A Simple Formula for Living the Christian Life
Every believer wants to be faithful to God, yet we all know this is no easy task. How can we break down the Christian life in a simple, understandable way? Granted, life is not usually simple. It is normally complex. But I think that as we consider how we can live out our faith day to day, the more simple we can narrow down our focus, the better.
As I lay in bed today sick with the flu, I was encouraged by a brief summary of the life of king Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 31:21. It says in the New International Version:
In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.
In serving God, Hezekiah had four main focuses: God’s people, Bible, prayer, and action.
2 Chronicles says that Hezekiah “undertook…the service of God’s temple”. This is significant. His focus was not mainly on expanding the kingdom for his own fame, but rather restoring the house of God that had been profaned and neglected. He had the desire to see God worshipped properly by the people. As such, he put much of his energy towards the Temple that functioned as the dwelling of God on earth.
As New Testament Christians, we no longer use a Temple for God’s house, but we are the Tempe of God. God dwells on earth through his people. So even though we do not focus on a physical Temple as a meeting place with God anymore, we do emphasize the New Testament equivalent, that being the Church of Jesus Christ. Christians are meant to be in community with each other, worshipping together and building one another up, in the aim of having a healthy Body of Christ active in the world. In similar fashion as Hezekiah, our efforts as believers should fuel the Church of God and give resources to fulfilling the mission that Christ has given his Church.
In his service to God, Hezekiah acted in “obedience to the law and the commands”. I take this to mean that he took God’s Word seriously, and sought to obey it in all that he did. He must have studied the law of Moses a great deal and aimed to submit to God’s rule and decrees. In doing so, he was not pursuing the things that he wanted, but the things that God wanted.
Likewise, we Christians would be wise to build our lives on the foundation of God’s Word. It is there we find the will of God for our lives. This is significant because often we ask the wrong questions. We ask, “What should I do with my life?” instead of “What does God want me to do with my life?” Or, we ask, “What should be my top priorities?” instead of “What are God’s top priorities for me?” I could list dozens of questions as examples, but you get the picture. The point is that we are prone to live life ruled by our own whims, not often enough considering what God has to say. Let us be like Hezekiah and become people who are formed and shaped by the Word.
With the foundation of God’s Word, Hezekiah then “sought his God”, which I take to be a reference to prayer. Hezekiah knew that knowing God’s laws were not enough, but he needed to have a personal relationship with Him. Notice that it doesn’t say that Hezekiah “sought God” but rather that he “sought his God”. I see here a personal dynamic. The king paired together the law of God with communing with God, two things that are virtually inseparable.
We believers would be wise to follow this example. Prayer and Bible reading go hand-in-hand. Doing both together keeps us from two tragic, yet opposite, errors. The first error is prayer without Biblical guidance. If we pray a lot but don’t read the Bible much, we will naturally be pulled toward praying in ways that are dictated by our flesh. We simply cannot be people who think like God does without being people of the Word. Therefore, we must aim to have our prayer lives shaped by the reading of Scripture.
The second error is just the opposite: reading the Bible without accompanying prayer. This inevitably leads to a relationship with God that is mainly academic. Or, to put it another way, it leads to Christians who can spout facts about God or quote Bible verses but who have no real relationship with God as if He were a living being. This too is unhealthy. The Bible is not meant to be studied per se, but studied so that we may know God. Its aim is to deepen our relationship with him. Thus, as believers we must always pair the Bible and prayer together.
Hezekiah’s lifestyle of Bible reading and prayer lead to a natural overflow of action. The passage quoted says that he “worked wholeheartedly”. I take this to be the by-product of one who spends time in the Word and in prayer. Understanding God’s will comes from reading the Word, and aligning our heart with God’s heart comes through prayer. What inevitably happens afterwards is a life of action, aiming to live out God’s will and serve him faithfully. If Bible reading and prayer does not fuel a life of action, that is a sign there is something dramatically wrong.
In this way, Hezekiah serves as an example to all who follow God. Within the context of a faith community, Bible reading and prayer come first, followed by a life of service to God. We might think of it like a bicycle. The Bible and prayer are two pedals that work together in unison, and when they are flowing rightly the natural outcome is forward motion. We are moved and compelled to do something. We are not to be those who have a relationship with God that does not affect our everyday lives. Rather, our relationship with God forms and drives our everyday lives in profound and meaningful ways.
Back to the Basics
I see in Hezekiah’s life a simple formula for following God: Bible reading, prayer, and action, within the context of a community of faith. When these four things come together, good things happen. In Hezekiah’s case, the Bible says “so he prospered”. God blesses those who do the basics. The prosperity we experience may not be material, but it definitely is a prosperity of the soul. That is, a flourishing relationship with God and life of service that will be richly rewarded on the Last Day.
My friends, don’t be caught up in the latest Christian trends or anything that aims to be new or cutting edge. Christianity is founded on some basic things that are unchanging. Fellowship with believers, Bible reading, prayer, and action are the things that have built and maintained followers of God since the beginning of time. We need not stray from these for something that seems catchy or clever. Let’s be people like Hezekiah who do the basics and thereby enjoy a life of fruitful service to God and sweet enjoyment of his presence.
- How can I be a part of a local church in a more meaningful way?
- What one or two changes should I make to ensure I do regular Bible reading?
- Is my prayer life dictated by my own random thoughts, or by God’s Word?
- What areas of my life is my faith failing to influence? How can I change that?