A Good Beginning
The way we start the day often casts a long shadow. Just as starting the day in a panicked rush tends to cast a shadow of stress over the day, starting the day in peaceful rest in God’s presence tends to cast a shadow of joy over the rest of the day. There is a black-and-white biblical command to read your Bible and pray first thing in the morning. But we do see a biblical priority of starting the day by seeking God.
In Psalm 5:4 David writes, “In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” In Psalm 59:16 he writes, “But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your life; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” Psalm 88:13 says, “But I cry to you for help, LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you.” While the Psalmists talk of drawing near to God at other times of the day, the morning seems to be given as assumed priority. And Jesus lived out this priority, as evidenced by passages like Mark 1:35: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
Having quiet, peaceful time in Scripture and prayer and meditation is valuable at any time of the day. But there is something valuable to putting first things first. And the morning is often the time of day when there are the fewest distractions and the least noise. Starting our day with Scripture and prayer, reflection and confession, requests and thanksgiving, launches us into a day when our God-awareness is higher than if we stumble out of bed, into the car, into the office, or into school.
Perhaps the reason why many of us struggle to seek God first thing in the morning is that most of us who are living in the United States don’t feel a sense of desperation for God. We have full refrigerators and full stomachs. We are doing pretty well, and we don’t feel that anything will be changed significantly if God is more supreme in our lives.
But think of the horrific anxiety and anger that marks our time. Think of the times that you are impatient with people who you love. And think of how quick most of us are to cave in to temptation and selfishness and instant gratification. And think of how empty our lives are when we try to be the center of our own private universe.
We need God!
Psalm 42:1 says, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you my God.” Psalm 63:1 says, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” These psalms reflect people who are desperate for God. He is their greatest desire, their greatest pursuit, and their greatest prize.
If you don’t feel this way about God, don’t despair. But, also, don’t shrug it off.
Too many of us act as if God is dispensable in our lives. He is not! We are lost and alone and hopeless without him. And, at best, we will live comfortable and useless lives if we don’t have his power and renewal leading us.
Are we desperate to know that we’re not alone? Hebrews 13:5 reminds us that God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Are we desperate to have wisdom for navigating a complicated culture? James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Are we desperate for power to walk in victory instead of defeat? We read in Galatians 5:16, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
The bottom line is that we need God!
While our perception of our desperation wanes, the reality of our desperation does not. Do all that you can to remind yourself of how much you need him. Cry out to God to open your eyes so that you see how much you need him. Live like a dying man in the desert who is staggering toward an oasis.
Get desperate for God.
Keep in Step
Walking with Jesus day by day is not only about how we start our day, and it is not only about quiet times or personal devotions. Galatians 5:25 says, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Paul is saying that walking with the Holy Spirit, who indwells all believers, involves keeping in step with him. The idea of keeping in step with the Spirit implies that we are not leading him, but that he is leading us. The Spirit is going places, and we are invited to follow him where he leads.
In other words, walking with Jesus does not simply involve us giving him some attention in the morning and then being on our way. It involves us following the lead of his Spirit throughout the day.
The Spirit is leading us to speak words of encouragement to the co-worker who is discouraged. The Spirit is leading us to start a conversation with the classmate who is lonely. The Spirit is leading us to offer friendly wounds (Proverbs 27:6) to brothers and sisters in Christ who are in sin or in error. The Spirit is leading us to apologize and confess our sin when we stray. And the Spirit is leading us to reach out with the gospel to our neighbors.
The Spirit is going places. Will we follow?
Throughout our day God is speaking to us. He is calling us to walk with him. Obey him takes faith. It feels risky. But when we close our ears to his voice, we shut ourselves off from blessings and joy and impact. But when we respond to the simple, seemingly-small promptings of God’s Spirit, we get to experience God’s closeness as we step out in faith.
When we start each day, God is near and he is inviting us to draw close. And, whether or not we realize it, we are desperate for him, and he has all that we need. And throughout each day, God continues the invitation for us to walk with him, following his lead and experiencing the joy and the peace that comes when we walk with the shepherd of our souls.