Anybody else looking for a little favor in this life along with a little protection? If I were to get real personal and share some of my prayers for my life and for my family with you, you would soon see a theme developing. I am constantly asking for God's favor in our lives as well as His protection. So you can imagine, when I stumbled upon Psalm 5 one day last week, I was struck by verse 12 which reads, "For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield." [NIV] My immediate response was "Yes! That is most definitely what I want, God's favor as my shield, I want to be righteous and to have His favor."
But, then the questions started, Who is righteous? How do you become righteous? Am I righteous? I've been a believer since I was young and as a result there a few lessons I've picked up over the years. One of those is that as believers in Jesus Christ, we are righteous not because of anything we do or do not do but because we have received a righteousness from God. In Romans, Paul says, " . . .no one will be declared righteous by observing the law . . . But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known . . .This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." [Romans 3:20-22 NIV]
At this point, I had to ask myself how do I live knowing that I am righteous because of Jesus but also living and acting righteously? What does that look like? So here are five ways, I came up with to live out and act according to the righteousness God has given me and you.
1. I must hide God's word in my heart.
In other words, I must be reading the Scriptures on a frequent basis. I also need to memorize Scripture so that I can recall certain verses for different situations in my life.
I know that this makes many of you feel frustrated. Life is demanding and finding the time to sit still and read and pray for 20 minutes or any amount of time can be extremely daunting. The struggle is real and it is one that I struggle with also. Because, here's the deal, if I were to get up at 5am to spend time alone reading my Bible and in prayer, I would have at least one, if not two or more little people joining me just as I got started. I understand and I get and have likely experienced every scenario that will play itself out at your house. So, my time is nap time. I generally take about an hour while my children are napping to spend time reading my Bible, working on my Bible study, praying, journaling, etc. Trust me, there are 417 other things that are screaming for my attention at the same time - like laundry, laundry is always screaming, does your laundry scream like mine does, it is really annoying, but I digress . . . And as far as what to read during that time, oh there are so many options!! Here are two that I recommend if you are looking for help to get started:
I cannot leave this topic without encouraging you to journal when you read the Bible. My poor Bible study girls hear this almost weekly. Journalling does not need to be long and it does not have to be a sappy, detailed account of your life or your day. Simply journal what you read that stuck out to you, take some time to think about how to apply what you read to your current circumstances, and think about how what you read could be applied to your entire life. Here is what I absolutely love about journalling. The more I do it, the more I can look back and see how God has been faithful in my life. When I am facing difficult things, I can look back and see how God was faithful in the past and how He carried me through other difficult circumstances. It helps me to not despair when life gets hard or does not go my way because I am easily able to see God's faithfulness.
2. I must act according to Scripture.
I know this seems like a "well, duh!" observation but I am so guilty of reading something in the Bible and then promptly forgetting it, or maybe I forget it when it is convenient to forget, or maybe sometimes I read the Bible as a book that offers some good advice on how I should live instead of truly taking it seriously as the inspired word of God. This is where journalling really comes in handy again, it is harder for me to just gloss over or conveniently forget something I've read if I've written it down. So, I have to read Scripture then I have to actually do what it says.
3. I must not ignore the "still small voice."
This is part of "hiding God's word in my heart." As believers, we have been given the Holy Spirit to guide us and counsel us. Oftentimes, believers describe the work of the Spirit in their lives as their conscience or that little voice telling you this is the way walk in it. Too many times, I've ignored that little voice only to see later that certain outcomes might have been different had I heeded that voice. Now, if you hear lots of voices or are not sure if the "feeling" you have is correct, go with what is rooted solidly in Scripture and then do number 4.
4. I must seek Godly counsel.
There are times when it is easy to understand what acting righteously means. Things like stealing, killing, or lying are pretty easy to rule out as how we should not act. There isn't really a need to go check with someone about certain decisions. However, some decisions are not that easy to make. This is where you need to surround yourself with other believers as friends and also as mentors. Seeking Godly counsel gives you the benefit of hearing from another person who can sometimes see a circumstance with a little more clarity or understanding of God's word than you might be able to see it at the time.
5. I must have confidence.
Philippians 1:6 says, "being confident of this that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." No matter how long I have been a believer, God is always working in me to change me and to mold me into who he created me to be. As we go about our lives and our days, we can have confidence knowing that God continues to mold us, He gives us a foundation and builds upon it. You can have confidence as you grow in your relationship that you have some understanding of what it means to live righteously and to act righteously and this will help guide your steps. You can also have the confidence, that you will never run out of things to learn and that when you make a mistake, when I make a mistake, He is still there carrying on the good work that HE began in us.
So back to where this all began, there is not much I want more in this life than God's favor and his protection. And Psalm 5:12 tells me that he offers this to me that I can rest knowing God gives his favor as a shield in my life. I am thankful for the gift of Jesus and his righteousness so that it is not dependent upon me to earn his favor and his protection.