Stimulus

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. 

Acts 2:42-44

Everyone knows that the economic stimulus package that is being sent out to people, while temporarily helpful, is just a band-aid. Strangely enough, stimulus checks like this are most helpful in stimulating the economy when they are given to people who aren’t struggling financially. Only those who have an economic engine–like a good job or investment strategy–and are responsible with their money can take that check and pour it back into the economy. Those really struggling need it just to survive and pay debts. The check stops with them.

This same principle applies to our life with God. Moments where we might have a spiritual encounter, like at a retreat or conference, are helpful but can’t be expected to sustain a person. Strangely enough, these moments are most helpful to the Kingdom when they impact those with a spiritual engine already established in their life. For those really struggling, the moment often stops with them. But for those with an established spiritual engine, the moment turns the person into a conduit of the Spirit, impacting all the people around them.

A spiritual engine is a pattern of spiritual disciplines that daily connect a person to the Lord. This is what truly sustains growth in the Christian life.

For the early church, they had this kind of spiritual engine. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. For us this would be regular time in God’s word, studying and meditating on scripture. The early church devoted themselves to fellowship and the breaking of bread. For us this would be regular times of gathering with other believers to be encouraged and challenged in our walk with the Lord. And the early church devoted themselves to prayer. For us this would be daily time talking to Jesus, laying out our requests, and listening to the Spirit for comfort, guidance, and direction.

When we have these disciplines in our life, they become a spiritual engine that helps to keep us on fire for the Lord. And the fruit from this kind of intimacy with the Lord is undeniable. For the early church, the apostles regularly engaged in signs and wonders, miracles, healings, and deliverances, etc. The miracles were signs pointing people to the reality of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God among them. And all the believers shared their possessions with each other. They took care of each other and the outsider. They were a close-knit community.

When moments of spiritual encounter come, they fuel the fire of those who are already operating with a spiritual engine in their life. Without this, these incredible moments become a flash in the pan. Too many followers of Jesus think that spending one-on-one time with the Lord is optional. It’s not. Daily time in the word, in prayer, and regular time connecting to other believers is essential for growth.

Vampire Christians

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone…

Matthew 14:22-23

Jesus Himself believed it was essential to get alone to spend time with the Father. Jesus intentionally dismissed the crowd and sent His disciples ahead of him to the other side of the lake. He then went alone up the side of a 3000 foot elevation around the Sea of Galilee and spent time praying.

Jesus wasn’t praying because He was checking some religious box. Jesus was perfect. Jesus never sinned. He wasn’t praying to show people how spiritual He was. He just wanted to be with His Father. He longed for the intimacy and nearness that only time alone with the Father can bring.

Jesus said that He only does “what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does“(John 5:19). He accomplished this by staying in constant communion with the Father through prayer. While Jesus “prayed continuously” as He walked through life, He also sought alone time with God where no one else was around. He got alone in order to listen to the Father as much as to talk to the Father.

With packed schedules, hurried and harried lives, many Christians are not spending alone time with God. I believe this has resulted in so much of the dysfunction in the lives of Christians and the Church. How can we expect to be shaped into the image of Christ if we are not spending daily alone time with Him? How can we expect to love the unlovable if we are not daily receiving love from the Father? How can we expect to forgive those who’ve hurt us if we are not daily reminded of the forgiveness we’ve received from Jesus?

I believe that many Christians look for programs in the local church to fill in for their lack of one-on-one time with the Lord. They want once-a-week worship services to build in them intimacy with God without ever spending alone time with Him. They want once-a-week bible studies to help them grow spiritually without having to dig into the word of God on their own. They want people praying for them but never spend time praying alone themselves. Then they wonder why they can’t seem to find a “good church” or a church that “fits them.”

The local church will never be able to give us what only time alone with the Lord gives us. It was never meant to. We have it backwards. Christians were meant to fuel up in their alone time with the Lord–worshiping, studying scripture, and praying–so that they could enter Christian community with something to give to others when they are there. Church was never meant to be a consumeristic place that meets all of our spiritual needs. American churches have too many vampire Christians who suck the life out of the community because they never receive from God the other six days a week in alone time with Him.

Spending daily time with the Lord is not a sign of super-spirituality. It’s one of the very basic, foundational things every Christian should be doing. It is an admission of our weakness, our daily need for God. It’s a posture of humility, knowing we can’t live the life we are called to live without spending regular time with the Father.

The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit can’t wait to spend time with you every single day. They love time alone with you. It’s one of their favorite things in the world. They treasure it. They can’t wait to be with you…if only you’d set aside a little time for them.

Are you spending alone time with the Lord? Or have you become a vampire Christian?