I visited one of the churches in my judicatory yesterday and learned the associate pastor was speaking that morning. His sermon was on the need to hunger and thirst after God. It was an excellent message that spoke to both believers and the unchurched. During the message and at times throughout the afternoon I reflected on my own spiritual journey. See if any of this sounds familiar.
When I was first saved I could not get enough of God. I read my Bible every day at work during breaks and during the evenings. I not only attended nearly all the services at our church but often visited other churches for their mid-week service. I spent a lot of time with fellow Christians at work who helped me better understand the Christian faith as we shared the differences between our faith traditions. I felt called to the pastorate and accepted the call to a small bivocational church where I served for 20 years. During those early days I simply could not get enough of God and His Word.
Then something happened. I enrolled in a Bible school to learn how to better serve my church. It was a great school that taught me much, but the commitment of family, work, pastoring, and school left little time for God. One day I realized I was learning a lot about God but wasn't spending much time with God. My prayers were largely pastoral, not personal. The time I spent in the Scriptures were for study, not personal growth. As I spoke with other students I learned many of them were experiencing the same thing. We felt sure that once we graduated and had this commitment behind us things would return back to normal. They didn't.
At times I felt great passion for the ministry; other times I was going through the motions. There would be seasons when I truly did hunger and thirst after God while there were also times I felt as dry as an empty well. Rather than seeking living water I would be content to draw from my own well which will always run dry at times. Quite frankly, this is an on-going challenge for me. I can get so caught up in doing the work of ministry that I neglect the personal growth that must precede every true ministry effort.
What I've learned through the years is the need for me to be very intentional about pursuing God. It requires great discipline on my part, and I suspect on your part as well. That discipline begins with maintaining a devotional life. Some years that involves reading through the entire Bible. This year I am focusing only on the New Testament. It also involves reading other good devotional books, autobiographies of Christian leaders, and even commentaries. Some days I have to fight the urge to get busy because I have so much to do, and then I remember the words I wrote in one of my books that God called us to be something before He called us to do something. If I am going to be what He wants me to be I have to spend time with Him.
Are you hungering and thirsting after God, or are you so busy with ministerial duties that you find it easy to neglect Him? I have over 70 churches in my judicatory I could have visited yesterday. I am so glad to decided to go to that one because the message was a timely reminder to me of what my priorities must always be.