding on to – his possessions. He couldn’t do it, and he missed out on something better. Some people interpret this story all wrong. It’s not about selling all of our stuff. It’s about giving our all.
We do surprising things to get what we want, things we’d never have thought we’d do. Our motives are shaped by what’s in our hearts. What are you holding on to that’s keeping you from being transformed? If Jesus is better than anything else we can have; what’s stopping you from letting go and trading what you want for what God wants?
When we submit our motives, God gives us desires that please Him. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.
Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
Have you ever thought you knew what you were supposed to do, only to have it all fall apart and just not work out? I’ve been there with my life. I thought I had a future in politics. It seemed promising, but the deeper I got into things, the more frustrating it got and the less I seemed successful. It was only when I started letting go of what I wanted and letting the Lord direct me that I realized He had something greater planned.
It can be hard to let go of having our own way. We put in a lot of hard work to move in the direction of our own goals. When it comes to surrendering those for the sake of what God wants for us, it’s an incredibly humbling experience. His plans are always better than ours though.
Think about what you want out of life. Where are you going and how are you going to get here? Now ask if your goals fit into God’s bigger plan. If you can’t answer yes, what will you do to align with Him?
When we submit our moves, God gives us destinations.