What choices are you making in your relationship with Christ? Whether you realized it or not when you started walking with Jesus, the decision to begin that relationship is only the first in a lifetime of choices. You choose how to walk with Him, how to serve Him, how to stand for Him…or conversely, how not to do those things. Even being apathetic about your faith in Him is itself a decision.
With all these possibilities for your faith and how it could grow, you might be asking yourself, “Where do I start? How do I make the right choices in my life concerning my walk with Jesus?”
Let’s take a look at His life and see how He handled these decisions in His own relationship with His Father. Over the next few weeks we’ll be examining the spiritual disciplines that were central to His life…and we’ll consider what it might look like to actively incorporate those practices into our own lives.
Matthew chapters 4-7 outline the beginning phases of Jesus’ earthly work. In a sense, these early stories lay the foundation for habits that Jesus would follow throughout the rest of His life. He is first set apart for ministry through baptism in Matthew 3:13-17. Chapter 4 then starts out with a verse that’s packed with meaning.
But because it’s so short, it’s one of those “blink and you’ll miss it” moments in Scripture: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”
If you know your Bible stories, you know what’s coming next. If you’re not familiar with this one, here’s a sneak peek: Jesus spends the next 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness. It’s not a particularly exciting or suspenseful story in the traditional sense, and it’s certainly not headline grabbing, like Jesus’ various miracles and parables. But that phrase “led by the Spirit” clues us in that there is something very deep and important going on here.
Jesus isn’t entering the wilderness just for kicks or just to be weird and mysterious. He goes there because the Spirit leads Him there. The Spirit meets Him there and His time in the wilderness is spent in the presence of God. Yes, He is tested by the devil while there, but His first act of ministry after baptism is solitude with the Spirit.
Which brings us to the central question you have to answer concerning your walk with God: How are you going to spend your time? We’ll see how this factors in to other disciplines in the ensuing segments of this feature, but for now, the question of time usage directly impacts how well we know God and how much time we spend alone with Him.
Consider this: who do you know best in your life? Is it the friend that you see on a daily, consistent basis? Or is it the random acquaintance from college that you heard from two birthdays ago? We know each other through spending time together. It’s common sense, really. Your relationship with God follows the same principle.
Jesus knew this intrinsically. The wilderness experience wasn’t the only time that Christ spent time in solitude with His Father. He did it throughout His time on earth, including in the Garden of Gethsemane, during the darkest hours leading up to His death. How counter-intuitive is that? Rather than jumping straight into ministry, He vanishes to the wilderness. Rather than rallying the crowds to His aid while being pursued by a multitude of soldiers, He meditates and prays.
If it was important for Jesus to do this, how vital must it be for us? Pastor Jonathan Martin of Renovatus Church unpacks it this way: “Ready to bring the kingdom to earth? Ready to get busy, get productive, and use your gifts for God’s work? There is time enough for all of those things…but first off we have to sit down, get still and listen. Christian leadership doesn’t start with action; it starts with humility – it starts with sitting at the feet of Jesus. Learn how to waste time wisely, learn how to hear the voice of God before you attempt to say anything.”
This is what Jesus, by example, challenges us to do. Take time out of the clamor of our modern lives to be still, to be quiet before the Lord. We often say that we wish God would speak to us, offer us guidance and insight about how to live our lives. Maybe the issue isn’t that He doesn’t speak, but that we’ve lost the ability to listen.
Turn off the noise. Let the Spirit call you away as it did Jesus. Spend time alone with your Father. Find peace and restoration in Him.