After the winter holidays, there’s always a lot of talk about health. People are making resolutions to lose weight and gain abs, buying gym memberships and Bowflexes. More and more, people in our culture are taking steps to care for their emotional, mental, and spiritual health as well. Culture has a lot to say about this; you can find endless blog posts about self-care, treating yourself, mindfulness, setting boundaries, and cutting out toxic relationships. All of these things could be helpful, but for the Christian, true health and flourishing cannot be found apart from the Word and the Spirit.
Psalm 1:1-3 paints a beautiful picture of what it means to abide in the Lord:
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. ln all that he does, he prospers.”
The first verse from this psalm describes this godly person as someone who doesn’t do the things that sinners do. He doesn’t listen to the advice of wicked people, he doesn’t spend his time the same way sinners do, and he doesn’t take comfort in the things sinners take comfort in. In short, a godly person does not allow himself or herself to be shaped by the world, nor does he or she find fulfillment in the things the world has to offer.
Then we see this righteous person compared to a healthy, flourishing tree, bearing good fruit and standing strong without withering. In John 15, we see another agricultural illustration. Jesus tells his followers, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (v. 5).” Again we see this picture of health and flourishing, of growing and bearing fruit. In both illustrations, the key to flourishing is the same: we must abide in the Lord.
“Abide in the Lord” is one of those phrases that sounds really spiritual, but what does it actually mean?
Abiding in the Lord means seeking him in his Word. The blessed man in Psalm 1 delights in God’s word and meditates on it day and night. Maybe delight isn’t the word you’d use to describe your relationship with the bible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t begin pursuing God in this way. We cannot know God apart from his word, and as we spend time reading the bible, over time he shapes our hearts according to his word.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a “booksmarts” kind of person, you are capable of knowing God through his word! The new year is a great time to start a new habit of meeting the Lord in his word every day. Maybe that means reading one Psalm every morning before you get out of bed or listening to one chapter of John on the Dwell app during your lunch break. Maybe you could start a reading plan on the Bible app with someone in your Well Group or subscribe to The Well’s verse of the day text message. We could all pile guilt on ourselves about our failings in this area, but instead, let’s walk in grace and commit anew to meet the Lord in his word regularly, starting today.
Abiding in the Lord also means seeking him by his Spirit. Just as a relationship develops over time, our relationship with God will grow deeper as we spend time with him. God has given us his Holy Spirit as his presence in us, and we get to enjoy him! Maybe the thought of spending time with God sounds cheesy or hokey, but his Spirit in us is the same God who loves us and gave himself for us. Spending time with him is not a waste of time, but rather allows us to experience the love of God for us here and now.
So how do we pursue God in this way? We can do this privately by praying regularly, meditating on a verse of scripture, sitting in silence with the Lord, resting, and spending time in solitary activities (like taking a walk, sitting outside, driving, or listening to music) that allow us to commune with the Lord. We can also do this corporately (with other believers) by singing in worship, praying together, taking communion, and hearing the Word preached.
Of course, seeking the Lord through his Word and Spirit are not mutually exclusive, in fact, there is a beautiful overlap of Word and Spirit in the exercises mentioned above that serves to heighten our enjoyment of God and increase our knowledge of him. Many of these exercises can also be enjoyed in community with other believers as well. We need each other to help us abide in the Lord!
So as the new year begins, sure, join a gym, plan some healthy meals, get a pedicure, and practice mindfulness. But don’t miss out on true health and abundant life by foregoing the nourishment that the Lord provides to those who abide in him.
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