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  • Writer's pictureJay Lowder

Branching Out Toward Others!

How Your Private Devotional Life Should Have Public Results



Part 2 of 2


Branching Out Toward Others 

Your spiritual disciplines are deeply intertwined with your relationships. We saw previously that when something is wrong with them, we should not look at the wilting leaves but at the diseased roots. The best place to start is by asking relational questions about how well you are relating to God.  Most problems with Bible intake, meditation, and prayer are rooted in relational issues with God.

 

Fear Fruitless Trees! 

Your spiritual disciplines also involve horizontal, human components. You should be blessing others. The vertical and horizontal must be linked. Imagine the tragedy of a church-going, genuine believer (perhaps even an elder or deacon) who loves his time alone with the Lord, looks forward to it, and never misses it. Yet what he does in private never escapes his "closet." He might speak with joy about his quiet time alone, but he cannot get along with anyone. But no one around him has seen his supposed joy in God’s Word seep out of him. He wears his Sunday suit with a Sunday frown. He is even quick to be quarrelsome! Something is wrong in his spiritual root system, preventing the fruit-bearing that should occur naturally.

 

That is a mild but common example. Think of the extreme example of the Pharisees who often prayed and read Scripture but lacked even the smallest degree of compassion (Matthew 12:10-12). Because of the way that your devotional times should extend outward to others, you should regularly ask yourself if they do indeed bless others.  The means of grace should be spigots through which God's transformation grace flows to you and through you to others. Warren Wiersbe envisioned ministry as taking place “when divine resources meet human needs through loving channels to the glory of God.”1 If you live connected to the resources of God through a deep, rooted devotional life, then grace, mercy, and peace should be flowing through you to others! Do you want to bless others more effectively? Recommit to branch out by means of your private devotional life to help others. Here are three helpful tips!

 

Pray to God for Others 

First, you should bless others by praying for them (1 Timothy 2:1; James 5:16). Hardly any praying Christian forgets to pray for themself! Perhaps you need to change your prayer pattern, beginning with others and moving inward toward your closer relationships and finally to yourself.  You could pray seven smaller and smaller concentric rings around yourself: 1) The nations - including missionaries and the lost 2) Your nation - leaders, moral issues, and the national work of your denomination 3) Your local community - issues and concerns 4) Church members 5) Your extended friends and family 6) Your nuclear family 7) yourself.  I assure you that you will always remember to pray for your needs! We forget not ourselves even in prayer. So, pray for yourself last, and you will pray better for others.

 

Become a Better Version of Yourself 

       Second, since a major reason for spiritual disciplines is your transformation, they should be blessing others by making you a better version of yourself.  Ask yourself if, in the last month, anything you have read in the Bible has made you a better spouse, parent, grandparent, friend, church member, employer, employee, or citizen. For example, pursuing God should be creating in you the blessed and blessing attitudes of the Beatitudes: humility (Matthew 5:3-4), gentleness (verse 5), mercy (verse 7), peacemaking (verse 8), etc.


Surely, a healthy mark of your private, inner pursuit of God should be that your progress in the faith will be evident to all (1 Timothy 4:15). If you do not see changes in yourself and toward others, confess that deficiency and begin to meditate more, pausing in or after your Bible readings to pray that what you just read will change you for the sake of others. Even the great prophet Isaiah needed a “reset” in his relationship with the Lord (Isaiah 6:1-6) before he could be sent to serve others better (verses 7-8)!

 


Hoarding Food is Not Right 

        Third, you should be sharing from your harvest. Your cup of blessing can overflow to others. From your satisfied, well-fed soul, share with others. Keeping the bountiful feast all to yourself is "not doing right” (2 Kings 7:9)! What you are learning is what you should be talking about with family and friends. Share some of that harvest you have been gleaning. While you should avoid pride-motivated announcements of your private life with God (Matthew 6:1-6), you can humbly share with others what he is teaching you. That would lift your conversations higher than retelling the highlights of last night's sitcoms or sporting events. Talking about God to God’s people will even nix problems with gossip. Talk about God to others all you want instead of talking to them about other people!

 

Often, you will be the one positively sharing insights with others or admitting that you God is painfully pruning you (John 15:2). At other times, you will be blessed if you listen to what others are sharing with you. David Mathis notes that “personal Bible intake and prayer can be powerful—and they are habits of grace worth pursuing daily—but so can a reminder of God’s grace from a spouse or friend or fellow believer."2


Nathanel Ranew reminded us that meditating is a way to have a storehouse from which to bless others: "Meditation in reference to others, to persons of all sorts, is to fill the treasure of the heart with good things, and to fit the good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, to bring them forth to furnish others, and be serviceable to their spiritual condition" (Matthew 13:52) 3.

 

 

Be Rooted, Be Branching Out! 

Seek the Lord in communion to be conformed to the image of the son (Romans 8:29) for his glory and your joy. Further, seek to bless others through the means of grace. If you are already grounded in God and branching out, then rejoice! If not, embrace God's grace for resetting and restarting, being more grounded in him, and branching out more to bless others.   






Here is a helpful, related article cited in the article. Read all of it!


        1Warren Wiersbe, On Being a Servant of God (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1993), 9.

2David Mathis, Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 219.

3Nathaniel Ranew. Solitude improved by divine meditation; or, A treatise proving the duty, and demonstrating the ... requisites of divine meditation (Grand Rapids: Soli Deo Gloria Ministries, 2019), 84.

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