Continued from here.
Far too many Christians seem to want to receive the blessings of God without having to put in any effort beyond warming a pew on Sunday. Warming a pew hardly qualifies as denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Jesus. Look at all Jesus did to follow God – it cost him everything! And then he gained everything.
I put a lot of effort into my relationship with God. I set aside the first hour of every day to spend in quiet time with Him – in prayer, Bible study, and praise & worship. I do this even when I am very sick or traveling. I do it even if I get to bed late and am short on sleep. That hour is sacred and is more important than anything else I do in a day. NOTHING is more important in my day because NOTHING is more important to me than God. He is my top priority.
It takes me an enormous amount of effort to continually defer my preferences to other people. I am very self-centered by nature as well as a recovering “control freak.” In my default setting, I much prefer the world to revolve around me – my needs and desires. Choosing to defer my preferences to others over and over takes a lot of effort because this does not come naturally to me in any way, shape, or form.
Neither do the spiritual disciplines come naturally to me. For example, prayer has always been a challenge for me. I have a difficult time staying focused as I pray, and I am uncomfortable praying aloud with other people listening to what I am saying to God. Nevertheless, in obedience to God, I have disciplined myself to extend my prayer time and have also learned how to extend my focus – not that I do this perfectly, but I have improved. I volunteer as a prayer intercessor at my church, praying for a full hour during a worship service, which is something I never thought I would be able to do. I am amused when people mistakenly believe that my obedience means I have a “gift” of prayer. My prayer life has developed through blood, sweat, and tears and has not come easily to me.
To be continued…
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace wearing a miner’s and using a pick on a pile of rocks. Courtesy Bitmoji.]