I meet a lot of Christians who love Jesus and try their best to follow Him. You know what I don’t hear very often? People who would describe their relationship with God as “thriving”. Why is this? Is there some secret that Jesus only reveals to a select few on how to really enjoy Him? What if we could all discover God’s plan for how we are meant to truly thrive in our relationship with Him?
That Overwhelming Feeling
A church recently asked me to speak on “spiritual disciplines” and I thought, “That’s going to go over like a lead balloon!” The last thing any woman (or man) on the planet wants is to feel like they need to cram one more thing into their already exceedingly busy lives! (I can hear the shouts of ‘Amen!’ through my computer screen.) One more thing to feel guilty about or ashamed over. I really wrestled with this topic. As I sat before the LORD with it, He revealed to me that it’s not spiritual disciplines that we need to add into our daily routines, rather it’s divine invitations to actually do less and experience Him more.
God’s Plan for You to Thrive
In Acts 2, when the term “Christian” hadn’t even been coined yet and the church was about two days old, we are told of these divine invitations. Acts 2:42 NLT says, “42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper[a]), and to prayer. Four simple things that resulted in this: A deep sense of awe came over them all (v. 43). This is what I’m after: I want to sit in the awe and wonder of God. I want to realize how incredibly powerful and majestic He is. I want to know that the troubles I face are but a trifle to Him. I want to see Him move in people’s lives in ways that can only be explained by God’s presence and power washing over them. And God tells us how.
The Apostle’s Teaching
Last week I went to one of the largest conferences out there on church leadership. Their mission: to love on and equip leaders in ministry. I’m certain that is their mission because they repeated it countless times. The worship? Incredible! The atmosphere and energy? Compelling and inspiring! The speakers? Brilliant! The number of times I cracked open my Bible? Zero.
The first invitation God issued His church was to receive instruction. The early church did not have a written word to access, so they needed to receive their instruction directly from the apostles. These men taught God’s Word. While I was extremely moved by the worship, we cannot substitute an experience with God in worship with the equipping of God through His Word.We need both. If you are in a church that emphasizes a lot of creative story-telling where biblical principles are embedded, but express exposure to the Bible itself is avoided, that doesn’t mean you’re in the wrong place. God has you there for a reason. What it does mean is that you need to find a Bible study or an alternative teacher who is going to walk with you through the Word outside of a weekend service.
It amazes me how virtually connected we are through our cell phones, yet how lonely we feel on the inside. God wired us for community- people who see and know us and who we see and know. People who accept us for who we are and where we are at even when we’re not as far along as we’d hoped to be. We grow in relationship. God speaks through His people just as He speaks through His Word. This is why Bible study and small group interaction is so important. It’s a place where we hear what God is saying and doing in other’s lives. We realize we’re not alone in our struggles.
The Breaking of Bread
While fellowship constitutes those who are closest to us, this invitation encompasses the life of the church at large. Through it we realize God is working all across the world! We are part of a kingdom and a community so much bigger than ourselves! Through church life we pause and remember Jesus’ work on the cross. We gaze together into our glorious future!
I once heard a story about a church that desperately needed to paint their interior building. It proved difficult because activities occurred every day on their campus. The pastor’s solution? Announce a prayer meeting on Saturday morning. Then no one will show up! Prayer is a tough topic. Many don’t like to pray out loud. They feel as though they don’t know the “right way” to pray. It feels scary to talk to God. So they avoid it or just assume that their thoughts alone constitute prayers. God invites us to pray because He delights in us coming to Him. He wants us to share our deepest desires with Him. He longs to know the secrets of our heart (and He already does anyway!). And because you all know how much I love Bible study may I just add that here is another great place to learn and experience the incredible power of prayer!
One Small Shift
God patiently waits for us to come experience Him in all of His fullness. He lays out these four invitations to help us do so. It’s not about doing more, it’s about intentionally doing less so you can create space for God’s invitations so you can thrive- so you could be filled with overwhelming awe of Him rather than an overwhelming schedule. Teaching (learning God’s Word), fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer. Is there a shift you need to make?
Which of these invitations do you find easier to embrace? Which are more difficult for you? Do you have a story to share that might encourage someone reading this to make a shift in their lives? I invite you to share it in the comments below.