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Read to Treasure Christ

Three times in the last three years I’ve seen believing friends of mine fall into serious moral failure. Two were pastors, and one was a seminary professor.

In one sense, it baffles me to see people who are seemingly committed to Christ fall into such blatant and damaging ways. In another sense, though, if I’m honest, I remember being in a very dark spiritual place myself not that long ago.

When our love for Christ wanes, from where can we minister and pour out as pastors? When our affections for Christ dwindle, we can’t exactly take a break from ministry (at least not easily). So, we start drawing from other places for our energy, our self-worth and our purpose.

Maybe for you it’s not as serious as pornography. Perhaps it’s entertaining yourself to death via Netflix or social media to help you escape. Or maybe it’s pouring everything into your role as a pastor, thinking that’s what gives you value.

No matter the symptom, the illness is always the same: Our love for Christ has waned. This is why the spiritual disciplines matter so much. Not because they are valuable in and of themselves, but because they foster our love for Jesus. A personal, devotional time of some sort is crucial.

When and How

One of my closest pastor friends starts every morning at 4:30 a.m. He wakes up, goes to the gym, comes home, reads his Bible, showers, and is completely ready for his day by the time his kids wake up.

Me? I wake up when my kids are screaming and I have no other choice but to get up. And usually, I’m waiting to see if my wife will get up so I can have a few more minutes to sleep.

To be honest, I sometimes wish I was a morning person. But I’ve always been more of a late-night guy. I’ll gladly stay up until midnight or 1 a.m. almost every night. Late at night is when I spend my time with the Lord.

I don’t think it matters as much when or how we get into the Word as long as we’re in it. Here are three simple but crucial steps in spending time with the Lord.

1. Read

Whether you spend three straight months digging deeply into a particular book or read the whole Bible in a year, make a plan. The old adage is true: “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.” No, this isn’t about checking something off your to-do list. It’s about spending time with God. But you’ll be more consistent in your time with Jesus if you pick a plan and stick to it. Pick a plan, find a time, and get into God’s Word. For me, that’s late at night, usually on my back porch.

2. Linger

When you read, slow down. No matter how many tasks you have to do in a given day, there’s nothing more important than what you’re doing when you read the Word. Pause and ponder. Enjoy being a child of God. Enjoy seeing the smallest glimpse of who God is in the passage you just read. Spending time in the Word isn’t simply a daily task. It’s a relationship. The goal is that our affections are stirred, that we are compelled to worship this God we see more clearly each day. Keep this as your primary goal. Slow down. Enjoy this Father with whom you’ve been reconciled in Christ.

3. Thread

After you’ve spent time with the Lord, be sure and thread God’s Word into the rest of your day. If a verse was particularly meaningful, come back to it occasionally. Share it with your wife and your kids. Tell your family about the prophet of Obadiah or the bravery of the apostle Paul. For a verse you want to remember, write it down and put it on a card in your wallet. Don’t relegate God’s Word to the brief, uninterrupted time you spend reading it. Thread it into your whole day.

It’s likely that none of this is new for you. But if you’re like me, you too need the occasional reminder about the goal in spending time with Jesus. Our goal is that our “love would abound more and more” (Philippians 1:9). It’s not just to grow in knowledge or to do our daily Bible-reading duty. Our goal is to love and treasure Jesus more than anything. From that well, we can always draw. From that place, we can always minister. In Christ, your value and joy are secure. Read to treasure him.