Friday, March 8, 2013

How to Run Well (Part 4)


There are four greatly practical helps for the Christian, whether he is young or old. The Spirit of God will certainly lead you to use them diligently. 

•God’s Word. First and foremost is the Word of God. Read your Bible, and read it well. Make it absolutely the most important book in your library. Other books may be helpful, especially if they continually refer you to the Bible; but never allow them to displace your reading of the Word of God itself. 

We live in days of much unbelief. One of its greatest strongholds is ignorance of the Scriptures (see Matthew 22:29). We need to arm ourselves by close and prayerful acquaintance with the Book. A certain well-educated unbeliever was warned by his doctor of impending death by a terminal disease. He wanted to investigate seriously for himself the claims that the Bible is a revelation from God. Meeting a Christian friend, he asked what books he should read to enable him to judge the Bible’s merits. The terse answer was, “The Bible.” Astonished, he repeated his question, but received the same answer. He was advised to start at the beginning and read straight through. He did, and before he completed the five books of Moses he became convinced that its origin was divine. He was ultimately converted to God! 

If you are unfamiliar with the Bible, it would be good for you to start reading in the New Testament. This is the part that tells about the life of Jesus Christ. 

Yes, if there is a royal road to understanding the Bible, it is reading the Bible itself – prayerfully, and in dependence on the teaching of the Holy Spirit. 

•Read consecutively; don’t jump around here and there, and don’t have favorite Scriptures that you read over and over again, neglecting other parts. 

•Read comprehensively; don’t read too fast to think about the material, but fast enough to get an overview of the passage, to get a bird’s-eye view of the whole. 

•Search the Scriptures, as well as read them. Situations will often arise in your life which drive you to seek the mind of God. Sometimes you will find a Scripture dealing with the point in question, but sometimes you will not. Then you must search for some God-given principle which applies to your case and sheds light on your pathway. The Bible is pre-eminently a book of principles. Be like the Bereans, who “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). 

Meditate; develop the habit of diligently turning over the Scriptures in your mind. To be well nourished, it is necessary not only to eat but to digest. Cattle must not only browse on the fresh grass, but also chew the cud. So do not only read and search, and thereby gather information; but having done so, turn it over and over in meditation, that it may really soak into and prosper our souls. Paul said to Timothy, “Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all” (1 Tim. 4:15). 

•Prayer. Second only in importance to the Word of God is prayer. If you want an idea of how necessary it is, take your Bible and read Luke’s Gospel, underlining every place where Jesus prayed. Notice that He, a divine Person, frequently prayed when here on earth. 

Read Paul’s Epistles and see what he says about prayers: “… night and day praying exceedingly.” If Paul had to pray, surely you and I must. 

You may simply pray about anything and everything (read Philippians 4:6-7). Nothing is too small. Our God is great enough to attend to your smallest need. 

What a Friend we have in Jesus, 
All our sins and griefs to bear! 
What a privilege to carry 
Everything to God in prayer! 

Unburden your heart, and make your request with thanksgiving. Whether you get the answer you want or not, you will get at least His peace in your heart. 

Don’t forget intercession; i.e., praying for others – both saved and unsaved. There is a danger of becoming cramped and narrowed in our thoughts and prayers. There is always a great blessing in thinking of others. 

In any event then, let us pray, and that “without ceasing.” Keep in an attitude of continual dependence and waiting on God. Keep your heart always in the spirit of prayer, even though you cannot always be on your knees. Besides being helpful, it is safe. The old rhyme is very true: 

Satan trembles when he sees The weakest saint upon his knees. 

•New Associations. There is great importance in keeping Christian company. Much of what has been said about old companionships and associations would apply here. The best way to keep away from old associations is to form and cultivate new ones. 

David said, “I will not know wickedness … My eyes shall be on the faithful” (Psalm 101:4,6). He was without doubt a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. To avoid evil and to cultivate good was always His way; and if so, we should make it ours. 

The very first decision for which Moses is commended is that, having come of age, he whole-heartedly identified with the despised people of God: “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11: 25). 

Don’t start with the idea that Christians are perfect or you will be greatly disappointed. They are far from it! But you will find among them a warmth and a love which you will never find in the world. Stick with them, even if they don’t meet your expectations or act like you think they should. If they give you the “cold shoulder,” return the gesture by giving them a warm heart, and you will soon get your investment repaid with interest. 

Generally, however, things are the other way around. I have heard many complain that their fellow-Christians are so unfriendly that they never get spoken to after the service or meeting. On closer investigation, I nearly always find that these very people are known to jump up instantly after the meeting and leave without giving anyone the chance to befriend them. They are cold – not their associates! A frequent symptom of disease is that one complains of cold when really it is quite warm. 

To avoid the company of Christians is an early symptom of spiritual disease. When shepherds see one sheep standing in a field away from the rest, they conclude that it is ill. When well, sheep keep together. Beware of sulking alone; stragglers become easy prey for the cunning enemy. 

Some people may desire advice about where to meet, since even true Christians are divided into many groups – small and large – meeting in various places. 

My advice is: Go where the Word of God leads you. 

But remember – personal preferences or your parents’ practices have nothing to do with this matter. The question must be decided absolutely by God’s Word as if your salvation were at stake. You must search the Scriptures prayerfully on this point. 

Do not become a “rolling stone”; such practice indicates a lack of principle. It is better to stay where you are as long as the Word of God, a good conscience, and true-hearted love for our Lord Jesus Christ will allow you. 

•Service. Last of all, do not forget to serve the Lord. By this I don’t merely mean that you should do everything, including your regular daily work, to the Lord (see Colossians 3:22, 24); but that you should take up some further interest and work directly for the Lord Jesus Christ, even though it may be very small. 

“What shall I do?” is often asked. Ask your Master, who alone has authority to answer it, and you will soon discover what you should do. Opportunities are all around and needs are great. 

Possibly you are already serving the Lord, almost without knowing it. 

Like Andrew, you may be trying to bring some relative or friend to Jesus (see John 1:40-42). Having found the Lord yourself, you did it without being told, just like a newly-hatched duckling instinctively waddles to the pond. If so, thank God, and do not get tired of this blessed work. Go on, and in seeking to bring your friends to Jesus, enlarge your borders and keep going on! 

There are many ways of serving the Lord: by personal conversations, anywhere and at all times; by distributing tracts, by visiting the sick, by teaching a Sunday School class; by public preaching of the Gospel and ministry of the Word to believers. Ask the Lord what you should do, and having found out, DO IT. 

•Do it in obedience to the principles in the Word of God. 

•Do it prayerfully, and 

•Do it in cooperation with your fellow Christians; but I repeat, DO IT. 

Healthy bodies are impossible without work. Solomon observed this and said, “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet … but the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep” (Ecclesiastes 5:12). 

Many famous socialites suffer from “nerves” and similar complaints, often simply from lack of something to do. Even Christians may be found who do not fare well for the same reason: they are unemployed, except perhaps with what is profitless or even mischievous. The old saying is as true as ever: 

“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” 

We should be like the Thessalonian believers, to whom it was said, “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10). 

If that verse becomes a truthful summary of our lives, they will have been lives well worth living. 

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