Religion vs. Relationship – Where’s the profit? (Part 4)

Posted: 17/05/2011 in God
Tags: , , ,

In discussing the mistaken assumptions we have about God time, the first I’ve identified is:

  1. We don’t see time with God as profitable

Everything we do in this life is a means to an end. If we can’t see an immediate benefit or profit in what we do it becomes meaningless. My time with God was dutiful reading of the bible or a hasty prayer. I did not put into practice the things I read, nor did I consider the weight of my prayers and to whom I was praying. More than anything I did not expect that God would have anything to say to me that didn’t involve condemnation or discipline. No wonder I saw no profit in it. If I were to put a monetary value on my God time it would have been negligible. That it how I saw it! Unless the results were instantaneous or radical, or measured up to some warped standard I’d created, it was simply of no real value. How tragic that so many of us think that way. There is more profit in God time than we can fathom; we either fail to understand it or just don’t always see it straight away.

Prayer is deep communion with the Father, its conversation. We tell him things, acknowledging who He is and how we feel about Him. We intercede for others and seek Him for help we need in areas of our life. And He replies because God is not a silent God (Psalm 32:8). We don’t often hear though because we don’t know how to listen or we’re just not accustomed to hearing from Him. Scripture says that His sheep know His voice (John 10:3-5) and the only way we can get to know His voice is by spending time with Him and by listening. Imagine if God, in physical form sat down with you and asked you to just tell Him what was on your mind. And then imagine if He wanted to reply! How astounded would you be? Would that not be something of great profit? Our whole journey is about faith and “…faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb 11:1). Therefore if God says he is always with us (Heb 13:5), that He hears our prayers (Ps 34:17,  John 8:47) and that He answers them (Matt 7:7-8) and by faith we believe that to be true then surely He is actually with us when we pray. It should not matter than we cannot see Him.

Scripture reading too can often hardly seem profitable. While some have an enviable passion for the word many of us find it an almost impossible task or chore that we feel obliged to do, albeit occasionally. But it is more than stories, more than words, more than history. It is God almighty talking – written down. So how do you go from seeing it as a really big, difficult to read book to the “…living and active…” (Heb 4:12) word of God? I wonder how many Christians could actually say they were taught as adults, how to study scripture? If we don’t know or have given up we need to learn to read the bible and there are many, many methods out there that we can try – talk to friends, your Church leaders, research on the internet, try different versions, use study guides, commentaries and bible dictionaries but don’t give up. Ultimately it involves observation, interpretation and application, and these principles combined build solid foundations – a house on a rock and not a house on sand so that when the storms come (and they always do) we will be able to stand strong (Matt 7:24-27).

Four things that I’ve recently learned is to invite God into my study, read with the expectation that I will learn, meditate on what I’ve read and as with prayer, stop making it a religious exercise. What does this mean in practical terms? Every time I read the bible I now ask for wisdom and revelation (Eph 1:17) and God never fails me. I try to stop relying on my own limited human understanding and let the very author of the bible teach me. I have a number of different methods depending on my week. I’m a shift worker and try as I might when I get up in the afternoon often after a poor sleep I simply cannot concentrate on comprehensive study so either I won’t read at all or I will read a short passage with devotional material. On the days I’m not working I have more time, more energy and a greater capacity to concentrate so my study is more in-depth. There are other days where I might read only a few verses because God is revealing such great mysteries in those few verses that I want to learn all I can on that subject. It’s not about quantity or time because we can read much and learn little. Rather it’s about quality and what we do with what we’ve learned. Yes discipline is sometimes (or often) required but as soon as the relationship goes out of our study of the word and religion creeps back in we need to take a step back and reflect on what we’re doing. God understands our humanness and will meet us wherever we are. Think about the expectations you’ve put on yourself regarding God time? Are they in line with the expectations of the Father? Remember guilt in not in God’s vocabulary; that is a weapon of the enemy.

Reading and studying scripture is so very profitable; however it’s something that unlike everything else in life does not have a monetary value but a heavenly one. Until we can see the profit in that…well it’s likely that it will remain unprofitable.

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