Living on empty… {spiritual discipline}

Don't wait to hit rock bottom

You can drive on “empty” in your gas tank for only so long before you end up being stranded in the middle of a highway.

You can ignore pain in your body for only so long before you end up in a hospital bed.

You can neglect a relationship for only so long before it dissolves completely.

And you can live a life without God for only so long before you hit rock bottom.

A few months ago I found myself sitting inside of Les Schwab having my car taken care of and at the end they printed off a quote that had everything that needed to be maintained listed.

My first reaction was to file it away, in a recycle bin and forget about it until the next warning light started flashing in my car.

But then I realized that I could throw it away and wait until the next problem came up or I could sacrifice some time, sacrifice some money, and get it all maintained that day so that I didn’t have to wait until my car was broken down in the middle of a road somewhere before I decided to have it fixed.

Often times I think that’s exactly how it is with us in our spiritual walk with God.

Maybe we are not as close to God as we want to be.

We get busy with life and we neglect our one on one time with God.

Postpone if for another day.

We try to squeeze in a chapter from the Bible on the go whenever we can.

We attempt to meet with other believers to dig deeper into God’s Word and encourage one another… when it fits into our schedule.

And it takes only so long before you find yourself living on empty.

Before you forget the last time you opened God’s Word.

Before you realize you want to spent time with God but you have no words to say because you can’t remember the last time you really talked to Him.

Before you find yourself lost, confused, and broken… wondering how in the world you ended up there.

And the older I get, the longer I walk with God, the more I realize that maintaining my relationship with God isn’t a one time thing.

It needs to be a daily spiritual discipline.

Not the kind of discipline you don’t look forward to because it’s a hassle or a burden.

But one you choose to make a priority because you know how beneficial it is for your day.

For your future.

For your life.

Taking care of my car may be a hassle… but I choose when I want to take care of it.

I can continue maintaining it now when it’s running fine. Or I can choose to maintain it later when I have no choice because it’s broken down.

In the same way I can choose to seek God daily in different ways now. Or I can seek God when I have no choice because I’m at the lowest of lows and I can’t neglect Him anymore.

I think we all have times in our lives when we hit rock bottom, but I don’t think that should be a common recurrence in our lives.

Yes, Jesus is there at the bottom with you.

He will bring you out of whatever situation you find yourself in.

He will help you rise up again.

He will help you overcome.

But He can also help you stop from hitting rock bottom.

Stop living on empty.

Stop ending up at dead end’s.

How? It’s simple. Walking with Him every day.

Being intentional about pursuing Him, NOT just when you need Him, but every moment of your life.

I know that many of the times I’ve hit rock bottom in my life it wasn’t because of the terrible situation that happened which I couldn’t control (although that could likely be the case as well) but because I stopped.

I stopped spending time with God.

I stopped digging into God’s Word.

I stopped meeting with believers who would encourage me.

I stopped seeking God’s direction for my life.

And it took hitting rock bottom for me to realize how much I needed God in my life.

How long I went on without seeking Him out.

How purposeless my life had become.

And my challenge to you (and me) today is this: Don’t wait to hit rock bottom before you turn to God.

Don’t wait until you find yourself at a dead end to kneel in His presence.

Don’t wait until you have nothing left to keep you going to run back into His arms.

Seek Him today.

Spend time with Him today.

Dig into His Word today.

Do what you  need to grow in Him today, before today turns into the tomorrow’s that never come.

I want to leave you with a few disciplines and habits I’ve implemented throughout the years in my walk with God that have really helped me stay focused and in tune to Him on a daily basis.

Devotionals – there are so many different devotionals out there to choose from but I always love having one on hand in the car or in the office for when I have a few minutes to read one. My current favorite one is “Just a Thought“- which is written by a retired pastor.

Prayer – it’s important to pray unceasingly (as Paul talks about in the Bible) and there’s a few things that help me remember to pray and what to pray for every day.

  • I like to post things or names of people I need to pray for in places I can physically see – such as on my wall at work, behind the steering wheel in my car (on a small index note), or on my mirror in my room. Then when I am driving, working, or getting ready for my day I am reminded of what I should be praying for.
  • Praying with other believers is essential in our walk with God. That way we can not only be encouraged and uplifted in our faith when we need the support from our brothers and sisters in Christ but we can also bear one another’s burdens and intercede for others who are struggling or in need. For me this means making it a priority to attend my church’s weekly prayer service or getting together with a group of girls for a night of intercession and prayer. I have seen the benefits of meeting and praying with other believers as one of the key things that has kept me close to God.
  • Having one on one time with God. The kind where you shut all your technological gadgets off. Where you lock your room and put a “do not enter” sign on your door. Where you tune out the world and tune in to God. And for this, the most important thing is to have a time and place you regularly meet at so it becomes a normal part of your daily routine, like meeting with your best friend for coffee every morning. Unless you have it set in place it becomes easy to ignore it. Also- one of my good friends recently told me about the IHOP church that has prayer around the clock that you can watch and participate in live stream. If you are having trouble starting to pray on your own this could be a helpful way to begin – to pray and intercede with all of those around the world who are doing the same thing.

Books – I love reading and it’s been so important in helping me grow in Christ more by learning from those who have walked in faith longer than I have. Who have learned things they can pass on from their own experience to encourage other Christian’s in living for God, to shed light and understanding on what God has taught them about Himself, His Word, and what it means to truly live a life that honors Him. I’ve learned that if I read one chapter from a book before bed I can usually read a few books in one month. Whenever and however you can, try to make time to read a good book and learn from those who have went before you in faith.

Church – Being connected and planted in a church is one of the basics of growing in Christ. It’s the first thing God made happen when Christ was taken to heaven after His resurrection: He helped create the first community of believers who would meet with one another because He knew that we can’t walk out our faith on our own. We need to be connected with other believers who we can share life with and encourage, learn, and grow in Christ with one another as we continue to seek Him. If you are in a church make sure to find a way to get plugged in and meeting with other believers often. I’ve been attending a small group since I was 14 years old and I have been actively participating in ministry since I was 16 years old and I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for me being connected with other believers all those years I wouldn’t be where I am today.

What I listen to – What you listen to, watch, and participate in makes the biggest difference in how you face your day. To me personally, music is a huge part of my life. I listen to it in the morning when I first wake up, at work all day, in my car, and when I get home at night. I’ve learned that it takes listening to the right stuff to help me focus on Jesus. For me this means listening to worship. On pandora. On 8tracks. On my playlist on the computer. And let me tell you… when you’re listening to worship all day you can’t help but think about God! 🙂

I also love to listen to podcasts by different pastors throughout my week especially on topics that are relevant to what’s going on in my life or on something I want to understand more.

Reading God’s Word- this is another one of those “obvious” one’s but I think reading the Bible can be one of the easiest things to neglect when you’re just “too busy”. But it is one of the essentials in your walk with Christ. It’s your spiritual food and if you choose to not read it you are (in a sense) choosing to live without the strength that you need for your day, just like if you choose to not eat for a week because you are “too busy” or too lazy your body will become weak as well.

I have learned that what has helped me is having a Bible Reading Plan to stick to. We went through one with my church last year and it made a night and day difference in how I read my Bible. I used to stick to just reading the New Testament and a few of my favorite books from the Old Testament, but I had a chance instead to read through the whole Bible in a year (and yes… this includes books like Leviticus and Deuteronomy) 😉 and I can honestly say I think I dug deeper and learned more from God’s Word last year than I have in the past years because I stayed disciplined in my daily reading and I didn’t opt out of reading books that I didn’t think were as “interesting”. If you can, find a reading plan you like and stick to it (and maybe have others join in with you so you can keep each other accountable).

Journaling – It’s important not only to read God’s Word, listen to sermons, spend time with Him… but also to record what He has been teaching you along the way. I have over 14 journals I have written in throughout my life and honestly re-reading them is the greatest testimony and reminder of what God has been doing in my life all of these years. Last year I tried a new “style” of journaling called SOAP’s and I absolutely love it. It’s simple and easy, and a great way to remember exactly what God has been teaching you every season in your life. You can do it on paper, on a computer, or online. Currently I use a free journal website called Penzu where I keep all my SOAP’s (in case my computer decides to crash on my journals get lost). Choose whatever works for you and make it a daily habit to write in it.

Day with Jesus – Whether you like it or not – sometimes in life you need to do one very important thing or else you will end up burning out. It’s called STOP. And stop not just for an hour or two during your day, or even your week. But stop for a day. Maybe two. Whatever it is that you need, and just have some time with you and Jesus. I call it my “getaway with Jesus“. A day where I set everything aside. Where I press pause. Put my life on hold and just spend one day with just Jesus. A day where I reflect on what’s going on in my life, where I allow God to speak to my heart, where I make goals for my future. It may seem like an unusual concept, but sometimes you need a week off from work to get refreshed and renewed….and I think it’s just as important to take time off from your busy schedule and life to have some time for just you and God to remember what life is all about. 🙂 (And this goes beyond your day of rest or sabbath that you should have weekly).

These are just some of the habits that have kept me walking strong with God all of these years.

If you have anything you do as well feel free to share them here, I’d love to know what keeps your walk with God fresh every day. 🙂

Be blessed!Anna… 

foundation build on Christ[Image creator unknown. Please respond if you know the author so credit can be given.]

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9 thoughts on “Living on empty… {spiritual discipline}

  1. This is a top quote that has challenged me deeply from George H Warnock. I share it that some folks may come across it and we be called by it to a deeper walk with the Lord. This quote encapsulates so much and is a design for life. He has his own web-site with all his writings.

    This is a day of “fast” things: fast foods, fast trains, fast cars, fast planes, fast pleasures, fast communications. But God’s way into the life of the Spirit is still the long way around. Many do not think so, and there are many in the Church who deride the thought of exercising “patience” in order to win the race that is set before us. “Let us run WITH PATIENCE…” may sound a little contradictory to a man in a race; but it remains God’s way of winning “the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). God’s direct route to Canaan life is the long-way-around. There may seem to be a shorter way, a more direct way, and many continue to explore that route, only to end up rolling in the dust. “God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near…” Now the word “Philistine” comes from a word meaning “to roll in the dust, to wallow.” And though it is a well-beaten pathway, as it was in the days of Israel, and though it would seem to lead in a more direct route to the land of our inheritance, it will leave the one who travels this road wallowing in the dust. And why? Because there is nothing in common with the way of the Philistines and the way of God. The Philistine spirit is that spirit of the world, of the natural man, that knows nothing of the Spirit of God. But because it is a well-worn pathway, and because it seems to be leading in the general direction of our pursuit for God, it is enticing to the natural mind. It is the logical approach to the things of God. It is the positive, the most direct approach to things spiritual. But it leaves you wallowing in the dust of the old Adamic life, rather than soaring into the heights of the Spirit of God.

    “You do not have to take that long, uncharted, entangled way into the things of God… We can show you a simpler way… We can point you to a shortcut… You can know the joy of Canaan living without all the distress of becoming entangled in the wilderness.” This is the reasoning and counsel of the natural mind.

    But the fact remains, we did not choose the wilderness way. We simply chose to go God’s way. It is He who goes before–by day in a pillar of cloud, and by night in a pillar of fire–to give direction and light for the journey. It is by the Light of His Glory that we find ourselves entangled in the wilderness. He leads us this way that He might have all the glory, and that our enemies might be consumed in the very midst of our own perplexity and dismay. For it is only when we find ourselves “hemmed in,” with no place to go, that we are inclined to go to God for help. This is why He hems us in… that we might flee into His arms. God knows the Enemy will say, “They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in” (Ex. 14:3). And so God deliberately sets a trap for the Enemy by bringing us into that place where we have no other recourse, but in God alone. As long as there is room for the heart and mind of man to calculate and plan his own deliverance, God is left out of the picture. We don’t really need Him, or so we think. But if we are followers of the Cloud, God will lead us into areas of utter hopelessness and despair, that we might prove Him to be the God who makes a way where there is no way, and a path in the mighty waters…

    “Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known” (Ps. 77:19).

    “The LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters” (Isa. 43:16).

    People of God, beware of the shortcuts. There are many that are offered in this day and age, shortcuts to true spiritual life and progress, but they will not bring you there. You may try to find an easy way into spiritual gift and blessing. You may learn how to get, and how to operate spiritual gifts the easy way, without total commitment, without waiting upon God, but sooner or later they will fade away. You may think you have discovered a secure and safe covering in some church structure or institution, assuring yourself that you are being spared the pangs of finding your own way in the entangled wildernesses of life. You feel that if you trust in certain leaders, in certain apostles and prophets, in a certain “New Testament Church Order,” that it is a much safer, much easier pathway. But sooner or later you are going to discover that the rest and comfort you sought in sheltered areas of this nature, are nothing less than the bondage of Babylonish systems; and you will discover that this is far more distressing and more captivating than the way of the Lord from which you sought to escape. When you see the “wars of the Philistines”–the striving for lordship, the striving for power and authority and for a place of preeminence–your hearts will become discouraged, and you will wonder why you ever chose to walk in that kind of a pathway. If we would examine our hearts, we might discover that what we are really looking for is some kind of a religious system that will make it easy for us or for our children. We want to shrug off the heavy burden that is associated with finding God for ourselves by way of total commitment to Him. So when someone offers us a place of rest in some kind of a structure that promises clear direction, we are quick to grasp it. God does want us to have fellowship with one another in Christ; but there is no true fellowship except as “we walk in the Light.” And in our searching after God, there is no such thing as immunity to the trials and struggles and heart-searchings and perplexities that have always been the appointed lot of any man or woman who seeks to come into a living, vital relationship with the Lord.

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  2. There may be life events or circumstances, an occurrence perhaps, that so breaks us that our dependency will never, ever be in ourself ever again. From this point onwards we enter a new place of closeness with Him. Our life becomes a living prayer. A daily sacrifice. A consecrated walk of worship. We cross the Jordan into new realms of the Spirit life. Jacob walked with a limp but his new identity was Israel. First the breaking, then the new identity. First death, then resurrection into new life. Many preach a shallow version of “God chasing” in these days. A version which is centred on us encountering Him. In truth, the real encounter is in Him breaking us. We must decrease, He must increase. There is only one way this is achieved in our lives. Many are preaching that there are short cuts to the Promised Land. For the true disciple this is not the case.

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    • Amen! We all ways look for short cuts, for the easy way out… but the only way to God is by walking on that narrow path that He promised wouldn’t be easy, to suffer in ways that Jesus did, to be broken so that He can make us whole in Him again.

      Dependency is seen as a weakness in our culture, but it is only through constant dependency on Christ that we can truly be made strong for it is with Him and in Him alone that we can face all the trials that come our way. I’m thankful for new ways to depend on Him, even though that usually requires a few valleys, deserts, and storms. Better to be with Him in any of those than alone without Him anywhere else in this world!

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  3. Awesome post…I too try making prayer and spiritual reading as my first priority as that’s what gets me going…But still I have breaks in between…Also like you said I try squeezing in reading the bible for just a few mins…But I’ve realised that does’nt really help…I really feel strong when I spend quality time in prayer and devotion… Spiritual discipline has been my goal for years now…But have not quite mastered it :(… Not anywhere close to it… Hope I get there one day :)…

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    • I think mastering any spiritual discipline takes months, years, maybe even a lifetime of practice on a daily basis.

      I definitely agree with you that although it’s good to read the Bible whenever we can throughout the day it’s even better to set aside some quality time to really dig deep into it and see what God is trying to speak to my heart through it. For me personally, reading it for a few minutes a day when I can squeeze it in is almost like “snacking” on junk food throughout the day. It’s great, it keeps me going for a while when I’m hungry but it’s not the same as a real, healthy meal that I really need to make time for. “Snacking” on the Bible can only keep you going for so long, we always need to make time for a meal!

      And as for not being close to mastering spiritual discipline… I think most of us can say the same thing about ourselves. As long as you keep making it a priority and make an effort to work on it daily I’m sure you will get there one day. 🙂 Be blessed!

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