Do you ever struggle with your walk with God? Does it seem at times like you hit a spot where you feel close and other times God seems so distant? I certainly have over the years. Underneath the struggle to know God more deeply, I sense something at the depth of my soul like the Psalmist who said “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God” (Psalm 42:1). Each of us have that “void” in the soul that only God can fill, but is there something we can incorporate into our life that would help us experience the satisfaction of the “panting for God”?
The first monthly spiritual exercise I did with the Renovaré Institute was to read, study, meditate on, and memorize Colossian 3:1-17. Dallas Willard, in the Divine Conspiracy, points to this passage saying “we must follow an order of life as a whole that is appropriately modeled after his.” So, our goal for the month was to marinate in this passage and see what God would speak to us about a plan for growth.
A Divine Reading
One of the suggestions given for this assignment was to use the model of meditative reading called Lectio Divina, Latin for “divine reading”. This has been a spiritual practice that believers have been using since the early church. It is a great way to allow the word of God to flow to your heart. It helps us slow down and read the word to experience its power:
With Lectio Divina, we read a passage multiple times, slowly, letting the word of God penetrate our hearts (“piercing even to the soul and spirit”). There are basically four steps to this way of reading:
- Read – read the passage a couple of times noting a word or phrase that God uses to speak to you. Or read the passage as if you were an observer of the story and take notice of what you are observing.
- Reflect – read the passage again asking for God to show you what the passage means to you personally. Or read the passage as if you were in the story. What are you experiencing? What do you sense God speaking to you about?
- Respond – read the passage a third time and let the Holy Spirit lead you into how you should respond to the passage.
- Rest – rest in what you have read and experienced. Be grateful for this time you have spent with your Father.
Life With a Good God
One of the ways we were to think of the exercise was how did it impact our understanding of life with a good God. Maybe the most helpful thing for me was reading it with the assumption that God is good! Sometimes the enemy can distort my picture of God with doubts of His goodness, but reading with the affirmation and truth that God is good helped free me to receive what God wanted to know and do in my life.
As I read through the month one of the themes that God impressed on me was a simple three step approach toward growing in my relationship with God.
- Look up: The first step for me in growing in my relationship with God is I need to look up. Verses 1-4 encouraged me to stop being absorbed with life that right in front of me and to cast my eyes toward heaven, where God is. How often my focus is on earthly things. God lovingly spoke to me to look up.
seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (v 1b-2).
- Look in: Second, I need to look inward. Verses 5-11 talk being done with the old life and experiencing new life. When I look inward, I can allow God to help identify the sin and automatic negative responses that I often have.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth (v6-8).
The look inward is a journey of renewal, of seeing the old self still trying to hang on for control and making the choice to turn, exposing the old to the light of Jesus and learning to live in the reality of our new self.
you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator (v9b-10).
- Look out: Third, I can look beyond myself and live from the inside out. Verses 12-17 speak of a life that bears fruit. I find the order of these steps to be significant. I can only effectively “look out” after I have looked up and looked inward. Many times I feel compelled “to do”. My doing gets attention and often good responses from others, but when practiced on its own leads to pride and often burnout. The last couple of verses provide a glimpse of a life as intended by looking up, looking in, and looking out.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
As these three points kept making an impression on me, I found that they allowed a reflective way to pray. I would begin my prayer looking up with a time of worship, praise, and thanksgiving, fixing my eyes and attention on Jesus. This then led me to look in and take a review of my life at the moment, what was going on in the last day or so and what did God want me to know. Were there lies I was believing, was there sin that needed confessing, or how was I seeing evidence of God moving in my life? Then I could look out, moved to respond to God in my words and deeds.
Are you looking for a plan for Spiritual growth? I recommend highly spending quality time with Colossians 3:1-17. See how God will speak to you about living life more fully in Him.