Late last year, I shared a message with the group of Southern African evangelists into whose lives my husband and I are privileged to pour guidance and attention. I titled it, “Where are you going?” and my primary text was Genesis 16. Towards the beginning of this chapter, we find Hagar fleeing the jealous rage of her mistress, Sarai. The Angel of the Lord, finding Hagar in the wilderness, had this to say: “Hagar, Sarai’s slave woman, from where have you come, and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8). Reading this passage one day, that final statement, “Where are you going?” pierced my spirit like a lightning bolt. It is such a simple question, yet one with such clout.
Dear friend, I would like to share with you what I shared with that group of evangelists. It is a suitable message for the start of a new year and I know that the Lord will use it to bless you and if necessary, recalibrate your walk with Him.
Now, I know that we are all fast out the blocks at the start of a new year. Resolutions abound and attempts are made to improve every area of our lives. The gyms are full of new members, healthy eating is zealously pursued and cupboards enthusiastically decluttered. Now, these are all excellent ambitions. However, I am no personal trainer, dietician or get-it-together guru.
My concern is your walk with the Lord. My concern is the level of your intimacy with Him. I will never forget the words of one of my lecturers at Bible School when I was in my early twenties. They will forever remain with me. “You can get as close to God as what you want,” he said. And so, my question to you is this: Where are you going in your walk with the Lord? Are you getting closer to Him or are you drifting further away from Him? I may be still relatively young in life and ministry, but I am unequivocally certain of this unshakeable truth: If your relationship with the Lord takes priority, all other things will fall into place; if it dwindles or stagnates, everything else will begin to implode.
When it comes to our walk with the Lord, there are many different things that determine its quality. I would like to touch on three. First, our knowledge of Scripture. Second, time spent in prayer. Third, time spent in thanksgiving. Where are you going in these three areas? Advancing in them equates to moving closer to the Lord. Neglecting them equates to wandering away from Him.
Knowledge of Scripture
Is your knowledge of Scripture growing steadily or do you barely know more than you did a year ago? Where are you going in your knowledge of the word of God? Friend, knowing God cannot be separated from knowing His word. The level of your knowledge of His word is the level of your relationship with Him. You cannot tell me that you know Him when you do not know Scripture. Read your Bible every day. Start Bible School. Buy a book—and read it. Download an audio book—and listen to it. Begin an online course. Commit this year—and every year—to getting to know Scripture better. Scripture teaches us who God is and who we are in Him. Without this knowledge, your relationship with the Lord will remain at surface-level and your confidence as a child of God, menial and weak.
Also, memorise Scripture. How many verses do you know by heart? Memorising Scripture makes it possible for the Holy Spirit to bring a relevant verse to mind when we are in a challenging situation. It allows us to combat spiritual attacks immediately and assertively, without having first to search for a suitable verse. It allows us to recite these verses in our hearts when going about our daily tasks, resulting in our knowledge of Him and our faith in His word increasing even when our noses are not in our Bibles. Maybe commit to learning a verse a week. The verse you memorise does not need to be long—it can even be a segment of a verse: “Bless the Lord, O my soul…who heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:1-3); “Those who seek the Lord will not lack any good thing” (Psalm 34:10). What a worthwhile practice!
I believe that speaking to the Lord throughout each day as we complete our tasks and fulfill our responsibilities is fundamental. However, setting time aside when alone to focus only on Him and speak only with Him is equally essential. This prayer time may be in the morning, afternoon or evening. It may be coupled with spending time in His word or at another time entirely. It may be five minutes, ten minutes, half an hour or an hour. Whenever it is and however long it is, the important thing is that you be disciplined in setting aside this time every day without fail. During this time, avoid all distractions. Put your phone in another room, close the door, focus your mind on the Lord and keep your mind on the Lord. Speak to Him. Listen for His gentle whispers of encouragement and direction. Allow yourself to be loved by Him and love Him in return.
This is another essential daily activity. It is irrelevant whether it happens coupled with praise and worship music or not. What is important is that you lift your voice—whether out loud or in your heart—and thank your God for His goodness towards you. Praise Him for His magnificent and might. Glorify Him for His grace and greatness. Thank Him for specific things and thank Him for just being Him. Do it while in the car, washing the dishes, pounding the treadmill, making coffee or rushing between meetings. This practice will lift your mood and elevate your faith. This practice will overwhelm you with joy and make you acutely more aware of His love for you and His care towards you. This practice cannot be underestimated.
And so, dear friend, where do you commit to go this year in your walk with the Lord? Do you commit to moving closer to Him? I trust that the above points are helpful to you. If you can commit to being disciplined in these three areas, I guarantee that your intimacy with the Lord will increase in leaps and bounds. After all, God needs very little encouragement! He loves you so very much. If you show interest in Him, He will reward that interest a hundredfold.
With love, Tamryn