Psalm 119:11 says, “Your Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.” What does it mean to hide God’s work in our heart? I believe that whatever it means, hiding God’s work in our hearts will result in our ability to obey commands like “Rejoice all the time” Phil. 4:4 or “pray without ceasing” and “in everything give thanks to God” (1 Thess. 5:16). How does a guy go to work and still obey God in these areas? Or how can a man meditate on God’s word day and night (Psa. 1:2)? And this meditation results in blessing from God.
Here’s how I think it works.
First, you need to know that God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but he does expect us to be changing and growing. On the other hand, we are perfect in Christ, so we need to trust in Christ and rest in him. If we are striving to be perfect, it shows that we don’t get it. God wants us to struggle to let go, not struggle to be more uptight and stressed. The way up is down.
Second, most of us have compartmentalized lives. We think Bible study is something we do at 7:00 a.m. But the Bible talks about Bible study as something we do all the time. It doesn’t even use those words. It talks about meditation, about singing, about hiding in our hearts. We need to come up with a whole new paradigm for what how we handle the word of God. We need to live in the Word, not just dabble in it for a few minutes each day.
It’s the same with prayer. The Bible talks about praying all the time, about praying when we walk along, lay down at night, standing, sitting, kneeling, living in the presence of God all the time in a an attitude of prayer. Sure, Jesus went off by himself to pray, spent all night in prayer, prayed at certain times, but would anyone say that he wasn’t always in the presence of God in constant contact with him? I don’t think so.
Throughout Church history, people have noticed this and have sought to make their lives what has come to be known as contemplative lives. They quit their jobs, moved to the country, or dessert, lived in caves and on poles, and contemplated the deep things of God. As I read about these folks, they never reached what they were looking for. They never escaped their own sinfulness or were any closer to God. I believe this is because their reaction to the Bible’s injunctions for how to live a godly life is all wrong. God did not call us to live out of the world, but to live in the world. But he calls us to live differently than those who are of the world live in it. It all has to do with perspective, goals, priorities, and character.
Perspective—God is omnipresent. Christ is in us. We are in Christ. There is nowhere we can go where Christ and God is not. This means that when we drive down the road, he is just as much with us then as he is when we live on a mountain top. God is just as much with us when we yell at the driver who just cut us off on the road, as he is when we kneel to confess our sins in church on Sunday morning. Too often we believe that we are with God in church, but all alone when on the road or in the office. This is just wrong. We cannot compartmentalize our lives like this. Perspective is important. Where is God in our lives? What are we in his life? He is right here with us. We are right there in front of him.
From a practical point of view, would you yell at the driver who just cut you off if Jesus were sitting right next to you in the passenger seat? Well, he is. When we are tempted, we are sitting in the lap of God and can choose to stay there rather than to run after the enticement into sin. Believe it. Think like it. Talk like it. Live like it.
Goals—What are we living for? What is the goal of life? To please God. To bring honor and glory to God. To be happy. To be blessed. To be the center of our universe. To be the one everyone around us panders to and bows before and kneels toward. Does this thought progression sound familiar? We don’t usually jump right from God is God and we are not, to I’m at the center. There is a logical slide as we drift away from remembering that we are living in front of the face of God.
We are always working toward our true goal. No matter what we are doing, we are doing it to move toward what we think is most important in our lives. So what are you working toward?
Another way to put it is that we are always working to avoid missing out on what is most important to us. When someone irritates us and makes us angry, what is going on with that? Why are we angry? James tells us that it is because we aren’t getting what we wanted. Jesus tells us that we are angry because our hearts are evil. James tells us that we want what we want because our motives are all messed up. We are the center and want everyone else to acknowledge that fact and because they are at the center of their own lives, we fight and kill one another.
God tells us that he is the center. Anything else or less is an abomination to him. So, who is at the center when we are at work? God is still the center. Notice that I didn’t say he’s at the center. I said he is the center. There is a huge difference between these two. If he were at the center, that would imply that there is something other than the center. But God is the center, meaning that there isn’t anything else for us to consider. This means that no matter what we are doing, thinking, or feeling is subservient to him and his goal of serving and glorifying him. It is at the center of everything, not even something we need to think about, we simply assume it.
In a compartmentalized life, we act like something else is at the center, in those moments when we aren’t doing something Christian or churchy. But God will not allow that kind of thinking because that is a sinful way of thinking. It is to put something at the center when God is the center. But God will not share his glory with another. He is a jealous God.
So the goal is to believe God in every area of our lives. To cry “Praise the Lord!” when something bad happens to us and to have it come out automatically because God the center of who we are. It is a true fact. We believe it is true. We have made it our goal to please him in every aspect of our lives.
Priorities–When we wonder how we are to do justice to our human employer or to our wives or husbands, we often write out a list of things or people that we need to pay homage to. We pay this homage by spending time, or money, or honor on these various things, and the amount of time, money, or honor defines where they are on our list of priorities. Sometimes we’ll say we love our wife most, but then spend all our time or money on our hobby, or job. When this happens, everyone knows things are out of line and we do what we can to adjust our lives to reflect what our minds tell us ought to be. But where is God in all this?
I want to suggest that God is above and thus outside all this. He is the one who tells us how to rank the others on the list. God is not part of our life, we are part of his. And thus, we don’t include him in the list. We make the list and go to him to rank everything else on the list. He is not just outside the list, this would be to allow the possibility that he is either irrelevant to the list, or below the list. He is not on the list because he is the context of the list, the context of those on the list, in fact, he is the context of everything altogether.
The way this looks, practically, is that you make your list of people and things and you ask God to help you prioritize them. You ask him, assuming that he is, that he is the center, and that you are asking, knowing that the main goal is to please him. Then you go to the Word and ask again while reading the Word.
He is outside your priorities he is the air you breath, the life you live, the world you move in. He is all in all. This sounds all pie in the sky, but we need to bring this down to everyday life, all of life. God is our assumption, our starting point, our point of reference for everything else. He is who our first words are too in the morning, our last words in the evening, and all of our thoughts, deed, and words are too all day long. He is the context of our lives.
Character–Character comes to us as we spend time with people who are important to us. Jesus said we become like our teachers. Paul said to imitate him as he imitated Christ. Then in Ephesians, he told us to imitate God. We become like those we hang with. If we hang out at the bars with the drunks and low-lifes, we will become a drunk and a lowlife. If we hang with those who are striving after God, we will become like them. Character comes to those who rub against others who have character.
God calls us to something higher. He calls us to be like him. We become like him as we spend time with him and seek to imitate him. The great thing is he wants to help us. He has given us his Spirit so that we can imitate him in all that we do and say. But we cannot pretend that this is in only certain areas of our lives. We are whole people and God is in all of life. Therefore, we read our Bibles in the morning, but we take it with us throughout the day. We do this in a variety of ways: we get a little tiny New Testament and put it in our pocket; we write verses and passages on 3 x 5 cards and put them in our shirt pockets; we put the Bible on our phones and listen at breaks; we listen when we drive along, when we talk with others, when we walk down the sidewalk. In addition, we talk to God all day. He is with us all the time. We know he is there, so we talk with him. The cool thing is that he can hear our thoughts, so even when we are with others, we can pray in our heads. We can ask him for wisdom. We can ask him to glorify himself as we negotiate this upcoming nuclear power contract. We can ask him to be blessed by the conversation we are about to have with an employee who comes to work late all the time.
As we spend time with God, he transforms us into the likeness of his Son. We draw near to him, he draws near to us. When we spend time with God, the devil has nothing to push against. though he is prowling around looking for someone to devour. He passes right over us because he can’t get near to God and we are near God. Instead, he flees.
If in all of this, we view our relationship with God as a means to an end–our happiness–we will always be frustrated. God is in it for his glory. If we make it into a wooden, paint by numbers sort of relationship with God or man, we are headed for a pit. Though I’ve written this in a wooden sort of way, this is all about relationship. It is all about friendship with God and how friendships work themselves out. I’ve never found talking about friendship to be a very good way to be friends. You need to let it happen. You need to just hang out and talk about mutually fun things. In this case, you need to spend time in the word, not because you have to, but because you’re hanging with someone who loves you and who you love. It needs to be a relationship, not an assignment. You aren’t checking boxes, you’re spending time, all your time, with God.
I think this is the only way we can pray without ceasing, give thanks in all things, rejoice all the time, and hide God’s word in our hearts. It has to be in the context of a life with God, and a constant conversation with Jesus.
I hope this helps.