Food for the Soul
By Jean Fleming
A young German woman told me that when she came to this country, she was offended when she was referred to as an alien. Until then she had only heard the term used. to describe someone from outer space!
If you are a true believer in Jesus Christ, the Bible calls you an alien. Peter says believers are "aliens and strangers in the world" (1 Pet. 2:11). When you became a child of God, you began to live between two worlds - this one on earth and your eternal home in heaven. Jesus said that you are no longer of this world any more than He is (Jn. 17:14-16). But while you live here physically, God tells you to fix your eyes on the real but invisible life you have with Christ.
How do we as aliens keep our attention on the spiritual realms - the unseen things above -when the seen world is glittering around us? How do we as strangers and pilgrims maneuver on earth while keeping our eyes on heaven To navigate this challenging terrain, we need to fix our eyes on the truths of God every day.
Quiet time is a place where we can fix our eyes on God and the invisible realities of our lives. Take a look at just some of the many benefits of spending regular time alone with God.
A Place to Renew
God calls you to live by faith. This means believing and acting with confidence based on unseen realities (Heb. 11:1). All the while, the visible, tangible world exerts its gravitational pull. You don't intend it, but the compass of your soul is pulled off true north. The Bible strongly warns and urges you:
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. --Ro. 2.:2
God calls you to preside over the care of your soul so that it is not squeezed into the world's mold. He wants you to actively engage in reshaping your mind according to His truth. Quiet time helps you renew your mind. Then you can live by faith, not sight.
A Place to Know Yourself
Living between two worlds can create an identity crisis. Who will tell you who you are? If you define who you are based on the feedback you receive from the world, you will
be accepting misinformation. Don't look to others to assign value to you, to tell you how you fit into the scheme of things. They can't. Only the God who created and redeemed you can tell you who you are, why you're here, and where you're going.
In the movie My Fair Lady, Eliza Doolittle is transformed from a poor cockney flower girl into a glamorous, cultured woman. Many books and movies are based on the idea that there is a prince inside our froggy selves. One of the reasons we respond to that idea is because it is rooted in truth. The Bible teaches that you are a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). But your new self doesn't emerge by singing "'The Rain in Spain" or burst forth after a princess's kiss.
This is why quiet time is so important. God is the only one who can tell you who you are because He designed you in the womb and He gave you second birth in Jesus Christ. Just as physical birth is merely the beginning, so spiritual birth is a starting point from which to grow, learn, and develop. In Christ you have a new identity. The trouble is that as you scuff along here on earth, you easily forget that God has chosen you and changed you (Jn. 15:16, Eph. 1:4) and that you are a citizen of heaven (Phil. 3:20).
A Place to Remember
You need to be reminded every day that God loves you (Eph. 2:4), that His plans for you are good (Jer. 29:11), and that He will never leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5). Consider His death in your place and His desire for you to live with Him in heaven forever - and marvel.
The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. -Zeph. 3:17
A Place to Be Whole
You were created for fellowship with God. The words salvation and blessing, which pop up everywhere in the Bible, burst with the promise of good coming to you because you belong to Jesus Christ. You were created for a wholeness that you cannot know apart from relationship with God. David expressed it this way: "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand" (Ps. 16:11).
A Place to Know God
When Jesus Christ appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, Paul asked, "Who are You, Lord?" What a great question - a question that only God can answer. Because God is invisible, eternal, infinite, and holy, we are dependent on His revelation of Himself. Our notion of God must be shaped by what He says about Himself, or else we create a god in our own minds that is as much an idol as one carved from wood or stone. A.W. Tozer wrote:
It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is.
A Place to Change
Quiet time reminds you that God intends for you to become like Christ (Ro. 8:29). It is not only possible for you to be changed; it is imperative. In fact, if you are not different since your "conversion," perhaps you have not yet come to true faith in Jesus Christ. Woven into the warp and woof of life in Christ is the assumption of change. A changed life is the validation of your encounter with God. This change doesn't happen all at once or without accompanying failures. But authentic change is inherent in our life with Christ. Change takes place as we focus our attention on Christ and reflect His likeness.
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18).
Twelfth-century monk Bernard of Clairvaux comments on this idea: "His features we see not; and yet they mold us, not by their outward beauty striking on our bodily sight, but by the love and joy they kindle in our hearts."
A Place to Be Fed
Time with the Lord is soul food, necessary for the life and satisfaction of your soul. Books with the word soul in the title have been hot sellers recently. People sense a hunger for something that can touch their essence. But unless a book on the care of the soul calls the reader to come to Jesus and His Word, it cannot keep its promise. The prophet Isaiah records God's warning and invitation:
Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David (Is. 55:2-3).
A tasty, attractively presented meal shared with friends is one of life's true pleasures. A good meal in good company is a taste of what God wants for your soul. Quiet time is fellowship with God over the delicious and nourishing fare of His Word. When the Lord says, "'Your soul will delight in the richest of fare," He tells you o come to Him and listen to Him. You need to hear God's words spoken to you if you are to experience joy in your deepest places. No wonder Jeremiah said, When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight" (Jer. 15:16). Remember, man does not live on bread alone.
A Place to Refocus
Quiet time can keep you from frittering your life away on the extraneous, the peripheral. In a culture that exalts and feeds busyness, quiet time can refocus your attention daily on what really matters. God will remind you that your relationship with Him is supreme; everything else must be subordinate to that relationship. When you pause in God's presence, the fog clears and values sharpen. You realign yourself with the commitments you've made to God and others. The important things emerge, and the secondary things recede once again. The busier you are, the more desperately you need the pause that refreshes.
A Place to Heal
Humans have been called the "walking wounded." All of us take a battering from time to time and need the healing touch of our Lord. In times of pain, confusion, and anguish, King David knew to retreat into God's presence. In 2 Samuel 12, God sent word that David's young son, who was conceived in an adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, was going to die. David, in great agony of spirit, fasted and prayed. He laid on the floor for seven days and prayed that God might spare the child. But when this son died, everyone noticed something strange. David got up off the floor, washed, changed his clothes, worshiped God, ate, and comforted his wife.
Those who observed this were astonished. They asked, "Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!"
The explanation lies with God's healing power. When David secluded himself in God's presence, he received forgiveness for his sin. He gained an eternal perspective regarding his son’s death. He was fortified in his faith so that he was able to trust God in a painful loss. He experienced the grace of God and the balm of God's comfort and strength, so he could offer solace to his grieving wife.
I have friends whose daughter took her own life, friends whose son was murdered, friends who experienced sexual abuse, friends whose teenaged son died of cancer. Excruciating pain won't yield to easy answers or clichés. For my friends, the ongoing process of healing began and continues in God's presence.
A Place for Questions
Bill had questions. Lots of them. Over years of enduring a long and painful illness, Bill prayed, "Lord, what do You want me to learn from this? What is the purpose of pain? How do You want me to respond?” Bill asked his pastor and friends for their insights. But most of all, Bill asked God his questions. At Bill's memorial service, several people mentioned his pattern of asking and seeking in he midst of his pain.
In quiet time, you can ask your questions. God intends for the circumstances of your life to lead you into deeper interaction with Him. He wants your questions and struggles to drive you in His direction. What are you facing? What questions do you have about life? Pray, "Open my eyes that I might see wonderful things in your law" (Ps. 119:18). He delights in answering this prayer. Once you ask, lean toward God in anticipation. Read the Bible in His presence, and listen to what His Spirit might say to you.
Your questions may surface from your Bible reading. "What does it mean ‘to abide'?" "How do I grow in grace?" Jesus promised,
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened (Mt. 7:7-8).
Spiritual truth is revealed to those who seek it. Asking, seeking, and knocking imply time, effort, and persistence.
Make your quiet time a place where you withdraw with God to ask your question about life and His teachings. Ask. Seek. Knock. And then hang around to listen. The answers may not come all at once. It pleases God that you are turning to Him asking Him to help you make sense of life.
A Place for Confidence
The marriage vow has never guarantede happiness or durability. Many forfeit the promise of faithfulness to their partner. Business contracts are annulled in legal high stepping. Mothers and fathers deny natural affection for their children and neglect and abuse those given to their care. The world is a precarious and unsure place. If you put your confidence in people, social structures, or the legal system, you find that the footing invariably gives way. Even you are blessed with honorable and godly human relationships, you may outlive them. Nothing and no one can promise to be there for you always. God is the only one who can keep that promise.
The benefits of quiet time are more numerous than can be mentioned here. Quiet time helps spiritual aliens keep their gaze sharply focused on Christ and His kingdom so that they may live between two worlds, serving the kingdom of God on earth. These pilgrims need continual intense contact with their true, though unseen, life. Greatest delight is found in consistent meetings with God. This is, after all, what we aliens were made for.