One of my favorite jump-ball questions is this: is Christian living active or passive? Is it trying hard or resting in the finished work of Christ? Is it working like crazy, or letting go and letting God?
I love this question because it is a little bit of both. Christian living is both trying hard and trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit to do His work in me. It is both Faith is the Victory and I’m pressing on the upward way…
There is no transformation without hard work. There is more to Christian living than trying really hard to be good. But, you will never lay hold of the abundant Christian life without trying hard to be good. Living a transformed life is hard work and it takes time. One of favorite hymns reinforces this truth:
Take time to be holy,
speak oft with thy Lord;
abide in him always,
and feed on his word.
Make friends of God’s children,
help those who are weak,
forgetting in nothing
his blessing to seek.
Take time to be holy,
the world rushes on;
spend much time in secret
with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus,
like him thou shalt be;
thy friends in thy conduct
his likeness shall see.
Take time to be holy. Work hard at it. How much time does it take? The Navigators published a classic piece on Quiet Time that suggests we start with Seven Minutes with God. Notice I said start. Seven minutes is a good starting place. But, it is not the goal.
Jesus said, “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” Matthew 26:40 (NIV 2011). I think that is a good rule of thumb. It might be too much for some. If you work twelve hour days, you might not be able to spend an hour a day in Quiet Time. But, it is a good goal to shoot for.
If you spend an hour a day with the Lord …
1. You can easily read through the Bible one or more times a year.
I recommend you read through the whole Bible once a year and the New Testament an additional one or more times.
2. You will have plenty of time to memorize and review Scripture verses.
Nothing will drive steel into your soul like Scripture memory. I highly recommend the app and website ScriptureTyper. But, it takes time.
3. You will have plenty of time for worship.
The best way to worship is through music. I often have Chris Tomlin lead me in worship on our TV. It is hard to stop with just one song. Each song is about five minutes. Worship takes time.
4. There will be plenty of time for the confession of sins.
You will have time to consider the state of your soul and pray the prayer, “Search me, Oh God…”
5. You will have plenty of time to formulate big, bold prayers.
I am convinced our prayers are too small, not too big. We pray for help with headaches when God would have us claim continents. Our daily prayer is, “Your will be done on earth, as in Heaven.” (If you would like to listen to an inspiring message on this, check out Dawson Trotman’s message on Believing God.)
6. You will have time to be filled with the Spirit.
There is no abundant living without being filled with the Spirit. And, being filled with the Spirit is like filling your car with gas: it takes time.
I close with another old hymn. Read it slowly. Sing it if you dare.
Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!
I can hear our Lord saying to many of His disciples today the same thing he said to his disciples on the night before he was crucified, “Can you not tarry with me one hour.”
He might say to us what he said to the Hebrews, “In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” Hebrews 12:4 (NIV 2011).
I am concerned that we are raising a generation of milksop, milquetoast, namby-pamby, wimpy Christians. We need to toughen up. We need to cowboy up. We need to “strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees” Hebrews 12:12 (NIV 2011).
There is more to Christian living than trying really hard to be good. More, but never less. It is about working as hard as you can while trusting that your work alone is worthless. Don’t miss the first half of that sentence.