By Dr. Jim Wolfe, Senior Pastor
There are two sides to every man’s spiritual life: the public and the private. Jesus prayed publicly and taught his disciples how to pray. He ministered to others in public -- healing, forgiving, teaching, etc. – and He taught his disciples to do the same. He worshipped publicly, entering the synagogue on the Sabbath as was His custom, even participating in reading Scripture and speaking – and He taught his disciples to worship publicly as well.
When it comes to public prayers and prayer meetings, there are many examples set by Christ and His followers. The early church met at Mary’s home to pray for Peter’s release and was shocked when he knocked on her door (Acts 12)! And we are admonished in Scripture to pray for one another and lift one another’s burdens. The ministry of intercessory prayer is still needed today as in the days of the early church. Jesus said that God’s house should be His house of prayer!
I have said all that, so we will note that a man’s public life is extremely important. But, so is the other side of the coin. A man’s private life is equally, if not more so, important. A man’s public life – worship, ceremonies, profession, religious works, prayer, ministries, etc. all of it – should grow out of his private life. Otherwise, his public spirituality is but a façade!
As one author noted, his public life is like a blossom stuck on to a plant, not growing on it! To be effective in our ministry of the gospel of Christ, we must be real! And therefore, our private life must be jealously guarded and developed with all diligence and care.
Jesus’ public life was undergirded by His private life, and He taught his disciples to do the same. Mark 1:35, “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” Matthew 6:5-6, “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” And Jesus teaches the same principle concerning giving in verse 1-4.
The point is that when we are real with God in our private life, He will bless our labors in public as we minister in sincerity. It is easy to be real in public when we have been real in private!
How does one guard and develop the private time with God?
(1) Self-examination -- This needs to be a constant practice! Humbly search our own hearts for offensive attitudes and motives, as well as our actions toward God and our fellowman. Asaph writes in Psalm 77:6, “I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.”
In those quiet moments of searching to be real, ask the Lord to help you search. Psalm 139:22-23, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” That is getting real with God!
What do I do when I find wickedness, or offensive attitudes and motives? David writes in Psalms 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and restore a right spirit within me.” God can and will forgive and restore when we get real with Him.
(2) Reflection – This, too, should be done continually. We need to never forget from where we came or where we are going. We should reflect upon God’s goodness, not only in saving us, but His grace in allowing us to be a part of His glorious work. We should not only reflect upon God’s goodness, but also on our unworthiness.
Why would God save me at age 25, when I had rejected and maligned Him for many years? Why allow me to be a minister of the gospel, or even pastor this church? I am telling you, I am not worthy of such grace!
But God’s goodness and grace has extended so much to me and to you! Paul, the persecutor of the Church, expressed it best when he said in 1 Corinthians15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.”
(3) Meditation – Yes, we should have a structured protected time to meditate on holy things. The ungodliness of this world bombards us daily, robbing our minds of pure thoughts and godliness. We are to meditate on God’s character, His Word, His works, even on the way of our life as He is leading.
Psalm 77:12, “I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.”
Psalm 119:15, “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.”
Psalm 119:148, “Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.”
Meditation is the method of renewing our minds from this world’s ungodliness to a public life that is holy and acceptable to God!
(4) Prayer – And of course our secret time must be spent in communion with God. Not only speaking; but listening. Our prayers should be earnest, sincere, and believing. Always seeking to know God’s will. Prayer makes us less worldly, calms our spirit, and strengthens our resolve. Knowing that you are in the center of God’s will, gives us such boldness to speak God’s truth that even the threat of death cannot stop us.
Pray that God will open doors of opportunity and boldness to speak the truth!
There are two sides to every man’s spiritual life: the public and the private. A man’s public life – worship, ceremonies, profession, religious works, prayer, ministries, etc. all of it – should grow out of his private life. Otherwise, his public spirituality is but a façade!
May we be real with God and with our fellowman!