Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me— watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
– Matthew 11: 28– 30 THE MESSAGE
How do we follow Christ in this manner, learning to live freely and lightly in the unforced rhythms of grace? Let me suggest four important principles for growing closer to God through Scripture.
1. Read the Bible Daily Go directly to Scripture.
Sure, we all love Our Daily Bread, My Utmost for His Highest, and other devotional books. But as wonderful as devotional aids can be, the Bible is the only book that’s inspired by God (2 Timothy 3: 16). Read the Bible daily with the little word SOAP in mind. (That’s an acronym for: Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer.)
The method is simple. Pick a portion of Scripture and read it. Read it twice or even three times if needed. Focus on the message. Next, do some careful observing and consideration. Ponder the message God has highlighted for you. You may want to write out what you observe. Ask yourself what’s happening, who’s affected, and what’s taking place. Then take some time to consider how you plan to put into practice the message God has brought to your attention. How will you be different today as a result of what you’ve read? Application is a vital part of the process. Without it, you’re simply amassing information. The final stage of the process is prayer. Your conversation doesn’t need to be long. Ask God to help you apply what you’ve just learned. And don’t forget to soak your prayer in thanksgiving.
In every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
– Philippians 4: 6 NIV
2. Regularly Take Time for Solitude Solitude is different from isolation.
Isolation is what a person typically seeks when he’s so burned out he doesn’t want to be around anybody. On a scale of minus ten to positive ten, he’s at a minus twelve. And he just needs to get away from people. After the stint in isolation is done, a person has come from a minus twelve to a zero. The problem then is that he often goes back out in public without ever advancing beyond zero. He hasn’t gained wisdom. Solitude is an intentional recharging process.
When your tank is low, solitude helps you come back at a plus ten. Most of us wait until we’re completely depleted and spent before we get away. So we go into isolation. That can be helpful. But isolation is only therapy. Healing. Triage.
Solitude, however, is a chosen time to get alone. We find this in Luke 4, where Jesus was compelled by the Spirit to go into the wilderness for forty days. There, He was tempted by the devil. Jesus overcame every temptation. Note that Luke records how Jesus was led into the desert full of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4: 1). But when the time was over, He returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit (Luke 4: 14).
It’s one thing to be compelled by the Spirit. It’s another thing to be empowered by the Spirit. Empowerment requires a time of solitude. When Jesus came back from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit, that’s when He began His ministry.
The length of your time of solitude depends on your schedule as well as what projects are coming up ahead of you. Your schedule may only allow a day or two of solitude. Then take it. But sometimes you’ll have a very large, important event or season that you know you need to prepare for. That requires solitude beforehand.
For example, I was gone from our church in Hawaii for two and a half years while I was rebuilding our Bible college in Eugene, Oregon. When that season was complete, I found that I desperately needed to spend more time in solitude. I needed to get away alone to think, to pray, and to hear afresh from God. I call them Sabbath moments.
Sabbath moments are when you take a day or two, or even an afternoon, and spend it in planned solitude. Sometimes I just take my Bible and go off on my motorcycle for a few hours. Other times I’ll go for three days. I take a Bible, a journal, and my calendar. I go to think, pray, and plan. The first day I work out, walk, or run. I often fast by just drinking liquids. And then I do long devotions. By the second morning, God begins revealing things to me. I read the Word and slowly let it speak to me.
There’s a big difference between studying the Word and letting the Word study you. The first morning I’m doing Bible study. By the second or third morning, the Bible is studying me. Nothing hidden. Nothing held back. Nothing rationalized. Nothing excused. At that point, I start to ask myself the tough questions:
- How am I doing as a man of God when no one is looking?
- How am I doing in my marriage . . . really?
- How am I doing in my attitude?
- How am I doing as a dad?
- How am I doing in my thought life?
This post is adapted from Pastor Wayne Cordeiro’s book, Jesus Pure and Simple.
Do you have questions about this month’s topic? Join us Friday for Mentoring Leaders Live, as Pastor Wayne shares from his experience and takes on audience questions.