Over a year ago, I first heard Charles Stanley’s message on abiding. I thought, “Yes! This is what I need. This is what I am missing!” but in all honesty, abiding seemed like one of those super church words that everyone reaches for but no one ever actually achieves. Like self actualization in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Does anyone actually make it up there?
I knew I was unhappy with my current state of life. Mostly I felt stressed, overly busy, and probably more like a maid than a mother and wife. I am sure I am the only one who has ever felt like that, but either way, I knew this way of life just wasn’t cutting it. Abiding – living the Spirit filled life – sounded like just what I needed, but I really didn’t know how to achieve that life in “church” world – where everything is nice and pretty – much less how to achieve it in my messy, busy life.
The Spirit, however, began working on me and slowly but surely I began to see how God intended me – well, everyone – to abide in Him, even in our everyday, busy, 21st century lives. While abiding does seem like that abstract term we are all striving for, there are some practical steps we can do every day that will contribute to an abiding state of mind.
1) Start off with the right focus.
One day I downloaded this seven minute workout app and of course I allowed it to send me notifications. Well, somewhere in the settings of the app, it decided that 9:00 at night was a good time to remind me to work out. It became a running joke with my husband. My phone would ping every night at nine just after we hunkered down for the night. The chances of me working out were less than zero. It was too late, the time had past. If I had not worked out by that time of night, it just wasn’t happening.
Don’t let that be your attitude with Christ or with abiding on a daily basis. Commit to beginning each morning with a daily reminder of where your focus should be each day, all day. Psalm 143: 8 says, “Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” Each day, I need a reminder of His love. I need to remember all Christ has done for me, so that I understand the importance of all I do. Each day that reminder will direct my ways, my decisions for the day. I can make better decisions throughout the day when I have prepared for them through Christ’s eyes.
Also, Mark 1:35 says, “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” If Jesus saw the importance of beginning His day with prayer, then I think that is an example worth following. For me, I am able to wake up about 30 minutes early and spend that time in prayer and Bible study. You may not be a morning person or you may have a crazy schedule (like my summer non-schedule). That habit may not work for you as a daily practice. That’s fine. But make it a practice of focusing on Christ each morning, at least in some small way. My dad explains that he recites the Lord’s Prayer before he ever gets out of bed each morning. Maybe something like that will work better for you, but whatever you do, set your focus first thing in the morning.
2) Have a daily quiet time.
Even if you can’t start your day with time spent in prayer and Bible study, find some time in your schedule each day. Maybe your time is right before bed. Or maybe your lunch break. Whatever. Just find a time that works for you. You cannot grow a relationship with someone you never spend time with. Psalms 46:10 says “Be still, and know that I am God.” But if we are never still, how will we know that He is God?
If you are like me, you don’t slow down during the day. I am usually busy doing something every second of the day. I have my morning routines. I have a busy day of teaching, and on the way home from work I am usually formulating my list of to-do’s for the evening. If I don’t make my quiet time a prioritized part of my daily schedule, it will never happen. If I don’t schedule some time to be still, then I won’t. And if I don’t, again how will I know He is God? We have to spend time with Him consistently in order to be able to recognize Him and His ways as we move through our day.
3) Garbage in, garbage out. God in, God out.
A huge problem in our Christian walk is compromise and desensitization to sin. While that is an issue for another blog post, I don’t think we realize how much sin surrounds us on a daily basis. Television, music, social media, conversations… all of those and more taint our thoughts and views of ourselves, our lives, and others. I mean, I know now that summer has hit, I have a little more time to look at social media. And it is not good for me. I read through it and see things and negative thoughts pop into my head before I have even processed everything. Kathy Griffin. Negative thoughts! Donald Trump. Negative thought! People’s reactions to Kathy and Donald. Negative thoughts! You get the picture. I am filling my mind and thoughts with garbage and when I turn to have a conversation with someone else, guess what is going to come out? Yep, garbage.
On the flip side, if I filter all that comes into my mind through a God lens, I have a much better chance of God coming out. Romans 12:2 reminds us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” If we are looking at all the same things that the world looks at, how we will not look like the world? How will we know God’s will? How will we know what is good and perfect? We certainly won’t be able to tell by God’s standards.
I know it sounds a little Jesus Freak, and I am okay with that, but I rarely listen to secular music. We watch only select things on television (Disney Junior and Sports…) and I only have one or two shows I watch regularly (Fixer Upper, of course). And I do my best to limit my social media use. I will take a fast from it if I feel like it is getting out of control. On the flip side, I listen to Christian music daily. I try to listen to different Christian podcasts in the morning when I get ready. I follow other Christian organizations to ensure my feeds are full of good stuff too. I post scripture and positive quotes all around my work space and in my planner. I do my best to surround myself with things that bring me Godly joy and challenge me in a positive direction.
We are called to look different, so we need to look different, and that means looking at different things.
4) Allow for Grace
This is a process. A lifestyle change. A change in your frame of mind. All of which will take time. While I have figured out a good deal of the process, that doesn’t mean I have mastered it (kind of like driving a stick shift). That was hard to begin with. I would beat myself up every time I slipped up, every time I acted, well … human, every time my flesh would take over and I would act like my normal ol’ sour puss self.
Don’t do that. Christ told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” and the same is true for us. Every time we mess up or fall short is another time we can look to God. Another time that we remember we cannot do it alone. Another time His Power is demonstrated through us. Learn from it. Rejoice in His Power. And move on. Don’t dwell. That is just taking one step backwards in your abiding journey.
Abiding in Christ is Christ centered. We cannot have the focus on us, even if it is our mistakes, and expect to abide in Him.
I pray that you a make decision to start this process with me, or continue to grow in this process with me. Don’t be afraid to start small. Just start moving in the right direction and God will help you from there. I don’t know if anyone actually achieves self-actualization, but I do know abiding in Christ is something we all can achieve.