This is a post about an interesting thing that I observed recently, and which I personally found very surprising!
As a Christian I like the thought of living in God’s presence constantly. It’s something I tend to take for granted, that over the course of the day I get lots of ideas and revelations and insights about all manner of things, quite mundane or quite exciting. This is the source of all the ideas for posts on this blog, all my dreams for my life, all the posts on my other blog, Finding Mr Huggie-Wuggie, and every endeavour or enterprise I undertake. And by the grace of God I am perfectly confident that it is all from the Spirit of God! From experience, I can tell you that God truly does care about every aspect of our lives, no matter how big or small – seriously! – and He will be more than willing to share His thoughts with us, if only we would listen. As the Bible says in Psalm 139v17: “How precious are Your thoughts about me, O God – and how many they are!”
This has been my personal experience of walking in the Spirit of God – I just can’t keep up with all the ideas and thoughts and insights that are constantly streaming through my head. Or at least that is how things have been.
And yet, over the course of a few weeks and months recently, I just felt – strangely empty! On the whole, because of the rate at which ideas occur to me, it does not present to me any challenge whatsoever to think of things to write for this blog, and to have more than enough content for each article. Ordinarily speaking, if time were not a factor, by the grace of God I could easily have enough ideas to write several articles every single day for both this blog and “Huggie-Wuggie”. And yet, as I say, I have been feeling dry! It is as if there is usually a constant stream of the spirit of God flowing through my heart and the revelations that come from His presence, but recently it has been dry. So I have found myself in the unusual place of having to think desperately of something to write, but feeling as if I lack conviction in my writing, as if what I am writing has not truly struck home in my own heart.
I spent so long trying to work out why this was the case. After all I was praying as normal, seeking God, pouring out my heart before Him, trying to listen to His Spirit, or that “still small voice” – 1 Kings 19v12 – but nothing. Thankfully however by the grace of God, I have now been able to identify the issue. And it was shocking, but it was quite simple. I was simply not reading the Bible as much as I had been reading it before.
Now this is not because I had been ignoring the Bible altogether. However, in years past, I cultivated the habit of reading widely through the Bible, picking bits at random, immersing myself in the Psalms, Proverbs, reading large sections of the New Testament in one sitting. I would also take my Bible with me wherever I went, on the bus, on the train, and I would read away. However, in those days I was very aware that my Bible approach was not very systematic. Because of that I consciously changed my approach to read instead though the Bible in a more ordered fashion. In a way, I am glad that I have incorporated this more systematic approach to the Bible, as there are some parts of the Old Testament that I have only just discovered, and I can only now hope to evaluate the history of the Children of Israel as one continuous whole, where previously it was lots of disjointed stories.
However, in my desire to be systematic, I have found myself working through single books for whole weeks at a time. This will mean that I am not reading the rest of the Bible, the Psalms, the Proverbs, the New Testament. And then because the books I am reading are difficult, I am not truly reading them that consistently either. For instance I recently struggled through the book of Isaiah – spending more than a month on this one book. I honestly don’t know why I struggled because I am quite a fluent reader, and I have effortlessly worked through this particular book several times before. Perhaps it was simply a lack of concentration on my part, or my heart was not really in it. It just seemed so disjointed and prose accounts just turned into allegory or parables without any warning…
[Prior to this I’d always quite liked the Book of Isaiah, especially as it is so significant in the New Testament… And then after that it was Jeremiah, another lonnnnnng book! Thankfully not as difficult as Isaiah though… Hallelujah, I’ve just finished Ezekiel, which is another difficult book. It has all these passages about measuring the Temple – all about rods, and cubits which are actually longer than cubits – and palm tree decorations – …….and I just didn’t get it. Admittedly I was kinda racing to finish the thing, so I could tick it off my Bible reading list – which kinda defeats the object I know! ]
Anyway, the long and short of it is that I realised that I just was not as deep in the Bible as I used to be. And by the grace of God, I realised that it is as a result of my depth in the Bible that the Spirit of God flows so freely in my heart, even to teach me things that are not ostensibly “spiritual”, but are totally mundane, about how to manage my life. This has been a breathtaking discovery to me. After all, during this time, I was still praying as normal, I was still crying out to God, trying to listen to Him.
As a result of this, I feel I now know why so many pastors might start off with deep revelations and profound insights which are genuinely from God – and then run out – and even they will not know why – and they have to eventually resort to “clever” expressions of big word theology. These are stuffed full of big words, and sometimes even sophisticated insights – but only by the world’s standards.
As Christians, if we want to walk in the genuine Spirit of God, sharing genuine insights from Him, we need both of these things – we need heartfelt prayer, but we also need to be totally grounded in the word of God. I believe that this is what Jesus was talking about when He said the following:
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in You, you will bear much fruit” -( that turns out to be a mishmash of a couple of verses which taken together do say this – John 15v7-8)
As a result of this new understanding, I am not abandoning my systematic read through of the Bible. Rather I am also adding to this my previous approach of randomly immersing myself in the Bible and reading as widely as I can to get as deep as I can. This has also demonstrated to me something that I have known for so long – I need to meditate on the word of God, I need to get it planted deep into my heart, so that by God’s grace it can constantly be bearing fruit, even if I do have to go long periods without access to a Bible to read.
7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will[a] ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
Picture of mangoes by Maliz Ong at http://publicdomainpictures.net