Another year has passed. They seem to pick up speed like a semi
coming out of Eisenhower tunnel down to Silverthorne without its brakes. But in
spite of the speed with which the days and weeks seem to fly by, God gives each
of us enough time to take care of the most important things. I began last year
by asking you a question: “When December 31 rolls around, will you be closer to
the Lord or more distant than you are today?” Now that we’ve arrived, what is
your answer? Have your intentions borne fruit or did they play out and grind to
a halt somewhere back in February?
That’s the nature of New Year’s resolutions. We begin with
the best of intentions, but life seems to get in the way. And so we find
ourselves going along, intending to make our spiritual lives a priority, but
never really seeing any progress.
I’ve been thinking about this ever since I preached that
sermon on faith back in November. (See, you thought I didn’t listen to my own
sermons!) When we talk about faith, we think of it as something we possess, and
either we’ve got a lot or a little, or somewhere in between, but it never seems
we have enough.
But it struck me that faith is more like love than anything
else. You’ve heard the sermons that say love is a verb not a noun, that love
can best be described in terms of what it does – only in action does it have
any real meaning.
And I believe faith is much the same. Faith can best be
defined in terms of what it does. Paul talks about living by faith, not by
sight. What does he mean? I believe he means that faith describes the way we
react and interact with life. When we are faced with a set of circumstances, is
our reaction one that reflects our trust in God, or do we fall back on trusting
our own resources?
James gave an illustration of faith-full living. When you
meet someone without the basic essentials of life – food, clothing, a place to
live – do you wish them well and walk away or do you do something about it?
James says, “faith without action is dead.” So, faith-full living means you
respond in a way that reflects God living in your life.
So, faith isn’t just what you believe about God, it is how
closely you walk with God and let him live through you.
I said back in November that one of the ways you can grow
your faith is to start doing the things a faithful person would do. And you’re
thinking, “well, duh!” But you would be surprised how often we know what faith
looks like but don’t do what faith does. I always say I preach a lot better
than I live. It’s easy to talk about faith, it’s quite another to live by
That’s our challenge for this coming year – to walk closer
to God – that’s the heart of what it means to live by faith. And so, in the
coming months I want to focus our attention on letting God have center stage in
our life – not relegated to a supporting role or an extra that walks through
the scenes without speaking. I want God to be the Lord of my life, and
prioritize my life around his agenda for me.
But I can’t really know what his agenda is without spending
time with him. I can’t really recognize his voice unless I take time to listen.
I can’t walk with him unless I know where his footsteps are to follow in them.
I find myself drawn again and again to Psalm 23. It is a
beautiful and beloved psalm. But I’m not sure we really read it as it was
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Sometimes scriptures intend to comfort the afflicted and
other times they mean to afflict the comfortable. This is one of those
scriptures. It comforts us in difficult times, but it also gives us a kick in
the pants when we’re too comfortable and complacent.
Did you listen to the verbs? He makes me, leads me,
restores me, guides me. Do we really want a God who tells us what to do and where
to go? Like a shepherd who has to make his sheep go where the food and water
are, who leads them where they’re too dumb to go on their own, who guides them
in right paths, because they’ll choose the wrong ones if left to themselves. Do
you really want to know what God wants for your life? Because it may not look
anything like what you think it should.
When I say, I want to walk closer to God, I might have one
thing in mind, while God has quite another. I might just mean, I intend to read
the Bible a little more often, while God wants to change my life with his word.
I might think a few minutes of prayer every day will do me good, while God
might think what I really need is to submit my will to his.
You see, I might only be talking about investing a few more
minutes a day in spiritual activities, while God wants my heart, soul, mind and
strength. The question is, am I willing to follow where God leads me?
Jeremiah wrote: For I
know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jer.
I hope one of your goals for this year is to seek God with
all your heart. I don’t think you could have a more important or significant
goal than that. But what are you going to do to make it a reality? What steps
are you going to take to see it through to completion? How will you know what
it looks like when you arrive?
Now, I realize there are only so many hours in the day, and
every one of us is busy and our schedules are full. In fact, most of us excuse
ourselves from any significant involvement with God, because we wouldn’t know
where to fit him into our already busy life.
So I guess the place to begin is a decision that our
relationship with God is important enough to devote time to strengthening it. I
assume that’s why you’re here this morning – you want God to have a place and a
voice in your life. You realize the importance of worship and you come hoping
to hear a word from God for your life. And this time is important. It’s not
just important for what you get out of it, but what you bring with you to give
But this can’t be the sum of it. Your relationship with God
is bigger than one hour a week. You can’t leave God here in the pew when you
head out the door, you have to invite him to come with you and be involved in
your life throughout the week.
Some of you are daily Bible readers, and that’s a wonderful
habit to develop. It’s one of the most important places to begin in listening
to God and walking with him. But you can’t let it become a lifeless routine,
where you read some scriptures in order to check a box to fulfill a
requirement. The Word of God has to have a living place in your life. That word
that you read must be allowed to speak and guide and challenge and convict.
God’s Word means to change your life through his Word.
The Hebrews writer tells us: For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged
sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it
judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)
I want to encourage you to read the Word daily, but I also
want to encourage you to lay that Word up in your heart and let it have a voice
as you go about your day. Reflect on what you have read and make it your
David wrote: How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your
word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I
have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Ps
The difference between reading the Bible and letting the Word of
God dwell in you is the difference between a water fountain and a waterfall.
When God invites us into prayer with him, it’s not for a little
meaningless chit-chat and a recitation of some favorite phrases, but a heart to
heart discussion of what’s going on in your life. When God created Adam and
Eve, the book of Genesis tells us that they walked together in the cool of the
garden. There was a closeness and an intimacy between God and Adam and Eve that
he wants to reclaim with us. Two other men in Genesis, Enoch and Noah were said
to have walked with God. He calls us to walk beside him and share with him and
to experience that closeness for ourselves.
And this year, I want us to spend more time thinking about and
talking about the Holy Spirit whom God has sent and who lives within every
believer. One reason we fail so frequently in walking closer to God is that we
neglect and ignore the power of the Spirit. But the promises God makes are
contingent upon our reliance upon that power. And so, I want us to focus our
attention on this third member of the Godhead, God’s Holy Spirit.
Paul writes in Romans 8:13-14, For if you live according to the sinful
nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the
body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of
This morning I’m inviting you to join me in a closer walk with God
and with each other. We’ll read the Word together and pray together every day
through the year. I’ll share some daily scriptures and give you some tools to
help you on the journey.
Every week, you’ll find a new sheet out in the foyer with the next
week’s daily reading schedule on it and a key verse highlighting a theme for
that week – I’d like for you to think about that scripture through the day and
lay up that scripture on your heart.
On the other side of the sheet, you’ll find a place to write down
the names of people you want to encourage and people you need to pray for.
There will be a place to write down things you want to work on for the Lord and
thoughts you want to remember from the sermon and the scriptures you will be
reading. It is the right size to fit in
your Bible and be accessible throughout the week.
If you will join
me in this walk and spend the time in God’s Word and in prayer and in
relationship building, at the end of 2016, you will be closer to God and
experience what Jesus calls “abundant life.”
Posted on Sun, January 3, 2016
by John Roberts