One of the joys of ministry for me is working with DCE student fieldworkers as a practicum mentor. I love investing in God’s Kingdom by investing in future church workers. When I think about things I learned as a DCE student at Concordia Nebraska, and things I want current church work students to also learn, one of the first things I think about is walking with God. I remember one of my most beloved professors teaching us that the best thing a church worker can do to guard against burn-out is to spend personal devotional time alone with God every day: hearing from God by reading the Word, and speaking to God through prayer. While daily time in the Word that is not merely preparing for teaching, but just set aside to be alone with God, is not a guarantee against burnout, it is essential for our lives as Christians, and we most certainly must continue growing and hearing from God by reading His Word daily if we want to serve our congregations well and faithfully.
Adam and Eve walked with God. “And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:8-10, ESV) When I read these verses, I imagine that Adam and Eve may have been created to converse with and walk with God. I imagine a daily evening walk together in the cool of the day: a ritual, a pattern, something to look forward to all day long. (I personally look forward to that moment after 8 p.m., after my husband and I are home from work, the kids are sound asleep, safe in bed, and we can watch TV together and have a square of dark chocolate.) I imagine God physically entering the Garden of Eden, and this not being a surprise or a shock to Adam or Eve. They walked together every day. And it sounds like they talked the way you and I talk to our parents or friends. Jesus speaks to me through His Word, but I cannot imagine conversing with God verbally. Adam heard God’s voice, knew it and responded. In this case, Adam confessed his sin (well, part or some of his sin.)
In Genesis 5:21, we read the Enoch walked with God. Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not (found), for God took him.” (Genesis 5:21-24) Verse 24 in the NIV says “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” We don’t know exactly what it means that Enoch walked with God, but we know from Hebrews 11:5 that “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.” It’s almost as if God and Enoch were close, personal friends.
Genesis 6:8-9: “(But) Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.” Apparently, walking with God is associated with favor. And we have unmerited favor from and of God: His righteousness bestowed on us! So let us then walk with God.
Recently, I was struggling with understanding some choices of a former youth I worked with, now an adult. As I sat in my office and prayed, I felt the struggle of not understanding. As I spoke in Christian conversation with my peers and colleagues in the church office, I appreciated their listening ears and caring words. However, I still did not have peace, but felt anxious. But then, I walked around the church building and walked and talked with God, praying out loud, for about twenty minutes. Thankfully, God gave me some peace. I did not hear God’s voice audibly telling me any answers of how best to converse with this young adult. The Holy Spirit, in this instance, did not even call any specific passages of Scripture to mind. But the ability to walk around and speak out loud to the Lord, pouring out my troubles, speaking out loud my confusion, was so helpful to me; God, of course, was present, was there, and gave me peace through prayer.
For me, personally, journaling is not something I enjoy in other areas of life, but journaling is helpful in my faith life. I need to spend time alone with God every day. All I need is a Bible, but I find nature, a journal, a pen and honestly, a cup of coffee, helpful. At various points in my life, setting aside daily time alone with God has been easy; at others times, honestly, a struggle. But I desire to know and hear my Shepherd’s voice, to be so deeply submerged in the Word of the Lord that I recognize my Shepherd’s voice. And I know that while I don’t daily receive answers to immediate questions in my reading, I do know that in this time set apart, God prepares me to handle the challenges of life by relying on Him, in relationship with Him.
So may we all, new workers, youth ministry veterans, all of us, find time every day to carve out and set aside time just to hear from God and walk with God. Daily reading of God’s Word and prayer are essential for the life of any Christian, and especially for those of us who are honored to serve God’s people as leaders in His church!