I have been writing about the vitality of God’s Word for leaders, whether you lead a small group, a ministry, a church, a business, a family, or yourself. Yesterday I wrote about my love for God’s Word. Like the writer of Psalm 119, I desire to seek God with all my heart (v. 10). Like most humans, I struggle with this. It’s like I’m in a battle … because I am!
Psalm 119 provides a lot of incentive for us to get into God’s Word and learn from it. The psalmist talks about hiding God’s Word in his heart, meditating on it, taking delight in God’s statutes, rejoicing in following God’s commands … but just how do we get there? How do we get to the place where we, like the psalmist, love God’s Word and delight in living according to it?
As I’ve read Psalm 119, I’ve come across a number of hints. Here are five verses that I think helped the psalmist, and can help you and me as well, to make reading, meditating, and obeying God’s Word our way of life:
1. “I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes” (v. 59). It all starts with looking within. Do I have the wisdom to live life well? No. Do I have the power within me to do great things for God? Absolutely not. When I look within me, looking at my own resources, I must confess my deficiency … actually I’m being too kind … I must admit my utter wretchedness. And so, I consider my ways, and that leads me to turn my steps to God’s way. There’s a biblical word for this: repentance.
2. “I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws” (v. 30). The second thing I must do it to choose. God has given you and me the freedom and the will to make our own choices. Like Joshua, I have chosen to serve the Lord (24:15). The personal choice you make is more than an intellectual decision or an emotional response, although both of those are involved. It is a decision of the will. Note how many times in Psalm 119 the phrase “I will” occurs. The psalmist had chosen as a matter of his will to follow God and to study God’s Word.
3. “This has been my practice: I obey your precepts” (v. 56). Making this decision means putting it on your schedule. You make it a normal part of your everyday practice. When preachers talk about spiritual disciplines, they often start here. But you can’t skip the first two vital steps! The psalmist had made the reading of, meditating on, and obedience to God’s Word his practice. It had become a regular discipline for him, but I’m sure it was anything but routine! A word of warning here. This is the step where sometimes people make this whole thing Pharisaical; that is, legalistic. Jesus called the religious leaders hypocrites because they honored God with their lips, but their hearts were far from God (Matthew 15:7-9; cf. Isaiah 29:13). Make God’s Word a part of your everyday life because you desire to know God and his ways. Dive into the Scriptures because you love God and desire to develop a stronger relationship with him.
4. “I will not neglect your word” (v. 10). Sometimes we get off to a good start but then something happens to disrupt the good practices we have developed. Life gets busy. The holidays come. The boss demands more. The kids get sick. We get sidetracked. We just don’t feel like it. Satan gets busy. Actually, all those excuses can be summarized in the last one: Satan gets busy in our lives. He and his foul friends hate when we turn to God and take joy in his Word. Our commitment to the kingdom of God is a threat to his earthly kingdom. And this is why you and I need good, strong, caring, God-seeking friends. It’s why you and I need a small group where people are asking us regularly about how we’re doing. It’s why the guys in my men’s group regularly ask one another what we’re reading in God’s Word. We all need encouragement and accountability for the commitments we’ve made in life.
5. “I will always obey your law, for ever and ever” (v. 44). There is some firm finality in the psalmist’s words. He has made a resolute long-term plan to live his life a certain way: God’s way, according to God’s Word.