Have you ever reached for a book or called a friend for advice before reaching for God’s Word? If so, read on….
Our family has been ‘growing up’ in our faith in recent years. Of course, growing up in the knowledge of God is a great thing! But when we first became Christians over twenty years ago, we got into the Pharisaical trap that offered us a sense of ‘faith’ and ‘Christianity’ by our works. One of those ‘works’ was our Christian education.
We were growing in our faith in God, and yet, we were also growing in our pride. We assumed that the more we studied – the more we attended conferences – the more we added godly things to our lives and subtracted worldly things from our lives – the better we were living the Christian life. Not!
Now don’t get me wrong! I know that we are to “study to show thyself approved” (2 Timothy 2:15) and that we are to seek God daily, however, we must be careful how we walk this line.
We need to ask ourselves what we are really seeking and what knowledge we are truly acquiring. God cares about our motives more than even our actions. (Proverbs 16:2)
- Is it God we seek, or our own glory and sanctification?
- Is it truly the knowledge of God we study for, or is it the pride and accomplishment of having the right answers among our friends and church members?
- Are we comfortable because we have the right patterns down – when to pray, when to seek counsel, when to read our Bible, when to give, etc. – or because we are solely relying on God and His ways?
- Has it gotten easy to obey like the priests in Ezekiel 43:20-27, where we have the specific ‘duties’ of Christianity right down to which corner of the altar to put blood, or when to sprinkle the salt?
- Are we becoming like the Pharisees, having learned the things of God and now we walk with our head up and our eyes closed to what God truly desires?
It’s important that we ask these questions often in our daily Christian walk.
That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 1:10
Pause and Reflect
It’s so easy to begin by seeking God, only to shift our focus to seeking to please others and meet their expectations rather than God’s. We may begin with appreciation for all that God has done to rescue us out of our pit, but then we get caught up in the mechanics of our Christian culture.
I encourage each of you to pause and reflect on what education you are really seeking. What is your goal for studying Scripture? Why do you attend seminars and read books? Who are you really trying to please? Is it God or those who sit near you in the pews?
My Devotion to Books
It’s so easy to think that seeking God and knowing Him better means to read every book on the market. I know, I’ve done it and often still do. I love to read and learn! And I truly enjoy learning from other’s lessons, tips, and adventures.
Many years ago, I was feeling quite desperate to understand God and I was reading everything I could get my hands on about how to live this Christian life. But one day, I decided to just open the Bible and see where God would bring me. It was so beautiful to see how God answered!
He brought me to Ecclesiastes 12, in particular verses 12-14 which says,
…my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body. The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.
Oh, my! I had been striving to know God better by my excessive devotion to books and what other’s thought about God! Of course, reading and learning about God is certainly not a terrible thing, but the excess is what God warns us about. My bookshelves are filled to overflowing and I often seek God there rather than on my knees, or in the night watches, or in the Word.
I’ve discovered something amazing in over twenty years of searching for God and seeking to be a better daughter of the King! I learn so much more about God and His ways, plus my faith becomes stronger, when I simply live before Him and for Him than when I strive and strain to understand Him and His ways. This living means that I actually obey Him rather than just reading (yes, even reading my Bible) about obeying. Ouch! So – when I grab another book off the shelf, or listen to another message, or sit through another conference – I know that I had better be doing it for the right reasons!
I need to first ask myself some questions –
- Am I living a life filled with service? Or am I learning about how others have served?
- Am I content with where God has me and what I am learning? Or am I reading of other’s lessons, or listening to their stories. Will I let God make my own story?!
- Am I obedient to His ways? Or am I hearing about other’s obedience?
- Could I actually be living vicariously through other’s lives and experiences? Am I feeling like I’ve arrived simply because I know something or know how others live?
God’s Best Plan for Growth
When we have a dilemma or question, it’s too easy to start with other’s advise and not God’s. If we have sought God and read Scripture, we can then seek counsel through the people He’s placed in our life, or we can read a good book on the subject we’re struggling with, or listen to a message or seminar – but – these are not best as the first plan of attack.
Remember Paul’s experience. He reminds us in Galatians 1:11-12, 16,
“…that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” “I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me…”
Paul’s example reveals how God uses our time alone with Him, and our being attentive to Him and His Spirit as we live our life, to grow us in ways only He can devise!
So what have I learned over the years? Seek God first!
- Read Scripture.
- Listen for His still, small voice.
- Then seek counsel: via my husband, trusted friends and counselors, or that book, message, or seminar.
God is so good to teach us in His timing. To grow us just where He desires. To give us all that He can in this world so we will know Him better – so we will learn to trust Him for all things wise and wonderful.
For He is our God!
“…my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.” Ecclesiastes 12:12