Day 28 – How to Live Connected to God

Yesterday, we dove into the “secret” power to Jesus’s life—living in connection to His Father. Then, looking at John 15, we discovered that it is the same for us—that the secret to producing godly fruit is not to focus our efforts on producing better fruit, but in learning how to remain connected to the vine, our source of life, which is Jesus. Our life as Christians is meant to flow from our connection to Him. 

Now, of course, living in connection to Jesus runs quite contrary to the normal flow of this world. To do so requires intentionality, focus, and no small degree of effort. Don’t let the word effort there scare you. We are of course “saved by grace, not of our own works,” as Ephesians 2 reminds us. But as the late Christian philosopher and theologian Dallas Willard reminds us, “Grace is not opposed to effort. It’s opposed to earning.” Effort directed at maintaining our awareness of our connection and unity with Jesus is an important part of the successful Christian life. 

To see a great example of this on display, we look first and foremost to the life of Jesus. What practices do we see in His life that allowed Him to live in an awareness of His connection with His Father? There are several, which we will dive into here.

First, we see Jesus regularly prioritized prayer and solitude. All throughout the gospels, we see Jesus sneaking away to spend time alone and to pray to His Father. Here are just a few examples:

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35, NIV)

“And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.” (Matthew 14:23, ESV)

In many senses, you might go so far as to say that prayer is the very act of living in the awareness of our unity with God, and in active dependence on Him. Making prayer a core part of our lives is critical to learning to abide in Christ and allowing His life to flow through us. 

Secondly, we see Jesus fasted. In Matthew chapter 4, we read, 

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” (Matthew 4:1–2, ESV)

In this passage, we go on to read how Jesus was tempted by the enemy and was victorious time and again. Though his body was hungry, His time of fasting gave Him a spiritual fortitude that gave Him power to resist the temptations of this world. There is much mystery to fasting, but it would seem that at least one of the benefits is that, while we intentionally deny our bodies what it wants, it builds us up spiritually, teaching us to rely not just on physical food, but on God himself (see Matthew 4:4). 

Thirdly, we see Jesus knew the Scriptures. We should never come to the Scriptures out of a legalistic mindset, thinking that we are impressing God by our rigorous study. Spending time studying the Bible is not about checking off a spiritual to-do list so we can feel good about ourselves. In John chapter 5, Jesus addresses the Pharisees in the following manner:

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39–40, NIV)

For Jesus, it would seem the purpose of the written word is to lead us to encounter the Living Word. The Pharisees and teachers of the law in Jesus’s day knew the text quite well—but their focus was off, and it benefited them little. In their hearts, they were still far from God. When we study the Scriptures, our heart’s desire and prayer should be for God to reveal Himself to us as we read. We should read the Bible not out of legalism, but out of love, seeking to encounter the living God through its pages. As we do, once again, we reinforce our connection to the very life of God.

Fourthly, we see Jesus practiced Sabbath. While Jesus certainly confronted legalistic practices that had come to be associated with this day, He certainly did not throw away the Sabbath. If anything, he revealed what the Sabbath was really all about. In Mark’s gospel, we read,

“Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27, NLT)

For Jesus, resting on the Sabbath is not something we do out of a legalistic duty to check the box on our religious obligations. It’s about receiving a gift from God. It’s about aligning ourselves with our Creator, who also rested on the seventh day, as a pattern for us that we should follow. Perhaps Jesus healing so many people on the Sabbath is a sign to us that Sabbath and rest are about healing. As we make a habit of ceasing from our toil and striving for one day per week, and instead, learn to rest, we once again learn to abide in Christ and the life He offers us. 

There are certainly more practices from Jesus’s life that show us how to live in connection to the life of God—but this list is a good starting point. None of this is about legalism or checking off religious boxes. If you try to implement these practices in order to somehow impress God or feel good about yourself, you will not realize their true benefit, which is to learn how to come to God in order to have life. As you implement these practices and learn to lean into the life of God, you will find the strength you need to live as He calls you to—not out of self-righteous striving—but out of a genuine connection and relationship with God. Indeed, it is only the one who regularly spends time connecting with their Heavenly Father who is empowered to live as a beloved child. 


Day 28 Freedom Work

Scripture Reading — Read John 16–17, noting the importance of living in unity with Christ.

Journaling Exercises — Answer the following questions at length in your journal. Aim to spend at least 5–7 minutes per question.

  • Has it ever struck you that Jesus, the very Son of God, still needed to do things like pray, spend time in solitude, rest, fast, and learn the Scriptures? If Jesus needed these things, what is your need for them
  • For people who struggle with compulsive sin, it is rare that they have anything resembling a vibrant and healthy devotional life. Take an honest assessment of the practices you currently have in your life that help you to routinely connect you to God as your source of life and write them down in detail.
  • Again, not making it about legalistic performance, but about living in genuine connection to the life of God, what are some strategic practices you can implement into your life to learn to abide more intentionally in Christ? How would implementing these practices help you live with a greater awareness of God’s love for you?

Prayer — Father, I recognize my utter need for you, as I have tried to live free so many times in my own strength, and failed over and over again. Teach me to lean into you as my very source of life. I don’t want to be like the Pharisees, going through the motions of religion while missing your heart. Your heart is the very thing I want to be connected with! Help me to get free from legalism and to learn to practice the spiritual disciplines out of a genuine desire to know you better and to drink deeply of the water of life, which you offer. I am tired of looking for life in places it can’t be found. I am tired of trying to produce fruit on my own, disconnected from your life. Reveal to me your heart as a Father to spend time with me in the secret place—and empower me to live as a beloved child. Help me to follow Jesus’s example and to implement practices into my daily life that will help me to live connected to you as my source and my strength! May my very life flow from you. Amen.

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Dr. Joseph Serwadda's Story

Over the past decade, numerous pastors and leaders from all over the world have been crying out (and even begging us) for discipleship resources in their language. This may sound extreme, but in America we have an abundance of books and resources that are available to us that are often taken for granted. In many ways, we have access to excess.

In some developing nations, people have never seen a book in their language. When leaders from these nations are given a book, they treat it as sacred gift! They even hand-write books and Bibles word for word so that they can spread this message of hope to others in their sphere of influence.

Dr. Joseph Serwadda, a leader from Uganda who oversees a group of churches that number approximately 27,000, echoes this need among pastors and leaders all over the world: “Our biggest need is not money or bigger buildings, but solid teaching. We lack literature for people to read and study on their own. The more people we have in church who are less instructed in the Word of God, the less solidity we have. Come and help us preserve the harvest. This is a Macedonian call!”

Pastor Yassir's Story

Over the years, Cubans have long suffered under the oppression of a single message: communism. Despite this challenge, Yassir is committed to sharing a new message with his people, a message of transformation that can lead to national revival.

Cubans, in general, have been conditioned toward communistic consumption. That’s why Yassir wants his people to embrace a new identity: a life defined by what they can give. This shift requires growth and maturity that can only come through a new perspective.

He explained, “The Cuban church is strong and filled with passion. But I believe it’s important that we shift our mentality. We need to see how the Gospel goes beyond our own needs. Ultimately, we need to take responsibility for ourselves and our nation, and not just wait for outside intervention.”

There aren’t many Christian resources in Cuba. So, Pastor Yassir’s church, along with many other churches throughout Cuba, have been profoundly impacted by the resources Messenger International has provided for them in their own language.

In our conversations with Pastor Yassir, he often cited an ancient proverb: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you’ve fed him for a lifetime. He sees MessengerX as a tool both to feed his people and teach them to fish.

It’s become evident that after many years in our ministry, the most effective way to transform a village or town is not to construct a church building. This just keeps the local leadership dependent on us.

We are much more effective if we give the indigenous leaders such as Pastor Yassir spiritual knowledge that will empower them to influence their village, town, or city. Such knowledge helps produce the faith needed to grow and sustain the work, which, if necessary, will include buildings and other resources.

Stories like Pastor Yassir’s fuel our mission, because we believe that everyone deserves to know life-transforming truth!

Nura's Story

Before Nura became a follower of Christ, her life was a living hell.
After the death of her husband—from whom she endured many years of abuse and suffering—she became a widow with four children. In search of peace and inner healing, she sought solace in religious places and practices, which only led her deeper into depression and financial debt.

Her last resort was Jesus.

“I came to the Christian church and begged for help! I accepted Christ after I heard of the promise of peace and healing that is found in Him,” Nura wrote. “I slowly began to recover, but there was one thing hindering my healing—unforgiveness.”
Filled with regrets, Nura struggled to forgive her husband. But the grip of offense began to weaken when her pastor handed her a copy of The Bait of Satan.

“I forgave my husband after I learned how much I, too, needed forgiveness,” shared Nura. “Now I am healed, and I have peace for the first time in my life. Some even say I look ten years younger!”


Pastor Raphael's Story

Pastor Raphael was raised in Kenya, immersed in a culture of darkness. As a child, he lacked affection because his father believed that strong men don’t show love. He continually witnessed his father beat and belittle his mother. Everywhere he looked, insidious behavior was practiced toward women and infants—families were being destroyed and lives were ending before they had a chance to begin.

This was the destiny Raphael was headed toward.

But everything changed when truth entered the scene. The first area to be transformed was Raphael’s heart—which, in turn, transformed his marriage and his family. And with a strong and healthy family, his whole outlook toward life has changed.

“Through the resources of Messenger International, a relentless passion was ignited in me to see the people of my country free from lies,” shared Raphael. “I discovered my purpose to train up others and bring God’s transforming truth to remote villages.”

Raphael has trekked miles through mud and rain to reach people, often rising early and returning late. He would travel over 50 miles a day with his bicycle—but through the generosity of the MessengerX community, he was given a motorcycle, which has enabled him to double his efforts while easily transporting the resources and supplies he needs to facilitate his classes. Raphael has seen over 200 of his students graduate in the villages he serves.

“Thank you for investing in my people,” expressed Raphael. “Each day tribal warriors are transformed into children of God, marriages are infused with love, and the innocent are protected. Your generosity has given us the tools we need to rewrite our story and reclaim our humanity.”

Dahlia's Story

Formerly a Muslim, Dahlia fled to Turkey after she was expelled from her Iranian school and excommunicated by her family. Her crime? Becoming a Christian.

You can now find Dahlia in a refugee camp, far from what she once called home. But despite the upheaval, she has found purpose in her pain. On a daily basis, Dahlia walks through her makeshift town and prays over the people. They have become her people—the audience of her message.

Dahlia has become a messenger, and she is often spotted lovingly serving those around her and sharing her faith with them. Despite language barriers, people are drawn to her because they see something different in her. And what’s amazing is that she’s not only reaching the people in her refugee camp, she’s also impacting those she left behind in Iran.

“I’ve had calls from Iran,” writes Dahlia. “People who mocked me because of my faith now believe in Jesus and want to know more. So, I tell them about MessengerX, which has a lot of translated discipleship resources.”

As we continue to provide people like Dahlia with life-transforming truth in their own language, we’re helping them grow in their faith and discover their purpose—and we’re equipping them to make a difference in their world.

“I am beyond thankful for all of the books that I’ve been able to read in my language, such as Driven by Eternity, translated in Farsi,” shared Dahlia. “I read them again and again. The messages keep me company in this lonely season, and they inspire me to reveal Jesus to the hurting people all around me.”