Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The First Great and Primary Business

What is the most important thing you have to do today? Do you have a list of things you simply must get accomplished? Many people keep "to do" lists to organize and prioritize their days. I wonder how many lists would begin the way 19th century English minister and orphan champion George Muller's began. "The point is this: I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished."

The first great and primary business of every day is to be happy in God. I think this is true in terms of priority and chronology. In other words, when we first wake up, the first thing that should awaken in us is a happiness in God that sees us through the mundane and spontaneous events of the day. If we begin each day by not beginning until we're happy in God, the trials of the day won't seem as crushing, the temptations won't seem so appealing, and the triumphs won't seem so satisfying. The great dangers we must face every day are not all negative. It's not just the bad things that steal our hearts from God. The good things also keep us enthralled in an earthly mindset. So happiness in God is crucial to stabilize and focus our affections on heavenly things.

How do we get our minds as happy in God as we possibly can? One thing is for certain, we can't just expect to wake up happy in God. It's unlikely to naturally happen. Happiness in God must me nurtured, not just expected. And since we're pretty lazy and easily satisfied by nature, we may not take the necessary steps to attain such happiness. But we'll be much better off if we do. Muller stumbled on a way to get happy in God. "Before this time my practice had been, at least for ten years previously, as an habitual thing to give myself to prayer, after having dressed myself in the morning. Now, I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the word of God, and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed; and that thus, by means of the word of God, whilst meditating on it, my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord."

There was a time when Muller did what many Christians do, say their morning prayers. But he realized how ineffectual his prayers could be when his mind wasn't right. So he began reading and meditating on the Bible before all else, in order to bring himself into "experimental communion with the Lord." In other words, he would nurture a God-awareness in his heart that he could feel or sense. And the way he did this was through meditation on the Bible. And as he studied the Bible, something amazing happened to him. "The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord's blessing upon his precious word, was, to begin to meditate on the word of God, searching as it were into every verse, to get blessing out of it; not for the sake of the public ministry of the word, not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul. The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer. When thus I have been for a while making confession, or intercession, or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others, as the word may lead to it, but still continually keeping before me that food for my own soul is the object of my meditation."

So as Muller read the Bible, he had one goal in mind. He was like Jacob wrestling with God. Muller wouldn't let go of the Bible until he got a blessing from it. He didn't just gaze over the text. He dug into it, demanding it open up to him and revive him. What was the result? The Word of God led him into prayer. Before long, he was intermingling his reading and his praying in a blessed union that resulted in "experimental communion with the Lord."

Is this kind of heavenly-minded meditation at the top of our "to do" list? Do we start our day in exercise? Not physical but spiritual? If we don't, we shouldn't be surprised when we find the day difficult to deal with. We shouldn't be shocked when our struggle to get through the here and now isn't met with comfort from on high. Communion with God is not for the lazy or half-hearted. God has promised we will find him when we seek him with our whole heart. That is what I see George Muller did. And God rewarded him with a happiness that transcended his circumstances and fueled a faith that still amazes people almost two hundred years later. He accomplished great things for the orphans of England with supernatural provision. The same promise is available to us if we come to God expecting the same blessings.

If you need a little jump start in your efforts to meditate on the Bible, maybe you could start with a great devotional on the book of Colossians called The Hope of Glory by Sam Storms. You can order it by clicking the link under recommended reading. He breaks down each verse into little bite-size pieces. Perhaps you could let Dr. Storms help you establish a new habit that will reward you with eternal benefits.

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