You may have heard the story about two Christians who were talking about their churches, and in the course of the conversation they compared notes about the greatest thing their respective congregations had accomplished that past year. One of the men volunteered, “Well, that’s easy. We doubled the size of our parking lot and put up new lights.” We Christians can often become so wrapped up in doing what we think is God’s work that we have little time left for God.
We can become distracted from our mission, and consider the physical activities of ministry (even though they are necessary) so important that we have little if any time for fellowship with God. When we are busily engaged in hectic activity on God’s behalf (at least at the time it seems that we are engaged in God’s business) we can forget what Jesus said in Matthew 23:23: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”
The teachers and Pharisees lived under the specific and rigorous physical standards of the old covenant. Sometimes we read this and scoff at the nit-picking exactness of those people, but Jesus was not scoffing. He told them that they should have done what the covenant demanded of them.
Jesus’ point was that the physical details were not enough, not even for those who lived under the old covenant – he corrected them for ignoring the deeper spiritual issues. As Christians we should be busy with our Father’s business. We should be generous with our giving. But in all of our activity – even activity that is directly related to following Jesus Christ – we should not neglect the fundamental reasons why God has called us.
God has called us so we can come to know him (John 17:3). It is possible to be so busy with God’s work that we neglect to come to know him. Luke tells us that when Jesus visited the home of Martha and Mary that “Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made” (Luke 10:40). There was nothing wrong with what Martha was doing, but Mary chose to do the most important thing – to spend time with Jesus, to get to know him and to listen to him.
Fellowship with God
Fellowship is the most important thing God wants from us. He wants us to come to know him – to be with him – to spend time with him. Jesus set an example for us when he slowed the pace of his life to spend time with the Father. He knew the importance of quiet moments. He often went into the mountains to pray. The more mature we become in our relationship with God, the more important this quiet time with God becomes. We look forward to being alone with him. We realize we need to listen to him for comfort and direction in our lives.
Some time ago I was talking with a Christian about prayer-walking. The individual explained that this activity combined fellowship, prayer and exercise – and that this kind of prayer-walking had revolutionized his prayer life. When he talked about prayer-walking he did not mean parading his righteousness in front of others or making his views known to others by some kind of political demonstration. He was simply spending time with God by taking walks – either in his immediate neighborhood or in the beauty of natural outdoor surroundings – and praying as he walked.
When we make fellowship with God a priority, all of the urgent issues in our lives seem to fall into place. When we focus on God he helps us understand the priorities of everything else. Jesus told us to seek the kingdom first, and that all of the other things in life would be taken care of (Matthew 6:33). We can all become so busy with activities that we neglect 1) to spend time with God alone, in prayer, and 2) to meet with others in fellowship with God. If you are stressed out, burning the proverbial candle at both ends, and you don’t know how to accomplish all of the things you have to do in life, perhaps you should consider your spiritual diet.
Our spiritual diet
We may be stressed out and spiritually empty because we are not eating the right kind of bread. The kind of bread I’m talking about is absolutely necessary for our spiritual health and survival. This bread is miraculous bread – in fact, it is the real wonder-bread! It’s the same bread Jesus offered to the first-century Jews. Jesus had just miraculously provided food for the 5,000 (John 6:1-15). He had just walked on the water, and still the crowds asked him for a sign as a reason to believe in him. They explained that their forefathers, the ancient Israelites, received a sign from God, manna, and called it bread from heaven (John 6:31).
Jesus responded, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33). After they asked Jesus to give them that bread, he declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35).
Who is putting spiritual bread on your table? Who is the Source of all your energy and vitality? Who gives meaning and significance to your life? Are you taking time to get to know the Bread of life?