Intimacy with Christ study guide James Watkins

Most churches are great at sharing information and fairly good at providing opportunities for involvement.

But according to Willow Creek Association network of thousands of churches, "63 percent of the most active and committed church members are so discouraged with church and its ability to support their faith that they are considering leaving the church."

I believe what's missing is intimacy with Christ. This study guide for personal or group use will take readers through seven disciplines of becoming one with Jesus Christ utilizing Scripture readings an excerpts from

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Copyright © 2019 James N. Watkins

Permission is granted to print off as many copies for small group study as needed. This material is copyrighted and may not be used for any commercial purpose. For questions, please email: jim@jameswatkins.com

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the The World English Bible, which is a modern translation based the American Standard Version. Produced by eBible it was produced as a Public Domain electonic translation of the Bible. (While WEB translates Jehovah as Yahweh, this study guide uses Lord.)

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked WE are taken from the Worldwide English New Testament, copyright © 1969, 1971, 1996, 1998 by SOON Educational Publications. All rights reserved.

Excerpts from The Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today's Language copyright © 2016 by James N. Watkins. Published by Worthy Inspired, an imprint of Worthy Publishing Group, a division of Worthy Media, Inc.

Cover photo: iStock




Using this study

Act 2:42 reveals format of the first small groups:

    All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord's Supper), and to prayer.

The apostles teaching This study guide is comprised of scriptures addressing seven ways Christ followers become one with him. I believe that one of the secrets of the restoration of the Hebrew nation (2 Kings 23:1-3) and growth of the early church (1 Timothy 4:13) was the public reading of God's Word. So, if you're studying this as a group, consider reading the verses aloud.

Also included are optional readings from the classic devotional The Imitation of Christ which reinforces the scripture readings. This 600-year-old work is second only to the Bible in readership.

Fellowship, sharing the Lord's Supper and prayer. Although there is no specific instruction as to how often Communion should be celebrated, Acts 20:7 implies it was a weekly part of worship in the early church. Please consider observing this reminder of our intimacy with Christ each time the group meets.

The format is very simple: read the Scripture passages and excerpt from The Imitation of Christ, then discuss the four questions at the end.

I would suggest closing with a time of prayer specifically for personal application of the chapter. Explain that while sharing physical needs is important, this group's goal is becoming one with Christ, so requests should focus on that objective.




Introduction

Most churches are great at sharing information and fairly good at providing opportunities for involvement. But according to Willow Creek Association network of thousands of churches, "63 percent of the most active and committed church members are so discouraged with church and its ability to support their faith that they are considering leaving the church." I believe what's missing is intimacy with Christ.

Jesus reveals the purpose of the church in his last earthly prayer:

    "That they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me" (John 17:21).

From the Bible

Lord, you have searched me,
    and you know me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up.
    You perceive my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
    but, behold, Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in behind and before.
    You laid your hand on me.
This knowledge is beyond me.
    It's lofty.
    I can't attain it (Psalm 139:1-6).

The Lord, your God, is among you, a mighty one who will save. He will rejoice over you with joy. He will calm you in his love. He will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

Jesus replied, "All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them" (John 14:23 NLT).

I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me (John 17:21).

"Even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you sent me" (John 17:22-23).

Yes most certainly, and I count all things to be a loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and count them nothing but refuse, that I may gain Christ and be found in him . . . (Philippians 3:8-9).

"No longer do I call you servants, for the servant doesn't know what his lord does. But I have called you friends, for everything that I heard from my Father, I have made known to you" (John 15:15).

For you didn't receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:15).

Be therefore imitators of God, as beloved children. Walk in love, even as Christ also loved us and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God . . . (Ephesians 5:1-2).

"Remain in me, and I in you. As the branch can't bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you, unless you remain in me. I am the vine. You are the branches. He who remains in me and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5).

From The Imitation of Christ

The Disciple

These are the words of Christ: "If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness" (John 8:12). They teach us how thoroughly we must imitate his life and character if we desire true understanding and freedom from our own deceptive hearts and minds. And so, may we earnestly study and meditate on the life of Jesus Christ.

Christ's teachings surpass all of the great holy writers of the past. If we have his Spirit, we find spiritual nourishment. Unfortunately, there are many people who frequently hear the words of Christ but have little desire to follow them and so do not have the mind of Christ.

What does it profit us to engage in deep discussions about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit if we lack humility and are displeasing to God? Truly, deep and profound words do not make a person holy and upright, but a good life is what makes us dear to God. I would rather experience sorrow for my ungodly thoughts and actions than simply be skillful in defining "repentance." If we know the whole Bible and the teachings of all the philosophers, what does all this benefit us without the love and grace of God? It is completely futile unless we love God and serve only him. This is the highest wisdom: to put earthly values behind us and to reach forward to the heavenly kingdom (The Imitation of Christ Book 1 Chapter 1).

For discussion

What idea or phrase stood out in today's readings?





What about it made it stand out?_





What about spiritual disciplines help me know Christ more intimately?





How can I apply this to my life?








1. Community

When we think of spiritual disciplines, Bible reading, prayer, accountability, journaling, and fasting come to mind. These are foundational. But this study looks at seven additional ways that help us become more intimate with Jesus Christ. The first discipline is community.

From the Bible

"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the middle of them" (Matthew 18:20).

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us (1 John 4:11-12 NLT).

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35).

"[I pray] that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you sent me. The glory which you have given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, even as we are one" (John 17:21-23).

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.

    There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
    one God and Father of all,
    who is over all, in all, and living through all (Ephesians 4:2-6).

For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all given to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot would say, "Because I'm not the hand, I'm not part of the body," it is not therefore not part of the body. If the ear would say, "Because I'm not the eye, I'm not part of the body," it's not therefore not part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the smelling be? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body, just as he desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now they are many members, but one body. The eye can't tell the hand, "I have no need for you," or again the head to the feet, "I have no need for you." No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. Those parts of the body which we think to be less honorable, on those we bestow more abundant honor; and our unpresentable parts have more abundant propriety; whereas our presentable parts have no such need. But God composed the body together, giving more abundant honor to the inferior part, that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:12-25).

These gifts are to make God's people better able to do their work for him and to make the body of Christ become stronger.

The gifts are given so that we will all believe the one way and all know the Son of God. They are given so that we will be really grown-up Christians, like Christ himself (Ephesians 4:12-13 WE).

From The Imitation of Christ

The Disciple

Avoid, as much as you can, people's drama. Talk of worldly things, though innocent enough, is a hindrance as it quickly becomes a habit and leads to meaningless chatter.

We like talking so much because we hope, by our conversation, to gain some comfort or refresh our wearied spirit with our words. We are very willing to talk and think about things which we love and those things we hate.

But often our conversation is fruitless with no good no purpose. The outward comfort on conversation is a huge hindrance to the inner comfort which comes only from God. So, we must watch and pray that we do not idle away our time. If it is right and desirable to speak, speak only things which build up yourself and others. Evil habits and ignoring what is of real value causes us not to watch our words. Nevertheless, holy conversation on spiritual things help us in our spiritual progress. Those with kindred minds and spirits find their common ground in fellowship with God (Book 1 Chapter 10).

It is beneficial to us to die to many personal desires if we want to live in love and harmony with other people. It is no small thing to live in a religious community or church without complaining and to remain faithful to the group until death. Blessed are the ones who have lived a good life in such a group and remained faithful even until death (Book 1 Chapter 17).

For discussion

What idea or phrase stood out in today's readings?





What about it made it stand out?





What about discipline helps me know Christ more intimately?





How can I apply this to my life?








2. Discipline

From the Bible

Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15 NLT).

Obviously, I'm not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ's servant (Galatians 1:10 NLT).

Don't you know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run like that, that you may win. Every one who strives in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. I therefore run like that, not aimlessly. I fight like that, not beating the air, but I beat my body and bring it into submission, lest by any means, after I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Therefore I urge you . . . by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-2).

Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, that I may take hold of that for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus. I don't regard myself as yet having taken hold, but one thing I do: forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).

From The Imitation of Christ

It is beneficial to us to die to many personal desires if we want to live in love and harmony with other people. It is no small thing to live in a religious community or church without complaining and to remain faithful to the group until death. Blessed are the ones who have lived a good life in such a group and remained faithful even until death. If we want to stand firm and grow in our faith, we must consider ourselves as an exile and pilgrim upon the earth. If we lead a holy life, we will be considered as a fool for Christ (1 Corinthians 4:10).

Our clothing and outward appearance are not very important, but our change in character and complete death to earthly desires is what make us holy people. If we seek only to serve God for the health of our soul, we will find only troubles and trials and sorrow. People who live long in peace strive to be the least of all and servant to all.

We are called to endure and to work hard, not to live a life of ease and careless talk. Here on earth, we are refined as gold in the furnace. We cannot endure, unless with all our hearts we humble ourselves for God's sake (Book 1 Chapter 17).

For discussion

What idea or phrase stood out in today's readings?





What about it made it stand out?





What about discipline helps me know Christ more intimately?





How can I apply this to my life?








3. Obedience

"If you love me, keep my commandments" (Jesus, John 14:15).

For this is loving God, that we keep his commandments. His commandments are not grievous (1 John 5:3).

This is how we know that we know him: if we keep his commandments. One who says, "I know him," and doesn't keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth isn't in him. But God's love has most certainly been perfected in whoever keeps his word. This is how we know that we are in him: he who says he remains in him ought himself also to walk just like he walked (1 John 2:3-6).

Keep the instruction of the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, according to that which is written in the law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do, and wherever you turn yourself (1 King 2:3).

You shall not add to the word which I command you, neither shall you take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you (Deuteronomy 4:2).

But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don't obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it (James 1:22-25 NLT).

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
    who walks in his ways (Psalm 128).

From The Imitation of Christ

The Disciple

Jesus has many lovers of his heavenly kingdom but few bearers of his cross. He has many seekers of comfort but few willing to face troubles and trial. He finds many companions at his table but few with him in fasting. Many desire to rejoice with him, but few are willing to undergo adversity for his sake. Many follow Jesus that they may eat of his bread, but few are willing to drink of the cup of his passion. Many are astonished at his miracles, but few follow after the shame of his cross. Many love Jesus so long as no troubles happen to them. Many praise him and bless him, so long as they receive comforts from him. But if Jesus hides himself and seems to withdraw from them for even a little while, they immediately begin complaining or feel a great sense of dejection.

But those who love Jesus for Jesus' sake—and not for the comforts he gives to them—praise him in all suffering and sorrow just as they do in the greatest blessings. And if he should never give them another blessing, they would nevertheless continue to always praise him and give him thanks.

Oh, how powerful is the pure love of Jesus—unmixed with any material benefits or love of self! Shouldn't all those constantly seeking his blessing be called mercenaries? Don't those who are always seeking their own gain and advantage show themselves to be lovers of themselves more than lovers of Christ? Who can be found who is willing to serve God altogether for no earthly benefit?

Yes, one thing is the most necessary. What is it then? To give up all things, to reject all self-love, and to completely do all that we know to be required of God himself. Let us who serve Christ not feel highly esteemed, but know what the Truth has pronounced: "In the same way, when you obey me you should say, 'We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty'" (Luke 17:10). Then we will know we are truly poor and naked in spirit and able to say with the psalmist, "Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress" (Psalm 25:16). Nevertheless, no people are richer, stronger, freer than those who know how to give unselfishly and be lowly in their own eyes (The Imitation of Christ Book 2 Chapter 11).

For discussion

What idea or phrase stood out in today's readings?





What about it made it stand out?





What about obedience helps me know Christ more intimately?





How can I apply this to my life?








4. Solitude/Silence

The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
    to those who search for him.
So it is good to wait
    for salvation from the Lord.
And it is good for people to submit at an early age
    to the yoke of his discipline:
Let them sit alone in silence . . . (Lamentations 3:25-28).

Be silent at the presence of the Lord . . . (Zephaniah 1:7).

the Lord is in his holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before him (Habakkuk 2:20).

For thus said the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, "You will be saved in returning and rest. Your strength will be in quietness and in confidence" (Isaiah 30:15).

"Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations.
    I will be exalted in the earth." (Psalm 46:10).

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,     for my hope is in him (Psalm 62:5 NLT).

Be silent before the Lord, all humanity, for he is springing into action from his holy dwelling (Zechariah 2:13 NLT).

My soul, wait in silence for God alone,
    for my expectation is from him.(Psalm 62:5-6).

[Jesus] withdrew himself into the desert and prayed (Luke 5:16).

[Jesus] said to them, "You come apart into a deserted place, and rest awhile." For there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat (Mark 6:31).

"When you pray, enter into your inner room, and having shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly" (Matthew 6:6).

From The Imitation of Christ

The Disciple

Prophets indeed can give us words, but they cannot give the Spirit. They speak with great beauty, but they do not burn in my heart when you are silent. They give us scriptures, but only you give understanding to them. They bring us mysteries, but you reveal the things which are significant. They pronounce commandments, but only you give me power to obey them. They show the way, but only you give strength for the journey. They speak to my outward actions, but only you instruct and enlighten my heart. They water, but you produce the harvest. They cry out with words, but only you give understanding to the hearer.

Therefore, don't let Moses speak to me, but only you, O Lord my God, Eternal Truth. Without your words, I die and bring forth no fruit, being outwardly admonished, but not changed within. May I not only hear the Word, but follow it. May it not be simply known but loved; not just believed but obeyed, so I may not be judged. Speak, Lord, for your servant listens. "You have the words that give eternal life" (John 6:68). Speak to me for the comfort of my soul, for the transformation of my whole life, and for the praise and glory and eternal honor of your name (Book 3 Chapter 2).

For discussion

What idea or phrase stood out in today's readings?





What about it made it stand out?





What about solitude an silence help me know Christ more intimately?





How can I apply this to my life?








5. Meditation

Blessed is the man who doesn't walk in the counsel of the wicked,
    nor stand on the path of sinners,
    nor sit in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the Lord's law.
    On his law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:1-2).

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it; for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success (Joshua 1:8).

I have hidden your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you (Psalm 110:11).

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight (Psalm 19:14).

I will meditate on the glorious majesty of your honor,
    on your wondrous works (Psalm 145:5).

I remember you on my bed,
    and think about you in the night watches (Psalm 63:6). I will remember the Lord's deeds;
    for I will remember your wonders of old.
    I will also meditate on all your work,
    and consider your doings (Psalm 77:11-12).

I remember the days of old.
    I meditate on all your doings.
    I contemplate the work of your hands (Psalm 143:5).

Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2).

Finally . . . whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report: if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8).

From The Imitation of Christ

While in my mind I meditate on heavenly things, earthly desires crowd in as I pray. My God, do not be far from me nor in anger desert your servant. "Hurl your lightning bolts and scatter your enemies! Shoot your arrows and confuse them!" (Psalm 144:6). Confuse the delusions of my enemy. Direct my senses to you, cause me to forget all worldly things. Help me to quickly cast away and despise all thoughts of sin. Nourish me, O Eternal Truth, that no mere human can influence me. Come to me, O Heavenly Delight, and let all impurity flee from your presence. Pardon me and gently treat me with your mercy whenever in prayer I think on anything besides you, for I confess I am continually distracted.

Often, when I am standing or sitting, I am somewhere else in my thoughts. Where my thoughts are, there I am. My thoughts are habitually drawn to your love which is delightful and pleasing.

So, you who are the Truth, has plainly said, "Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be" (Matthew 6:21). If I love heaven, I will gladly meditate on heavenly things. If I love the world, I will rejoice in the delights of the world and will be made sorry by its adversities. If I love physical things, then I will continually dwell on physical things. But if I love spiritual things, I will delight in meditating on spiritual things. For whatever things I love, I will talk about them and meditate on them in my home. Blessed are people who for your sake, O Lord, are willing to separate from all created things, who discipline their bodies and crucify sinful desires through the power of your Spirit. Then, with a peaceful conscience, they may offer up to you a pure prayer and be made worthy to rejoice with the heavenly choirs. They will have outwardly and inwardly shut themselves off from all worldly things (Book 3 Chapter 48).

For discussion

What idea or phrase stood out in today's readings?





What about it made it stand out?





What about meditation helps me know Christ more intimately?





How can I apply this to my life?








6. Servanthood

The greatest among you must be a servant (Matthew 23:11 NLT).

"[Whoever] wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:44-45).

Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me (John 12:26 NLT).

Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith (Galatians 6:10 NLT).

But don't forget to be doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased (Hebrews 13:16).

Feed the hungry,
    and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
    and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon (Isaiah 58:10 NLT).

"Then the King will tell those on his right hand, 'Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you took me in. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and come to you?'

"The King will answer them, 'Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me'" (Matthew 25:34-40).

"In all things I gave you an example, that so laboring you ought to help the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'" (Acts 20:35).

For God is not unrighteous, so as to forget your work and the labor of love which you showed toward his name, in that you served the saints, and still do serve them (Hebrews 6:10).

From The Imitation of Christ

The one who does much loves much. The one who does much does well. Those who do well serve the public good rather than their own interests. But often what seems to be charity is actually selfish and sinful because it springs from natural motivation, self-will, hope of repayment, or desire of gain or fame.

People who have true and perfect charity, don't seek their own good but desire that God alone is fully glorified. They envy no one, because they seek no selfish joy; nor do they desire to rejoice in themselves. They long to be blessed by God as the highest good. They credit good to no one or no thing except God alone. He is the Fountain from which all good flows, and the End, the Peace, the Joy of all saints. Anyone who has just a spark of true love has learned that all worldly things are full of vanity (Book 1 Chapter 15).

For discussion

What idea or phrase stood out in today's readings?





What about it made it stand out?





What about servanthood helps me know Christ more intimately?





How can I apply this to my life?








7. Suffering

Even though Jesus was God's Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered (Hebrews 5:8 NLT).

"If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it" (Matthew 10:38-39 NLT).

Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind; for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that you no longer should live the rest of your time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).

I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death (Philippians 3:10 NLT).

But may the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you (1 Peter 5:10).

But may the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you (Philippians 1:29).

We are pressed on every side, yet not crushed; perplexed, yet not to despair; pursued, yet not forsaken; struck down, yet not destroyed; always carrying in the body the putting to death of Jesus, that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus may be revealed in our mortal flesh (2 Corinthians 4:8-11).

Therefore we don't faint, but though our outward person is decaying, yet our inward person is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is for the moment, works for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory, while we don't look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son . . . (Romans 8:28-29).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, through the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound to us, even so our comfort also abounds through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer. Our hope for you is steadfast, knowing that, since you are partakers of the sufferings, so you are also of the comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).

From The Imitation of Christ

The exiled children of Eve groan, because this world is bitter and tiring. The days of this life are few and evil, full of sorrow and tough times. People are defiled with their sins, trapped with their passions, shackled with many fears, worn down with many cares, distracted with many questions, entangled with many trinkets, surrounded by many errors, worn down with many labors, weighed down with temptations, tempted by many pleasures, and tormented by poverty.

When will there be an end to all these evils? When will I be delivered from the wretched slavery of my sin? When will I concentrate on you, O Lord, alone? When will I rejoice fully in you? When will I truly be free from any hindrance, without any mental or physical burdens? When will I have solid, immovable, and secure peace—peace within and without, firmly on all sides? Blessed Savior, when will I stand and see you face to face? When will I gaze upon the glory of your kingdom? When will you be my all and all? Oh, when will I be with you in your kingdom, which you have prepared from the beginning of the world for those who love you? I am left impoverished, an exile in a hostile land where their are daily wars and terrible misfortunes.

Comfort my exile, relieve my sorrow for I long to be with you. Everything on earth is a burden to me as the world offers no comfort. I long to know you intimately, but I cannot here in this world. I long for heavenly things, but temporal things and sinful passions press upon me. In my mind, I want to be above all earthly things, but my human body brings me down. I am such a wretched man. I fight with myself. I am sadly disappointed with myself. My spirit seeks heavenly things, but my body desires things from below.

Oh how I inwardly suffer. While in my mind I meditate on heavenly things, earthly desires crowd in as I pray. My God, do not be far from me nor in anger desert your servant. "Hurl your lightning bolts and scatter your enemies! Shoot your arrows and confuse them!" (Psalm 144:6). Confuse the delusions of my enemy. Direct my senses to you, cause me to forget all worldly things. Help me to quickly cast away and despise all thoughts of sin. Nourish me, O Eternal Truth, that no mere human can influence me. Come to me, O Heavenly Delight, and let all impurity flee from your presence. Pardon me and gently treat me with your mercy whenever in prayer I think on anything besides you, for I confess I am continually distracted.

Often, when I am standing or sitting, I am somewhere else in my thoughts. Where my thoughts are, there I am. My thoughts are habitually drawn to your love which is delightful and pleasing.

So, you who are the Truth, has plainly said, "Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be" (Matthew 6:21). If I love heaven, I will gladly meditate on heavenly things. If I love the world, I will rejoice in the delights of the world and will be made sorry by its adversities. If I love physical things, then I will continually dwell on physical things. But if I love spiritual things, I will delight in meditating on spiritual things. For whatever things I love, I will talk about them and meditate on them in my home. Blessed are people who for your sake, O Lord, are willing to separate from all created things, who discipline their bodies and crucify sinful desires through the power of your Spirit. Then, with a peaceful conscience, they may offer up to you a pure prayer and be made worthy to rejoice with the heavenly choirs. They will have outwardly and inwardly shut themselves off from all worldly things (The Imitation of Christ Book 3 Chapter 48).

For discussion

What idea or phrase stood out in today's readings?





What about it made it stand out?





What about suffering helps me know Christ more intimately?





How can I apply this to my life?








More resources

Jim's website: jameswatkins.com

Jim's books
Overcoming Fear and Worry (2019)
God, I Don't Understand: Unanswered Prayer, Unfulfille Promises, Unpunished Evil (2017)
The Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today's Language (2016)
Squeezing Good Out of Bad (2013)

More: Jim's other books