By Rachel Thomas, Director of Discipleship for Women & Ministry Teams @MBCLoudoun
Many of you may be aware of the Alcan Highway. It was built during World War II to connect Alaska with the lower 48 states. Up until the 1960’s, it was all gravel and a challenge only a bold driver with a tough truck would want to tackle. The difficulties of the Alcan Highway in those days are captured in a story told by Ray Stedman, an evangelist in the Bay Area. He told of crossing the border into Alaska and seeing a sign that read, “Choose your rut carefully – you’ll be in it for the next 200 miles.” Choose your rut carefully.
That’s good advice for any four-wheel-drive road, and it’s wise advice for life, more generally, because it reminds us that our actions and decisions are not independent of each other.
Every thought we entertain, every step we take, and every choice we make influences the choices we make in the future. What we do and think in this moment is not just about the “now,” but it influences what we will do and think, and who we will be tomorrow and the next day. Repeated thoughts and repeated actions create ruts in our lives that become the path of least resistance; with enough repetition, habits make our decisions for us. Left to ourselves, our habits will master us, and they will be driven by our desires and shaped by our fears. Only Jesus can set us free from those; and once he’s done so, he calls us to follow and serve him. He went hard after knowing us so that we can go hard after knowing him!
We all know we should pursue Christ. But, HOW do we pursue Him? First of all, start getting to know Him. The Gospels and the New Testament epistles are a great place to learn more about Christ.
Prayer is also key! The great reformer Martin Luther once wrote, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” It is how we communicate with the Lord of the universe. It can be done anywhere. Anytime. Why not try turning off the radio in your car on your way to work each morning and spending time in prayer as you’re sitting on the beltway? Or if you take your kids to school each morning, pray out loud with them before they get out of your car.
Journal about what you see the Lord doing in your life. Write down what He has revealed to you through a passage of Scripture. Record prayers that have been answered so you can look back and reflect on the Lord’s faithfulness and goodness in times of trial and hardship.
Be intentional. It doesn’t just happen. Like all good relationships, you have to be proactive in love, word and deed. Spend five minutes reading Scripture from a Bible or an app on your phone. Think about those words. Pray those words. Write them on a card so you see them throughout the day. After you have been consistent with five minutes, try 10 minutes, then 15 and 20. Pick the best time of your day to give to God. Your quiet time with the Lord doesn’t have to be first thing in the morning. I’m not a morning person; so to give God my first waking moments would not be best. I wouldn’t remember a thing about my prayers or any passage of Scripture that I read. My handwriting would be indecipherable—even to me. Reserve the best time of your day on your calendar so that it is set in stone and trumps all else.
Find accountability. I cannot stress this point enough. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Hebrews 2:13 says, “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘today’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Ask someone from your discipleship group to text you to ask if you spent time in the Word and prayer that day. Do the same for them!
Find a resource that guides your reading, reflection, prayer and application. With all the books, devotionals and apps out there, make sure that the ones you use are grounded in Scripture. Many “inspirational” quick-reads never offer a Bible verse of any kind. You are to know Christ, not a human author’s opinion or feel-good God verbiage. Stay connected to the source—Jesus Christ!
Lastly, don’t get caught up in the snare of compare. Your relationship with Christ will look different from the next person’s. Our standard is not our neighbor or small group leader, but Christ. When we measure ourselves against Jesus, we will always fall short and must continue to strive, as Paul says, “in order that I may attain to the resurrection” (Philippians 3:11-12). This translated literally means “if somehow,” meaning it is not attainable to actually arrive at the final destination here on earth. Paul, this great hero of the Christian faith who wrote the majority of the New Testament and who taught some of the greatest doctrine of evangelism and the church says, “not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect.” He knew this would be a lifelong process and that he had to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God” (3:14).
Press on to make your relationship with the Lord the most important thing in your life. Getting to know Christ is worth every bit of your intentional pursuit!