By Curtis Peter van Gorder
A young friend of mine mentioned that he was having a hard time connecting with God and growing in his spiritual life. He asked me if I had any advice, since he considered me a “war-tried veteran” of forty years in the faith. I had to tell him that I am still a work in progress. Though I have been at it for a while, I am still in learning mode and fighting the good fight daily.
“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”—Philippians 3:12–14
Though we learn from our experience, our spiritual life always needs to be renewed and revitalized. Jesus likened it to eating fresh bread daily and drinking from the fountain of living waters.
There are a couple of things that I have discovered in the last few weeks, though, that I wanted to pass on to him: some new habits which have helped me to connect with the Lord and continue to grow in my spiritual life.
One of them is to find a verse every day to meditate on throughout the day, memorizing it and sharing it with others. There are lots of ways to do this. I may be reading something and a verse stands out, someone may share a verse, or sometimes I find it serendipitously. The verse I read may be in a specific context, but it speaks to me directly in my own situation. It transcends time and place and is often a key to finding the solution I am looking for. The Word gives me that heavenly perspective that I so desperately need at that moment. When I am praying, it helps to use these verses and bring them to the Lord, as they are His promises to us that cannot fail.
To give you an example, here is my verse for today: “You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence.”1 I thought it is significant that the wording is in the past tense—“you have made known” the way. The picture is not of us desperately struggling to get God’s direction, but of doing what He has already shown us to do, which is a good reason we should remember to write it down when He shows us something, so that we can refer to it later.
The next part of the verse shows us being filled with joy as we keep our eyes heavenward. He fills us with joy. It is the receiving and believing of that joy that is our part. Like the potter, He continues to shape us into the vessels He wants us to be. Our part is to be yielded clay so that we can hold all of His joy and love. This helped me realize that communication with God should not be so difficult. He is trying to get through to me more than I am trying to get through to Him. Through the insight from this verse, prayer suddenly became more listening and less talking—more about having a clear reception than broadcasting.
One verse can also lead to another. The word “full” was echoed in a verse about fullness that I found: “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.”2 It is said that grace could be an acronym for Gift Received At Christ’s Expense. Grace is the beautiful love we receive from Him. When someone is graceful, it means that they move and act beautifully, and grace does have a lot to do with beauty. When we are full of Jesus, we are beautiful in His sight.
The other thing I passed on to him that I have discovered is the importance of remembering what God has done for us. Beginning with praise and thankfulness for our blessings is a great way to connect with God. The Japanese have a habit that when they meet again, they thank the person for the last experience: “Konaidawa, domo arigato gozaimasu,” which means, “Thank you for the last time.” When we remember what people have done for us, it makes them more willing to help again. I’m sure the Lord is the same way. We all appreciate appreciation, don’t we?
We receive so many blessings each day, we often don’t realize what a miracle they are. We don’t always appreciate them as much as we should. Most of our memories are short-lived, so when we write down what He did for us, it builds our faith that He can do miracles for us in the future. This can be expanded to keeping a spiritual journal3 where we write down our verse and the application, chart our spiritual progress, and record our prayers and goals and whatever else is on our heart. Things seem to move out of the abstract and into reality when we write them down.
I have found that taking these small daily steps to build my faith makes a tremendous difference in my daily spiritual life.
1 Acts2:28 NKJV.
2 John1:16 NKJV.