I was in a class recently and I saw a quote from J. Oswald Sanders, “It is impossible for a believer, no matter what his experience, to keep right with God if he will not take the trouble to spend time with God… Spend plenty of time with God; let other things go, but don’t neglect HIM.”
The person teaching the class I was in shared an illustration. I don’t have all the details down, but here’s the important parts. A man asked some really good musician, “How did you get so good?” The musician said, “Through the practice of neglect.” The man asked what that meant, and the musician replied, “I neglect everything else in my life, so I can be good at this one thing.”
Two questions come from this:
1. What are you ‘becoming good at’?
2. What are you neglecting in order to do it?
Of course for the Christian, the ‘one thing’ should be glorifying God through knowing Him and making Him known (maybe that’s two, but i think they are really inseparable.) We could hash out how to describe the one thing, but you get the point. The one thing and really the only thing is Jesus Christ. He is our only need and our one true desire.
What are you neglecting then in pursuit of Him and His kingdom?
studying for school?
spending time with friends?
Keep in mind that no where does the Bible say that these things are bad in themselves, but the point of the whole conversation is that in order to really follow Christ we have to ‘let goods and kindred go.’ We have to neglect other areas of our lives that we might enjoy (for example sports or reading) or even might be beneficial (for example physical exercise) for the sake of making sure that the most important part of our lives is nurtured and fed. What makes it hard for us is because spending time with the Lord is often hard to ‘quantify,’ so it’s hard to see the immediate benefits. It’s easy to let that time go and think that there was no real loss, but it’s the biggest loss of all.
Now, you may be hearing, “Try harder,” so let me offer help and hope. First, the ‘gospel sandwich’ is the key to good works. The gospel comes before good works to motivate us (we are His, so we live for Him,) and the gospel comes after we fail to do good work (we are His, so we are forgiven.) Look to the cross if you are doing poorly OR doing well in this area. Look to the cross always.
Secondly, I want to give a reminder. As humans, we really make ever decision based on what we think will bring us the most pleasure. Whether it’s watching Netflix, spending with our friends, etc., we do those things because they make us happy in some way. Even work has the ultimate goal of making us happy though it may be in delayed gratification. Also, understand that seeking our happiness isn’t actually a bad thing. It’s how we’re made, but the key for the Christian is to understand this,
Psalm 16:11 – “You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
In His presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore. What does that mean? That means that He is our ultimate pleasure. He is the most satisfying being/thing in the universe. All the other things in our lives that bring us pleasure really pale in comparison, but we are often distracted with those things. For the Christian we have to trust that He is the one that will satisfy our deepest desires and bring us true joy/happiness. If we understand this, then spending time with Him actually becomes not just a chore or a duty, but it becomes the thing that we want to do most because we realize that the other things in our lives are really not enough. We actually have a deeper longing that we often plug in with trivial things. Our ultimate joy comes in God Himself.
Psalm 40:16 – “But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, “Great is the Lord!”
Even in this verse we see that being glad in God is actually what leads us to glorify Him. Kind of neat. That’s why it can actually be acceptable to ‘neglect’ even ministry for spending time with Him. I’m not saying that we only spend time with Him because we actually still can be satisfied in Him in serving others as well. The reality is most of us have other things that we can neglect before we get to the part where we have to neglect serving others. When we really find our satisfaction in Him, then we have a greater desire to share that joy with others, which gives us a right motivation for making Him known (instead of just doing it because we know we’re supposed to.)
In conclusion, we will have to make decisions today (and the rest of our lives) that lead us to choose to ‘neglect’ something in order to know Christ, but the reality is that what we get is actually better than what we give up, which means that ultimately, it’s not even really a sacrifice at all because we are satisfied and glad in Jesus!