Pay Close Attention!

I grew up with my grandparents living right in my backyard. Their house was right behind ours, on my parents’ five acres of land. The older I get, the more I can see how their presence impacted my life. As a kid and a teenager, I loved to spend time with Grandma and Grandpa. They liked to play games, and would include me in whatever their current favorite was. Grandma always had cookies or candy, as long as it wouldn’t ‘spoil [my] dinner.’ I remember summer mornings when I was young, I would be anxious to visit, but I wasn’t supposed to bother them until they were done with their ‘quiet time.’ I was such a rude kid, peeking through the windows, trying to determine if they were done with their Bible reading and prayer, so that I could knock. My grandparents taught me about setting aside time every morning for Scripture and prayer. They also introduced me to The One Year Bible, which a couple decades later would become my favorite tool for Scripture intake.

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might now sin against you.

Psalms 119:9-11

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I began trying to develop a habit of regular Bible reading, but I was resistant to doing it in the morning. I didn’t want to get up any earlier than I absolutely had to. Then, I read Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, by Donald S. Whitney. I was always trying to fit in Bible reading before I went to sleep, but Whitney pointed out that it wasn’t a good plan for remembering or meditating on what I read. I might be just as sleepy in the morning, but what I read tends to stick in my mind through the day. Around that same time, a friend lent me The Journals of Jim Elliot. I don’t remember exactly what I read, but God used it to show me that I was giving Him my leftover time instead of the first-fruits. I was convicted that I was more disciplined about going to the gym and exercising than I was about seeking God and reading Scripture. It was a sobering realization.

It took me years to establish a routine of getting up earlier. More than a decade later, my habits still ebb and flow, and I have to work at it. I guess that is why it is called a discipline. But I know why my grandparents referred to it as ‘quiet time.’ I have come to cherish the peace and quiet of the early morning, when I am able to enjoy having my coffee with God, without interruption. Of course, the real power of this discipline is not evidenced by my enjoyment of it, but by the impact it has had on me. This time in the morning gives me a better attitude for the whole day. Further, my slow, never-on-the-actual date, reading of The One Year Bible has greatly increased my knowledge and understanding of God’s Word. Sometimes it takes me two years to get through, and other times less than a year. I started recording my start and finish dates in the front, as a way to see my progress. I feel the transformation that God has made in my mind and heart since I began to make Him a priority in my life, instead of an after-thought. It makes me realize the danger of neglecting personal intake of Scripture. Just because we believe does not mean that we can get away with doing nothing. Our belief is supposed to change us, but if we do not seek God and read His Word, our belief is all but meaningless.

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?

Hebrews 2:1-3a

The author of Hebrews warned us of the danger of drifting away if we neglect the message we have heard. We are in a better position to pay attention to Gospel than the Hebrews of the early church because modern technology has given us easier access to God’s written Word than any believers in history have had. There is great benefit to us in seeking God and knowing His Word. A few years ago, I was talking with some missionary friends who knew my grandparents. They commented how my grandparents always seemed happy. I had never given it much thought, but it was true. And I know it wasn’t because they were rich or had an easy life. I think it was because they held tightly to the promises of Scripture and fully trusted in God’s faithfulness. This leads to a kind of contentment and joy that you don’t get from simply believing the Gospel. You get it by knowing God through His revealed Word.

I have experienced first-hand how God has worked in my heart and mind when I discipline myself to seek Him through regular Bible reading. It has played an important role in teaching me to be content with singleness and to trust God in all facets of my life. Yes, I am happier! I have also seen how easily I drift away and lose faith when I am not disciplining myself to seek God; negative attitudes, depression, bitterness, self-centeredness, and discontentment creep in and quickly get a foothold. If I am not growing in faith, I am inevitably losing ground. I must pay close attention to what I have heard, or my faith will become useless; I will be the kind of believer the Devil doesn’t mind so much.

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