A Life of Loving Devotion
By Teresa Nuckols
Once there was a father whose little girl was extremely devoted to him. Every day, as he was walking home from work, the little girl would watch for him to turn down their block, and then she would run to meet her father and walk the rest of the way home with him. Hand-in-hand they’d stroll; chatting happily all the way to the front door. The father cherished these times and actually looked forward to this little ritual with much anticipation every day. The girl enjoyed being with her daddy. No one else seemed to listen like her father would, and he always made her feel so important. As the girl grew, their little chats became longer and on deeper subjects. The father knew how important it was to have these times to communicate and get to know each other day by day. Then one day, as the girl saw her father appear around the street corner the thought struck her how much she appreciated and loved her father. As she ran to meet him, her head started spinning with ideas of how she could show her father just how much she loved him.
“Father, I am going to make you a present!” She declared, as they joined hands and slowly headed toward their home, talking and laughing as they went. The next day the young girl set right to work making her present and so preoccupied was she with her thoughts of how happy her father was going to be with the gift that she forgot to go and meet him. So, for the first time in years, her father walked sadly to the front door alone. All that week the daughter devotedly worked on her present for her father. And all that week the father missed his girl and the way she would chat about any and every thing. He missed holding her little hand in his and the way she would confide in him, but most of all he missed her just being with him.
“Maybe these times that we spend together are not so important to her…or maybe she just no longer wants to be with me,” the father pondered on his lonely walks from the corner to his door that week. He was deeply hurt, but he would never command her to continue their little tradition if she didn’t want to on her own accord.
By the end of what had seemed like a very long week to the father, the present was completed. When the important day came for the gift to be presented to her father, the young girl could hardly wait until the time came for her to go and watch by the front gate for her father to come around the corner. She was so excited as she thought of how surprised and pleased her dad was going to be.
“He surely will be proud of me and my talents,” she mused as the minutes seemed to tick by ever so slowly…until there he was coming around the corner! She nearly shrieked with joy as she took off running to meet her father! At the sight of his daughter, the father’s step quickened and he soon was holding her close in a tight hug. In her excitement, the girl failed to notice the tears in her father’s eyes.
“Father, this is for you!” she said as she brought the gift out from behind her back.
“Well, what’s this?” the father said as he took the present from his little girl and began to open it.
“I made it all myself,” the girl proudly said as her father exclaimed over the labor of love that his daughter had just presented to him. The father put his arm around the girl’s shoulders as they started to walk toward home. There was so much for them to talk about to make up for the last few days that they had missed together. The girl told her father all about making the gift and how much she was looking forward to the surprise and how she had wanted to do something to show her love for him. When they had reached the front gate, the father turned towards his daughter and thanked her once again for the thoughtful gift.
“This gift you made me, I will always treasure, but more than that I am so glad to have my little companion back. Spending time with you is more important to me than anything you make or can do. The best gift you give to me is every time you meet me at the corner to walk and talk all the way to our door. I treasure you, my daughter!”
Knowing the Lord: The Source of Eternal Life
I heard a pastor friend share the above story and I think that that is how the Lord feels about our relationship with Him. He treasures His children, yet it is so easy for us to think that we need to earn God’s love and do something for Him, when what the Lord values the most is our relationship with Him. God did not save us because He needs us, but because He wants fellowship with us. We are the ones who need Him!
“…[Jesus] said, ‘Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee: as Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him. And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.’”1
Knowing the Lord and cultivating a relationship with Him should be the center of our life and existence as young women who desire to love the Lord. We cannot get to know the Lord, if we don’t spend time with Him every day. In any relationship, we know how important it is to communicate. We rarely consider our very best friend someone who we rarely spend time with or talk to.
Don’t get me wrong, our obedience and work are important to the Lord as it is evidence of our faith in Him. In the very passage I had just read, Jesus goes on to say to the Father, “I have glorified Thee on the earth: I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do.”2
The Father has given us all different work to do and it would be sin to refuse to do that work and instead just sit around and pray. We would be considered lazy and useless servants.
“…Faith without works is dead.”3
If a father says he loves his family, but then doesn’t provide for them, we’d really question if that man truly loves his family. What we need to take to heart is where our source of strength and energy to work and please the Lord comes from. We need to see Who is to be the center of our life.
“We’re here to be worshipers first and workers only second…The work done by a worshiper will have eternity in it.”4 When we abide in Christ and let Him work through us, the fruit that is produced in our lives will have an eternal quality, because it is His work.
“…Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever…”5
Source of Fruit: Abiding in Christ
Jesus said: “I am the Vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing.”6
Consider a grape vine. The main vine that all of the branches grow out of is thick and solid. You can even swing on a grape vine! J Its roots are secure, and through the vine flows the life giving nutrients for the branches to bear fruit. If you take a look at the branches that stem from the vine, you will find pencil thin sticks—nothing much to them. Yet these branches can be heavy laden with ripe, juicy grapes. The branches are just the channels. It would be silly to look at a grape vine and give all the credit to the flimsy little branches for the beautiful clusters of grapes that are produced. It is the vine that is important. The vine is the source and gives the branches strength to bear the fruit. Take a branch off of the vine and it cannot bear fruit by itself. It will just wither and die!
So it is with us. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. Any good that we try to do in our own strength and effort, apart from the Lord Jesus, will just shrivel and be of no value. If we want to have a fruitful life in Christ, we need to abide in Him. Abiding in the Lord means to dwell, rest, or remain in Him. It is to take up residency in Him. It is not a position that we need to strive to attain. As a child of God’s, we are in Christ. Abiding in Him is a position that we can claim daily by faith. Not only do we abide in Christ for our life and strength, He abides in us. He exchanges our life for His. Our life He has crucified so that He may live His life through us.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”7
Sitting at the Feet of Jesus
As God’s children, it is important to take time on a daily basis to spend with the Lord. We need to communicate with Him by reading His Word and listening to what He tells us through it, and by telling Him our joys and troubles. The time that we set aside to spend with the Lord is often called the “Quiet Time” or “Devotions.” The dictionary gives some good descriptions of what devotion is:
~The state of being dedicated, consecrated, or solemnly set apart for a particular purpose.
~A solemn attention to the Supreme Being (God) in worship; a yielding of the heart and affections to God, with reverence, faith and piety, in religious duties, particularly in prayer and meditation
~Attachment manifested by constant attention.
During their courtship, my brother-in-law, Josh, showed his devotion to my sister, Melissa, in many different ways. Our house is about an hour north of where his family lives. He often would drive up just to spend time with Melissa, or to pick her up and bring her to some event down in the Twin Cities, and then would bring her back home and drive an hour back to his house. They would spend hours talking on the phone. He would send Melissa flowers and take her out to eat. Anyone could see that Josh was very devoted and dedicated to Melissa. He was set apart from forming close relationships with other people to give his sole attention to Melissa.
This is what the Lord wants from us, our loving devotion; to be set apart for Him and to be eager to give our undivided attention to Him. We see a wonderful example of this in the life of Mary, Martha’s sister:
“Now it came to pass, as they went, that He entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house.
And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard His word.
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to Him, and said, ‘Lord, dost Thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.
And Jesus answered and said unto her, ‘Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one this is needful: and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’”8
In this passage we see that Mary was devoted to Christ. She set aside whatever needed to be done to sit at His feet and listen to what He had to say. She valued being with Jesus more than working for Him. She had her priorities in order. Jesus affirmed that she had chosen what was better, and promised that it would not be taken away from her. Now about Martha, I think that her serving wasn’t the problem, I think that she had allowed herself to get distracted from the person who she was laboring for. When we allow our hearts to get distracted from the Lord, it is so easy to get anxious and worried. Let us follow Mary’s example by setting our priorities right each day.
What are priorities? Prior is something that comes before, so having priorities are putting things that need to be done in the right order, from the most important to the least important. What should come first in our life? Our relationship with the Lord! Each day we should do the first things first: spend time with Jesus! So, let us approach God’s throne daily.
Approaching the Throne
“Seeing then that we have a Great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
For we have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”9
It is an amazing fact that we are invited to approach God’s throne with confidence. We can come before Him clothed in His righteousness, and resting in His finished work, not in our perfection. There is no condemnation for us to dread. He is for us! When we look at our selves we can so easily be overwhelmed by our shortcomings and sins. Yet, with Jesus there is plentiful redemption and forgiveness. I sometimes think that before I approach the Lord’s presence I need to make myself “presentable,” yet that is something that He wants to do for us. We can come to Him just as we are, without any merits of our own, and He will change us and make us like Himself. Our sanctification or our being made holy is a continual process. We will not be that “finished product” until we behold our Savior’s face in glory.
“For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified (being made holy.)”10
Come with humility~ to be walking with humility is so vital in our relationship with the Lord. The proud cannot find favor in His presence. “…Be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.”11
Something that the president of the Bible School I attended, would often tell us students was that our Heavenly Father is easy to please. The Lord doesn’t demand and require much from us. “He hath shown thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”12
A Troubled Heart
“Let not your hearts be troubled…I go to prepare a place for you…that where I am, there ye may also be.”13
If I haven’t been as faithful as I should in having daily quiet times with the Lord, I find it hard to come confidently into the Lord’s presence, yet He just waits with open arms of love, not condemnation. How easily I can get discouraged by my own shortcomings and unfaithfulness to the Lord. Though it is important to confess and turn from our sins, it is dangerous to take on a penitent mindset that focuses solely on our unworthiness and failures. The Lord knows our weaknesses, as well as our desire to please Him. He wants to be with us even more than we want to be with Him! My Pastor has remarked that the amazing thing is not how much we love God, but how much He loves us!
As a result of Christ’s death, we can have a right relationship of peace with God. Coming to Him for salvation, we enter into a new covenant with God that is based on His faithfulness towards us. The incredible thing is that He begins to work that same faithfulness into our hearts as well!
“A new heart also I will give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them.”14
Let’s not shrink back in fear if we missed spending time with the Lord. Instead we can start afresh today by receiving Christ’s mercy anew. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him.”15
The Daily Walk
Spending time with the Lord on a daily basis is so important, yet we need to be careful not to make it just another activity that we cross off of our “to do” list every day. Our daily walk with Jesus is a real relationship, not a dutiful routine. It requires discipline, but also spontaneity. Having had a routine of a quiet time since I was quite young, I had to realize the danger of letting it become just another mindless habit. I had discovered that I was striving so hard to be perfect and to do the right things to please the Lord and gain His acceptance. It was so good to be able to share with my parents about my troubles. I will always remember what my dad said about how the Lord is like a loving Father, not a stern judge waiting for us to mess up. Then my dad told me of how he had heard someone else say that they like to picture God as their daddy and that they can climb up into His lap. I began to reason that if my earthly father can show so much compassion for his imperfect daughter, how much more will my Heavenly Father who formed me and knows all about me!
“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. For he knoweth our frame: He remembereth that we are dust.”16
After that, I wanted to spend as much time as I could with my Heavenly Daddy. During that particular summer I would sometimes spend hours out in our garden just talking to the Lord about anything and everything. I had such a hunger to feed and meditate on His Word. It was amazing how the Holy Spirit would bring to mind just the right Bible verses that I would need at just the right time. I found that I had unconsciously been storing God’s word in my heart all those years that I had been just reading God’s Word daily. It wasn’t like I could recite whole passages perfectly, but a good portion of the words and at least the gist of it I knew. I didn’t want that season of communing with the Lord to end, but that fall I started to attend Bible School. It seemed as if I had to come down from the mountain top and back to “real life” of homework and classes. I learned that busyness can easily take over my time with the Lord, if I don’t plan to set aside time for being with Him, but I also began to be disappointed that I couldn’t always feel the Lord’s presence like I had. I began to wonder what had happened or what I had done wrong and try as I might I couldn’t bring back that same “feeling” by my own effort. My mom helped me to see that our walk with the Lord is a daily journey and that we need to have faith because He is always there. He wants us to be faithful to walk with Him throughout the ups and downs of life, whether we can sense His presence or not. Lately I have been learning the importance of praising the Lord, especially when things aren’t going as I want them to be.
It is important to persevere in our daily walk with the Lord; to walk with Him throughout the day. “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O most High: to show forth Thy lovingkindness in the morning, and Thy faithfulness every night.”17
In the Morning~ Our whole day can be focused on the Lord and our walk with Him from start to finish. I am so glad that my parents set the example and encouraged me to spend time with the Lord and reading His word the first thing in the morning. A good friend of my family’s, who is a chaplain at a nursing home, would talk about how he felt the Lord leading him to pray every night that the Lord would wake him up the next morning hungry for God’s Word. Chaplain Bill made the commitment that he would never read the Newspaper before he had read the Bible. So, each morning Chaplain Bill will have “Coffee with Jesus” and then throughout his day he will walk and talk with Jesus as he walks up and down the halls of the nursing home. It is good to make a commitment to have time each morning to spend with the Lord, so don’t let the devil discourage you with lies that to have a routine or spiritual discipline is just legalism.
On a practical side, I’ve learned that I need to be careful not to let myself get too lazy in the morning, as it is easy to get too comfortable just sitting and praying when there are things that need to get done. J
During the Day~ Sometimes the best times I’ve had with the Lord have been when I’ve paused in the middle of the day to go talk with Him. I often like to go outside in our fields or find some quiet spot somewhere to talk with the Lord.
We can commune with Jesus throughout the day, wherever we are, and in whatever we are doing. We can talk to Jesus as to a friend who is always with us. Prayer is a means of communicating with our Father in Heaven. “Have no other motive in prayer than to know your Father in heaven.”18
At Night~ I just love going outside and seeing the beautiful sunsets in the evening. It is such a good time to reflect back on the course of the day and the Lord’s faithfulness toward us. Just as we can declare His steadfast love when we wake up in the morning, we can declare “His faithfulness by night.”
It is good to take time before going to sleep to ask the Lord to search our hearts. It is also good to meditate on Scripture before bed.
We are welcomed to approach the throne of grace at any time throughout our day!
The Results of Walking with Jesus
What will the results be when we cultivate a relationship with the Lord and spend time with Him every day?
~We will become like Him! “Beholding is becoming.”19 A friend of mine once pointed out that the moon has no light of its own, only what it reflects from the sun. When we behold the Lord we will become like Him.
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”20
~We will also find great satisfaction, fulfillment, and joy from the Lord’s presence.
“…in Thy presence is fullness of joy…”21
~Abiding in Christ will produce lasting fruit in our lives. Fruit is to be eaten and enjoyed by others. You don’t see the branches on a grape vine consuming its own fruit!J Cultivating our relationship with the Lord is not to be a selfish desire, but a desire to love the Lord-that we want to be with Him; and also a desire to love other people-to be able reflect Christ’s light into their lives.
“What other people need to see in us is a reflection of what God is like.”22
We all long to reflect Christ’s light in our life, but sometimes we are the last ones to realize that Christ is shining through us. Yet, this helps us to not become too self-conscious. It is encouraging when others say that they see Jesus in us. The world will see it too, though we need to be ready to tell them what it is that they see. When I was living with my Grandpa while I was going to Bible School last year, many times he would say to me, “there is something different about you than other people…” He had known me all my life, but now was observing me on a daily basis. I had the opportunity of telling him that it is Jesus in my life that makes the difference and any good that Grandpa could see in me was because of Jesus.
Take Time to Be Holy
Dear sisters, let’s take time to be holy- to spend time with the Holy One who can transform us to become holy like Himself. The Lord knows our hearts and our desire to know Him and to please Him. May we not grow weary in our daily tasks or grow discouraged by our shortcomings. Let us acknowledge Christ’s supreme reign in our lives and ask Him to prune away anything in our lives that displeases Him. Remember, we are so valuable in His sight. He is not against us; He is for us! We can claim by faith the wonderful reality that we are abiding in Jesus, the Vine and the Source of our life and existence. He is truly all we need!
We need to let our hearts rest in Christ and His sufficiency, because apart from Him we can do nothing.
Take time to be holy,
Speak oft with the Lord;
Abide in Him always,
And feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children;
Help those who are weak;
Forgetting in nothing
His blessing to seek.
Take time to be holy,
The world rushes on;
Much time spend in secret
With Jesus alone;
By looking at Jesus,
Like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct
His likeness shall see.
Take time to be holy,
Let Him be thy Guide,
And run not before Him,
In joy or in sorrow
Still follow the Lord,
And, looking to Jesus,
Still trust in His Word.
Take time to be holy,
Be calm in thy soul;
Each thought and each motive
Beneath His control;
Thus led by His Spirit
To fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted
For service above.23
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