How do you keep your heart ablaze for God in the age of apathy? In our world today, there’s an indifference–a lack of enthusiasm–towards the Lord. There’s a coldness and disrespect for God all around us and now, more than ever, it’s time for us as Christians to reflect and assess our hearts, ask ourselves hard-hitting questions, and discover how to pursue Jesus like never before.
It’s one thing for the world to be apathetic towards God; the Bible even tells us that the world will get darker and darker. However, as believers, we cannot allow a spirit of apathy to penetrate the church! That’s why we’re embarking in the new year with a new series: Heart Ablaze–How to Pursue God in the Age of Apathy.
In Part 1 of the series, Eric Jones shared a powerful word detailing 3 Ways to Grow Your Relationship with God. If you missed his message, listen to it here and be blessed and encouraged as we continue to receive God’s word and strengthen our relationship with Him. In Part 2 of the Heart Ablaze series, Pastor April Wedel challenged us to take inventory of our hearts in her message, How to Spend Time with God. The Bible tells us we’re not the only ones who have faced apathetic seasons in our relationship with the Lord. Thankfully, we’re getting a clear picture of God’s heart and discovering how to avoid apathy and passionately pursue Jesus.
When the Israelites, God’s people, were in a season of apathy, God said something to them about it. Let’s look at the Israelite’s rebellion as an example of what not to do in our pursuit of Jesus.
Isaiah 1:3 (AMP) “The ox [instinctively] knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s feeding trough, but Israel does not know [Me as Lord], My people do not understand.”
Jeremiah 2:32 (KJV) Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number.
These are sobering scriptures about what apathy looks like! But they also portray the heart of God; He wants us to pursue Him. God wants us to seek Him more than we’ve ever sought Him before. God wants our hearts to chase after Him and He wants us to spend time with Him. As we discover How to Spend Time with God, let’s reflect honestly on where we stand in our relationship with the Lord and heed the guidance for passionately pursuing Him.
Be honest: At some point during your life, have you ever struggled with having a consistent time with the Lord? If you’re nodding your head yes, fear not! You are not alone! The struggle is real. We’ve all been there. So why do we struggle to spend time with God?
The most popular excuse is inevitably, “I don’t have time.” We look at all the busyness of our lives and get defeated just looking at the calendar! We think to ourselves, “I’m so busy, I don’t have an hour to spend with God, so I won’t spend time with him at all.”
Another common reason, “I don’t know how to spend time with God.” How do we have a relationship with someone we can’t see? How do we hear from Him? In How to Spend Time with God, Pastor April shares some of the many ways we can spend time with God and reminds us that time looks different for everyone! Don’t let these misconceptions get in the way of your personal, life-giving relationship with God where you know him for yourself.
The biggest obstacle we face in spending time with God is an overcrowded heart. Think of it like dinner at a Mexican restaurant: If we eat all the chips and salsa, we lose our appetite for the main course. God is the main course, friends! If we allow other things–our family, friends, occupations, social media, tv, hobbies, you name it–to take the #1 spot in our lives, we can’t keep God at the center where He belongs.
As a church, we’re taking inventory of our hearts during a 21-day fast in an effort to redirect our priority focus to God and keep our hearts ablaze for him. Find all the details on the 21-day fast here and join us as we pursue God like never before!
Before we shed light on how we spend time with God, let’s remember what a gift it is to even have the opportunity to have this relationship. The greatest gift that Jesus Christ gave us through His death, burial, and resurrection was not for us to be healed or forgiven or blessed; it’s that Jesus provided an opportunity for us to have a relationship with God. He came to deal with a sin issue that was separating us from a personal relationship with Him. Praise the Lord!
Let’s turn to God’s word to discover how to spend time with God; He spells it out for us clear as day and offers us practical guidance when we’re feeling stuck!
2 Corinthians 6:2 (AMP) For he says in the time of favor in uninsured welcome, “I have listened to and heard your call, and I have helped you on the day of deliverance, that day of salvation. Behold! Now is truly the time for a gracious welcome and acceptance of you from God. Behold, now is the day of salvation.
Here’s what that scripture means for you and me: If we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we know there is a gracious welcome and acceptance by God, specifically for us! He sees us, He knows us, He accepts us, He loves us. We are not just some spec on this planet; God cares about every single detail of our lives and wants us to spend time with Him.
John 6:37 (AMP) All that My Father gives Me will come to Me; and the one who comes to Me I will most certainly not cast out [I will never, never reject anyone who follows Me].
Part of our struggle in how we spend time with God can come from the idea that our time with Him has to be ultra-spiritual. When in actuality, God just wants us to be ourselves! Talk to Him like you talk to your friends and family. Be in conversation with Him, in relationship with Him.
We don’t get religious and speak in King James Version with “thee” and “thou”; we talk to Him like we talk to an earthly father. We bring Him the concerns of our hearts. We can cast our cares on Him; we’re not anxious; we receive His love for us when we share our gratitude with Him for all that He’s done in our lives. We can talk to Him anytime, anywhere. Whether we have 10 minutes to spare or an hour–He’ll take it.
In How to Spend Time with God, Pastor April shares a moving story about a time in her life when she missed a few days of spending time with God. Listen in at timestamp 14:52 and see what happens when we skip a day (or two, or three) from building our relationship with the Lord. Hint: He doesn’t get mad. He just misses us! He doesn’t condemn or shame us; He woos us back to His unconditional love.
Psalms 27:8 (NLT) My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
The Heart Ablaze series is God’s call to us: Come talk to me! Spend time with me. Let’s respond like David did in Psalms and commit to spending time with the Lord this year in a way we never have before! To help us do just that, we’re exploring 3 ways to move our hearts closer to God this year as we passionately pursue a life-changing relationship with Him.
What does spending time with the Lord look like for you?
During a season when you’ve missed out on regularly spending time with Him, how did God woo you back to Him?
What does it mean to you to be accepted by God?
James 4:8 (TPT) Move your heart closer and closer to God and He will come even closer to you.
How do we move our heart closer to God in a practical, real-time, applicable way? Pastor April instructs us on 3 ways to do just that in How to Spend Time with God and she shares lots of helpful personal insights from her own experiences, too.
Have a specific spot in your house that you can go on a daily basis, without any distractions that will clutter your heart. Designate a place where you can truly focus on the Lord. Keep in mind, your QT with the Lord spot might change over the years!
Have some essentials ready for you in your spot. You’ll need your Bible, of course, and maybe you’ll want to add a journal and some supplemental reading material. Perhaps you have your headphones handy to listen to worship music during your time with the Lord.
Set a specific time of day that you can consistently meet with the Lord at that same time, every day. A time to initially connect with God before carrying your time together throughout the rest of the day. The highlight here is that we’re purposefully moving our hearts toward Him.
It’s not so much about what you do in your quiet time as much as it is why you are doing it. If you don’t have a strong why, you won’t keep doing it. The key to maintaining consistency is having a clear understanding and motive for why you’re spending time with the Lord.
Without a strong why, we’ll struggle to maintain consistency and we’ll start to gravitate toward legalism. It’s not about checking boxes because that’s the “good Christian thing to do.” Keeping a scorecard of do's and don’ts is religion, not relationship. God wants to be in relationship with us, not religion with us!
As new believers, we sometimes need a structured approach to get started in consistently spending time with God. But as we grow as believers, we need to follow our hearts in what we do with the Lord. We oftentimes overcomplicate things; we get into legalism. This is what we should simply do instead:
Psalm 84:5 (AMP) Blessed and greatly favored is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
Zion is the place where God’s presence is. We don’t need godliness, friends; we need the presence of God! We need to experience Him in a real and tangible way. There are many ways–many avenues and highways–that we can move our hearts towards God and experience His presence. Follow your heart in your time with the Lord and He will meet you where you are and connect with you in exactly the way you need to hear from Him.
Where do you spend your quality time with the Lord?
What time of day do you spend intentional time with God?
Share a time when you’ve followed your heart in your prayer time and diverted from your “usual”.
One of the 3 ways to move your heart closer to God is to set a specific time to meet with Him. We talked about identifying a strong and personal why–the why that drives us toward the pursuit of a relationship with God–and in How to Spend Time with God, Pastor April shares 2 reasons–2 whys–to meet with God. Of course, there’s lots of reasons why any of us would want to spend time with God! But these 2, especially, align with God’s intention for our lives as believers.
By getting to know God and studying His word, we’re able to establish a history with the Lord through the varying seasons of our lives. In different seasons, we have unique opportunities to discover different aspects of God. At timestamp 22:43, Pastor April shares the ways specific aspects of God have been revealed to her in specific, aligning seasons of her life.
There are so many wonders to God’s person. It will take eternity for us to see them all. That’s how big our God is! Philippians 3:10 (AMP) says And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did];
Paul wrote this after being in ministry for 30 years and even still said “my purpose is to know Him more progressively.” We meet with God so that we can know him more intimately, more clearly, more strongly.
It has always been God’s desire to partner with us in life. When He made Adam and Eve in the garden, He wanted to have a personal relationship with them, to navigate and walk through life with them. That desire has never changed! God has always wanted that with mankind and Jesus provided a way for us to have that relationship with Him.
God cannot partner with us in life if we’re not spending time with Him! Matthew 6:33 (NASB) says But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you. God understands that we have the maintenance of daily life to tend to–what to eat, where to work, what clothes to wear, etc. What Jesus is saying in Matthew is that there is just one single thing we need to do: seek first the kingdom of God. We can’t seek first the kingdom of God unless you’re seeking the king of the kingdom.
Jesus assigned us one priority: seek Him. He promises to take care of the daily maintenance of life if we will just spend time with him. We don’t need to be overwhelmed by the daily grind of life; if we seek God, He will take all the pressure from us. When we spend time with God, our ear is attentive to His voice and He’s able to give us the help we need!
What’s your why? What is the reason you, personally, meet with God?
How does meeting with God impact your daily life? Your big-picture life?
We’ve all heard time and time again that we need to read our Bible. It’s not so much about the reading though; it’s about the consumption of God’s word. Read it, hear it, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we’re consuming the word of God daily. There’s 3 reasons why we need to consume God’s word:
In consuming God’s word, it’s not the quantity of verses or chapters that count; it’s the quality of the revelation of the Word we get into our heart that matters. And sometimes, the Word we’re receiving isn’t intended to be put to use right now; it’s meant to be stored for later use. Pastor April paints a vivid picture relating the storage of scripture for later use in How to Spend Time with God. It’s our job to put the Word in our hearts; it’s God’s job to pull it out when it’s needed!
As we combat apathy toward the Lord, let’s commit to practicing each of the 3 ways to move our hearts closer to God! By consuming His word and investing in quality time with Him, we can keep our hearts ablaze for God.
Father, we do not want a spirit of apathy in our lives. We can clearly see your heart for us and we know you want us to spend time with you. Lord we pray that stir up a spiritual hunger and an appetite and a zeal for you like we have never experienced before. As we commit to reading your word and hearing your voice, God woo us back to you. Give us practical ways to see you and spend time with you so that we can know you personally. Lord help us move our hearts toward you and keep our hearts ablaze for you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.