To those who desire to distance themselves from a life of bondage to habitual sin, who cannot seem to muster up enough faith to make it through the day (let alone move a mountain), and/or have lost or never had an abiding love for God’s word nor the discipline of reading it much and often, I offer the following discipline which, by the grace and power of God, helped to save my life (and can do the same for you, too).
My counselor at Pure Life gave me an exercise to do which I thought very little of at first. He told me to read a portion of Psalm 119 every night for the entire time I was there (7 months). Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. It is broken down into 22 stanzas, each one a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. My task was to read 3 stanzas a night and 4 on the 7th night. This would mean I’d read through the entire Psalm in a week.
But I was to do more than just read. I was to take note of the verses that didn’t describe me at present and pray that the Lord would make that true of me. Let me give you an example…
Verse one reads (yes, at that time it didn’t take long to find something that didn’t describe me!),
Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!
My way was anything but blameless and I knew I did not walk in the law of the Lord. I continually gave over to my flesh, feasting on whatever my eyes desired, and as a result my life was anything but “blessed.” I was heading towards divorce, estranged from my 5 children, jobless and homeless. Not blessed!
So, when I read this first verse and recognized this was not me, I prayed,
Lord, my way is anything but blameless and I have walked my own path for far too long. Help me! I want to be blameless in your sight. Make me know and walk in your ways!
Verse 7 reads,
I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous rules.
Oh how I wanted to praise God with an upright heart! For years I would stand in church whether as a spectator or a pastor and could not praise God with integrity. How many times I would hoist up some shallow prayer of confession just before church, promising I’d not look at porn again (knowing I would at the first opportunity on Monday), just so I could appease my guilty conscious for an hour, further deluding myself that my praise was acceptable and pleasing to God. Dear God, I prayed, teach me your righteous rules! I want an upright heart!
On and on this inspired Psalm goes, with verse after verse which did not describe me as I was but as I hoped to one day be. Over the weeks and months I began to see how the Holy Spirit was using these holy words to change me from the inside out. I began to rejoice as I read these same words which weeks before condemned me. What a joy it was to cry out to God in praise, “Yes! Because of You I have an upright heart! I can praise you with integrity! I am truly blessed! Your law is sweet and good, it is a light for my feet! Your word keeps my way pure!”
Psalm 119 is about falling in love with God’s word. It testifies to the power and authority of the words of God to change a heart from being consumed with self to becoming consumed with the Word. Do you believe that God desires to make you new? He will use his Word to accomplish this task. Trust it!
If you are struggling with some habitual sin in your life, or find yourself less-than-passionate about reading God’s word, I challenge you to read/pray through Psalm 119 once a week for the next 6 months. The person who comes to this inspired text with hands open and head bowed will not be disappointed. You will be blessed. God promises to do it!