Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
— Philippians 4:6
Over many years and through many experiences, I have learned that I have to be proactive to keep my spiritual life strong and healthy. We can’t ignore our spiritual life and expect it to remain strong. Just as our bodies need regular care and attention, our spiritual lives need a maintenance schedule in order to remain healthy.
I want to give you five principles that Denise and I have learned over the years to keep us strong and vibrant. These five principles have become essential elements in our daily lives — and they have resulted in our being continually strengthened to accomplish the tasks the Holy Spirit has entrusted to us. These five elements are very simple, but if you will do them faithfully, I am fully convinced that your life will be strengthened in every way.
*[If you started reading this from your email, begin reading here.]
1. Every day spend time with God in the morning.
In Psalm 5:3, David wrote of his commitment to spend time with God every morning. He said, “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.”
I want you to particularly notice the italicized portion of this verse: “…and will look up.” I have learned that if we don’t begin our day by “looking up,” our natural tendency is to start by looking down. By the time we read our text messages on our mobile devices each morning, read our emails, answer a few phone calls, listen to the morning news, or simply contemplate everything that is on our “to do” list for that day — our emotions can pull us into a downward spiral before we ever even leave home!
David understood this. He was surrounded with enemies outside his home and even among his own family members. David knew that he needed to start each morning “looking up” before his flesh had an opportunity to take him down.
Similarly, you need to start every day with the Lord “looking up.” You accomplish this by focusing your attention on the Word each morning and by spending some concentrated time in prayer.
Making the Lord and His Word your first focus each day will be a lifeline for your spiritual strength. Ignore this element of your spiritual walk, and you’ll end up troubled, nervous, worried, and lacking spiritual power in your life. Make this a daily habit, and you’ll be at peace. You’ll be infused with confidence, and you’ll experience power to overcome the daily problems you face in life. Making a commitment to do this may require that you get up earlier or that you to go to bed earlier. But making the Lord your first focus every day will absolutely change your life.
I start every day of my life exactly as I am suggesting to you. When I wake up, I grab my cup of coffee, head to my chair in our TV room, sit down with my Bible, and immediately begin to put God’s Word into my heart and soul. It feeds me, keeps me on track, and helps my heart stay tender before the Lord.
One day without God’s Word is all it takes for the hardening process to begin in your heart. That’s why it’s so crucial that you hold yourself as an alert watchman on the walls of your heart, carefully guarding what comes in its “gates,” as well as your level of intake of the Word versus the level of outflow. Proverbs 4:20-23 states the divine warning concerning this: “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”
And while you’re already sitting there with your Bible, you should take time to pray! That’s a crucial part of “looking up” to get your heart set on the Lord at the beginning of the day. Philippians 4:6 says, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” The word “everything” is from the Greek panti, and it embraces everything. It is an all-inclusive word — including the finest, most minute details.
My advice is that you:
- Pray before you read your Bible, and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you.
- Pray as you read your Bible, and ask the Holy Spirit to plant what you are reading deep into your heart and soul.
- Pray every day for a few minutes with your spouse.
- Pray with your children before they leave the house.
- Pray before you drive your car or travel on any other means of transportation.
I have implemented these simple guidelines in my own prayer life, and they have added great strength to my walk with God.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul tells us to “pray without ceasing.” The words “without ceasing” come from the Greek word adialeiptos, which means without interruption, without taking a break, or continuously. The only way you can do this is to develop a lifestyle of prayer. Starting early in the morning is the best way to get started — and then you can keep it up throughout the rest of the day.
2. Every day spend time feeding your spirit on other godly sources.
When Paul was in prison writing the last letter he would write, he told Timothy, “When you come…bring my book.” (2 Timothy 4:13 NLT).
Paul asked for books — books he could read to strengthen his own spirit as he waited in prison for his execution. Paul was filled with revelation and knew the Lord better than any of us, yet he still longed to read and to grow as he waited to depart to be with the Lord. He could have said, “Forget it — I’ll be in Heaven soon anyway!” But Paul understood that as long as he was alive, he needed to feed his spirit.
Never forget that growing people are reading people. It’s usually true that people who are stagnant in life don’t spend much time reading what others have written.
It is simply a fact that reading is like fertilizer to a garden. The more you read good books, the more your mind and spirit expand and your inward capacity grows. And it doesn’t have to be hours upon hours of reading. It can be a chapter a day from a book that causes you to dig deeper or that challenges your mind and spirit to grow. The point is to make a deliberate effort to read on a regular basis in order to bring growth to your spirit and mind.
If you are an auditory learner more than a reader, you can do the same thing by taking a few minutes each day to listen to an audio series or audio books as you drive your car or work around your house. One of our sons showed me a group of teaching CDs he had been listening to as he drives his car all over Moscow. It impressed me. Why not use the valuable time you spend in your car to feed your spirit and produce strength in your life?
What you put into your mind will determine what you think, what you believe, and, ultimately, what will happen in your life. That principle can work both negatively or positively, so apply it to your advantage by regularly reading or listening to words that will lift your spirit and help change your circumstances to conform to God’s will. If you say you don’t have time to do that, I suggest that you log the time you spend watching television programs in a given week — programs that do nothing to nurture and grow your life spiritually. You’ll see that you really do have time to invest in your own spirit by feeding on other godly sources.
3. Every day spend some time in quietness.
Proverbs 27:19 says, “As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.” Just as you see your reflection when you look into a pool of water, you can see and hear your own heart when you get quiet enough to listen.
I am convinced that the failure to do this is one reason people get confused in life. They get so busy that they no longer are in touch with themselves — what they believe, what they need, and what they feel. Instead, they just keep moving through life like robots.
But you need times of deep contemplation in order to stay in touch with your own heart. Perhaps journaling will help you process your thoughts, as it does for some people, and articulate your ongoing conversations with God.
In Psalm 37:4, David wrote, “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” We all want the desires of our hearts — but if we are not in touch with our hearts, how can we even know what those desires are? The fact is that much activity with no pause leads to spiritual dullness and confusion. You need a few minutes of “quiet” every day.
Where can you find a time and place for quiet contemplation? If you don’t have a place to be quiet, consider these possibilities:
- Take a walk to let the quietness of the outdoors become a sanctuary for your spirit.
- Get up before other people in your house are awake and let that time of quietness fill your soul with.
- Go into the bathroom, if necessary, and shut the door!
Finding a few minutes of quietness has become a very integral part of my life. It is essential for me to stay in touch with my own heart and the deeply imbedded, God-given desires in my spirit. It helps to chase away inner turbulence and to bring the peace of God to the forefront of my mind.
Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” God commands us to be still because He knows how much we need this for the health of our spirits and souls.
To get started spending time in quietness each day as a habit, consider setting aside even as little as five minutes every day to be alone and allow God to minister strength to you through a concentrated time of quietness.
4. Every day spend some time with those who strengthen you.
Hebrews 10:25 says, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another…” People tend to think this verse refers to attending church, and that’s true. You need to be faithful to attend church; after all, you are a part of the Body! Your church family needs you, and you need what others have to give you. In the Body of Christ, there is a mutual exchange of strength that occurs in fellowshipping with other believers that you absolutely need.
However, for me personally, I need more than a weekly meeting with an auditorium full of people. That corporate worship time is essential, but I also need people who speak into my life — to encourage me, to check on me, and to hold me accountable in various areas of my life. These times of fellowship can be done by telephone, by email, by Skype, or by a number of means that are available today — or by the old-fashioned way of personally meeting together!
There are six people who speak deeply into my life — and I speak with at least one of them every day and nearly all of them at least once a week. With all that I am required to give of myself to others, I have found a great need to have people who impart spiritual wisdom and insight into my life. It helps keep me strong and healthy. The primary one who does this is Denise — but in addition to my precious wife, I have come to treasure five men who fill this vital role in my life.
These five men remind me of God’s faithfulness. They remind me to keep my eyes on Jesus, and they encourage me to keep marching forward in obedience to Jesus’ call on my life. Yes, I could probably do it without them, but I’m so thankful I don’t have to! I deliberately and purposefully stay in touch with these precious men. I don’t wait for them to call me. I actively pursue these relationships, because I know I need them and that God wants to strengthen me through them.
Who speaks into your life with this kind of authority? These types of relationships need to be identified, pursued, developed, and maintained, for they will serve to make you stronger in your walk with God.
5. Every day take time to stop throughout the day to acknowledge God.
Psalm 119:164 says, “Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments.” This is something you can stop and do several times a day that requires almost no effort. But I promise — doing so will radically change your life.
I personally take pauses throughout each day to recognize God’s presence in my life. I have a program on my mobile device that “chimes” like a church bell intermittently throughout the day — and regardless of where I am or what I am doing, when I hear that “chime,” I pause to recognize God’s presence in my life and to thank Him for being in control.
When so much seems to be going on beyond your control, it’s good to pause and acknowledge that God is on the throne and is righteous in all His judgments — regardless of what you see, what you feel, or what others are doing or are failing to do. Pausing to recognize this at various points throughout your day will energize your atmosphere and keep you “connected” in your soul to the Living One!
There is nothing more important than your relationship with God. Please prayerfully consider how you can implement these five life-changing elements in your life every day. Making these five principles a part of our daily lives has truly changed Denise and me — and we know they will add so much strength to your life as well.
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I thank You for speaking to me today about areas where I need to be more proactive in guarding my spiritual life to make sure that I stay spiritually strong, healthy, and vibrant. I understand that to keep my spirit in strong condition will require time and energy and perhaps the sacrifice of other good pastimes. There is nothing more important than my relationship with You. How I walk with You affects every other area of my life. Help me take this seriously and apply these principles to my life. Show me how to get started, because I know that my spiritual condition is vital to the rest of my life and to the lives of those You have positioned me to influence for Your glory.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am proactive in keeping my spiritual condition strong, healthy, and vibrant. I do not ignore my spiritual life. Just as I feed my body every day and have certain regimens in place to care for my physical condition, I am careful to attend to the needs of my spirit and soul. As a result, I am spiritually strong; I am spiritually healthy; and my heart is vibrant. I am disciplined, committed, and careful to keep my spiritual condition in top-notch shape!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- What did you honestly think when you read this Sparkling Gem today? Did you feel overwhelmed by the list of five things to do, or do you believe that these are elements you can apply to your life?
- Perhaps you already do some of these things in your daily routine. Which ones are already essential elements in your life? Which one do you need to implement immediately?
- To implement these suggestions, or even a partial list of them, what changes will you have to make in your daily schedule? I suggest that you look at the main points of this Sparkling Gem once again, and choose which elements you can most easily adapt to your life. The point is to get started.