One of my favorite parts of my time in college was my involvement in our campus ministry and the different guest speakers we got to hear from. I remember one retreat we took in particular in Central California. Our speaker, Max, was a tiny little man with bright white hair, a southern accent and no shortage of vigor and heart. We spent the weekend learning from him and his experiences walking with God, but two particular things have stuck with me in the nearly 4 years since that retreat. The first was his heart and discipline in scripture memory, the second his discipline and love for time reading the Word. Between sessions I walked with Max to lunch and asked him what his daily walk with God looked like. He shared with me that he never goes to bed without spending time with the Lord, even if it’s only a few minutes at the end of the day. He has been using the same yearly Bible reading plan for over 30 years and keeping notes and prayers written down every day. He told me he never had to worry about what He was going to read each day or whether He was getting the context of all of scripture because his daily plan was built in. Now if he ever wanted to speak on a specific chapter of the Bible or wanted to see what other bits he had learned, he had over 30 years of notes! I was so struck with the simplicity of this man’s daily pursuit and discipline in his walk with Jesus that I went home, downloaded and started his very same reading plan the next week and have continued daily through the same plan each year.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the reading plan landed me in John 15 where Jesus beckons His disciples to abide in Him – to be with Him, to know Him, to love Him, to become like Him. Before the chaos and the hustle of all that was about to happen, He beckons them to just come and dwell with Him.
But I was struck not just be Jesus’ command to abide, but the promises that surround the command. He says abide in me and your joy will be full (15:11), and the Father will give whatever you ask in my name (15:16), and in the next chapter, that you will have peace in this world even in the face of persecution (16:33). It finally made so much sense to me. Jesus is commanding His disciples and all His followers that would come in the centuries to follow to come and be with Jesus and to walk in the same way He walked, to become like Him. Later, John writes in 1 John 2:6 that those who abide in Christ “walk in the same way in which he walked”, they become like Christ. The more time we spend with Jesus, the more we become like Him and we respond to the chaos of the world around is in the way that He does.
When we daily abide in Jesus, our joy will be complete because we are made one with Christ and He is more beautiful than the world and that is enough. When we pray, God will answer a resounding “Yes!” because the deepest desires of our hearts are the same desires of His own heart in our time spent abiding. In the face of hardships, we will have peace because we know that Jesus has already overcome the world and we know our salvation is won by the one our soul knows best from those sweet hours spent abiding with Him.
But these things only come when we take Jesus at His word and abide with Him, when we daily hide ourselves with Him, dwell in His presence and tune our hearts to the will of our King. John 15 reminds me that my walk with Jesus isn’t just on Sunday mornings, but it is a daily striving and seeking to know my Jesus and to let my heart be molded by His. Since we don’t have Jesus here physically the way the disciples did, this happens in the context of reading scripture, praying and hiding His word in our hearts daily. The lessons I learned from Max are so validated by the plea Jesus makes in John 15. If I will discipline myself to seek Jesus daily, I’m setting myself up for a lifetime of walking with Him, becoming one with the heart of God, and finding great joy and peace even in this broken world. While using a reading plan is just a tool to help along the way, it has been with a doubt one of the most helpful tools for me so I already have my daily time with Jesus planned out and ready when I wake up in the morning. I don’t finish a book of the Bible and wonder what to read next and I don’t get bored reading through Numbers for weeks because the plan goes through 3 different books at a time all year. I’ve built this discipline into my life so that my first energy each day goes to time with the Lord, seeking to know His heart through scripture more sincerely, so that I may abide in Him. What are you doing today to seek out the presence of your King? For me, following a reading plan helps me to – as Max would say – get down to business with the Lord each morning. Find what works for you, build discipline into your life, don’t let any excuse steal you away, and set your heart to know and abide with your King each day so that you may walk with Him intimately all the days of your life.