The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and we have a lot of wheels squeaking in our lives! The smartphone chirps at us, social media rants at us, the television blares at us. Life is a dashboard full of meters constantly draining towards empty, and we rush about frantically trying to fill them all.
We’re afraid of losing things, of missing out, of leaving opportunities on the table. Our lives become machine-like, incessantly servicing all the many calls for our attention.
God, meanwhile, doesn’t squeak at us at all. He’s much too dignified to stoop to that level. This shows what great respect He has for us, but also makes it easy to lose sight of Him amidst the din of the world. Still He waits, patiently, for however long it takes. He waits for us to come to Him. Usually when we do, we’re the ones squeaking now. Squeaking in pain!
Well, God has grease for His in-pain, squeaky-wheel-children. He commiserates with us, then soothes us, and finally heals us. Then we, eternally grateful, skip away happily and promptly lose sight of Him once more. We’re caught back up in the world, we’ll come back when we’ve scraped our knees again.
It’s a way to live life, and I suppose it could be worse…but also it could be better. God invites us to make Him a more permanent fixture in our lives, to give Him time each and every day to heal and strengthen us. He offers to be with us every hour.
With this study we’ll consider how to push some of the world’s clutter off of our shelves and make space for God. We’ll examine what tricks the adversary uses to distract us from the things that really matter.
1 Corinthians 2:14, 1 Kings 19:11
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit, because they are spiritually discerned
Many of the truths of the gospel are hidden in plain sight. There is no gate or lock that prevents access to them, but they are around a corner that one has to take intentionally. For that simple reason alone, there are very few that find them.
Consider how each of these qualities hide God’s truths, and therefore make prioritizing Him a matter of conscious effort:
- There are other, louder voices that drown Him out. For Elijah it was earthquakes and fire, for us it is media and society. We never will hear Him unless we make a specific effort to mute those voices, get away to a place of solitude, and finally be able to listen to a still, small voice.
- Spiritual things can only be perceived spiritually. They are not understood by our fleshy senses, and therefore it is very easy to miss them. When we do feel stirrings of the Spirit it is very easy to later dismiss them as imagined. Believing in the witnesses we have received requires consciously exercising our spiritual nature.
- Many of the blessings of the gospel come with a delay. It may be years of treating your body as a temple before you see how much more health you have because of it. Making time for God is therefore an investment, an act of faith, with dividends paid out in His own timing.
All of these make seeing God difficult, and frankly that’s how it is meant to be. God makes Himself known to His children, but He does not force Himself on them. No one falls into discipleship by accident. If we are to have a relationship with God, the onus is on us. He respects us, and wants us to come to Him only when that is what we want to do. He thus preserves our free will and ensures that we are acting deliberately.
Alma 34:33, Matthew 6:34
And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Do not procrastinate the day of your repentance, the night of darkness cometh wherein there can be no labor performed
Take therefore no thought for the morrow. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof
There is a great enemy to our making time for our God: our incredible ability to procrastinate. In fact it takes very little effort to convince us that we need more of God’s presence in our lives, but it is extremely difficult to convince us that we need it right now. Anytime I try to make more time for Him I feel a great hesitation, a preference to do it later.
I think part of the reason is that I know God will always be there for me. Any day, any hour, I can come to Him and He’ll receive me. But on the other hand, I have worldly relationships that might end, opportunities that I might lose, and fun that I might miss out on if I don’t make time for them immediately. So it becomes very easy to say “yes, I need you God…but let me take care of this other stuff first. I’ll get around to you tomorrow.”
But we have no direct, active control over tomorrow, do we? We only have direct, active access to the present. Think of it. In all the world and throughout all of history, the only time that anyone has ever made any kind of change…was in their right now. When I say that I will make time for God tomorrow, all I have really said is “I won’t make time for you now.” And if I won’t make time for Him now, tomorrow-me probably isn’t going to either. The only guarantee that any of us have is if we choose Him today.
Luke 9:23, Proverbs 25:28 (NLT)
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself
The fact that it is hard to prioritize God is not a mistake. That you find it difficult to do is not an indication that you are broken. Perhaps you have told yourself that it’ll be easier to make time for God later. It won’t be. It’s not going to be easier once you have your degree, or the kids are a bit older, or you’ve retired. Coming to God will always be a challenge. It has been designed that way.
Because the obstacle in your way is your own self. Coming to Him will always mean denying what you want right now in favor of what He wants. The self is always with you, and so the challenge forever remains. The sooner we accept that this battle is with the self, and not our circumstances, the sooner we can take a stand against it.
A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls
So yes, it is hard to prioritize God, and for that reason alone, making time for Him builds character. By devoting ourselves to Him, in spite of all the noise in this world, we are learning the essential art of self-mastery.
All of the spiritual blessings that follow acts of faith are then extra blessings on top! Learning how to govern yourself is already worthy enough of a cause. You are bending your will to higher things, and becoming a better version of yourself for that effort. You are becoming godly.
No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.
Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.
No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for the rent is made worse
Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out
Jesus was here describing two everyday phenomena in the ancient Jewish world. Patches of new clothing then, as now, would shrink after getting wet. Therefore, if one patched an old garment with unshrunken cloth, then after the first washing it would shrink and the original hole would be made even worse.
Also, new wine expands during the fermentation process. Bottles were made from animal skins, and old ones were not elastic enough to handle the expansion of the wine and would burst. Bottles made from new skins would be able to flex and stay preserved.
I never understood these passages until I decided to finally make time for God in my life. As I looked at my daily schedule I found that I had filled it to the brim with other things. There wasn’t any room for God. I tried to shove Him in anyway and things started to tear and burst. Important things on my to-do list were being left undone, I wasn’t maintaining a healthy balance, and my life was unsustainable.
Eventually I realized that I had get myself some new bottles. I went to my calendar and took everything out, brought it back to a clean slate. Then I added things back in one-at-a-time, this time starting with God. In the end not everything was able to get back into my schedule, some things had to be let go.
Make no mistake about it, choosing to prioritize God is going to disrupt your life. Not everything that you do now is going to carry through. But I do promise you that the change will be worth it. You will be filled with new wine and clothed in new robes, and they will feel right to you.
Luke 10:38-42, Matthew 4:4
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things
Sometimes it is “good” things that are taking our time away from the sublime. A father might stay late at work to provide, but miss out on being with his family. A wife might tirelessly serve her community, but never have time to connect with God. A youth might strive for a good grade, but be distracted from hearing her higher calling.
We can do these “good” things and by worldly terms have a “good life.” On the exterior we might appear entirely accomplished and complete. But then, we so very often see just these sorts of accomplished, successful people implode. Why? Because “good” is simply not “good enough.”
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God
A life full of “good” things is incomplete, because the world’s “good” leaves the spirit starved. We are inseparably tied to an eternal soul, and that part will settle for nothing less than the sublime.
No career achievement, no worldly fame, no admiration of others is going to be able to fill that hole in us. No amount of worldly bread or social duty is enough to feed the soul. That is the truth that Jesus asserted both when rejecting Satan’s temptation and correcting Martha’s priorities.
Many of us see the tragedies in the world, feel very discontented by them, and idly hoped that “someone would do something.” I certainly have had those moment myself, times where I vaguely wished for God’s help in the world, but at the same time was not actively making Him a part of my life.
Even then, I knew in my heart that God’s help is enacted through the people that strive to walk with Him. Therefore by not making Him a part of my life, I was actively disqualifying myself from being one of the instruments that I knew the world needed.
So maybe I don’t know how to cure all of the world’s problems. Maybe some of them I can’t do anything about. But I do know that there is some impact for good that I can do, and the only way to do it is if I am actively making time for God. This study helped me to explore why this is easier said than done, though, and what strategies we can employ to counter those obstacles.
Making Time for God is Just Hard
The most frustrating thing about not putting God first is that we feel like it should be an easy thing for us to do. We think that giving Him daily devotion and training our thoughts to be pure should simply be a matter of dedicating a few minutes to him and exercising some mindfulness. When we fail to achieve this, we start to think that there’s something wrong with us.
The simple, and hopefully encouraging, truth is that making time for God is not easy, and there is nothing wrong with us when we struggle to do it. We all live in a fallen world, one that is intent on crowding out things of a spiritual nature. The distractions of life are expertly subtle, cloaked so innocently that we don’t give them a second thought, and then they silently leech our time and energy from God.
Any opening in our lives is a vacuum that will be filled. In my own life I’ve noticed how I always seem to be subscribed to just enough YouTube channels to fill up all my available time. If ever I try to cut back, something instantly springs up to take its place. Something little, something innocuous, but something that isn’t God.
1 Corinthians 2:14- But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
We Are In Our Own Way
The problem with that “natural man” is that, well, it is natural. It is inside all of us without exception. There is a craving for the worldly distractions that each one of us is born with. It might manifest with different tastes, but each of those tastes can be easily indulged on this earth. Do you prefer lust? Do you desire recognition? Do you want a thrill? Gossip? Idle entertainment? Meaningless achievements? A never-ending chase for something new? It’s all here, take your fill, the supply will never run out!
In the end our problem doesn’t begin with the pornography or television shows or workaholic mentality. It’s that we don’t know how to just say “No!” to these things. We do not know how to master our selves, to meet our needs in healthy ways, to steer ourselves to something better.
We can’t make time for God because we can’t keep our own promises to ourselves. We can’t escape our sins and vanities because we don’t have the nerve to live without them.
1 Corinthians 3:3- For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
Mosiah 3:19- For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord.
Putting God First Requires an Entirely New Us
And now we get to the bottom of it. This is why putting God first is so hard: because it requires a totally new version of ourselves, one where our spiritual self has defeat the carnal. But how can our spiritual self be powerful enough to defeat the carnal, except for by us having already putting God first in our lives?
It is a conundrum that is beyond us, a paradox that would halt us all, were a Savior not to intervene. We cannot lift ourselves by our own bootstraps…but he can lift us. He can pull us out of the water, because he alone can stand unsinking upon it.
Making time for God and becoming someone new are able to happen in one and the same moment with Christ’s help. Yes, at the start we lack the necessary self-mastery, but he will give us of his own. He asks us to choose one way that we can make God more a part of our lives, and if we sincerely try, then he will make up the difference and we can hold that change. And then another after that and another. The further we go, the less of a void he has to fill within us, the more we have been remade as him.
Making time for God isn’t just the first step along the way towards perfection, it is the entire journey.
2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.