When we sit down with God, we are communicating that we want to spend quality time with Him.
By Lyndelle Brower Chiomenti
“No, Timmer! Come back here!”
“Leave Barkley alone! TIMMER! COME!”
Of the six dogs I’ve owned, Timmer has been one of the most difficult to train. A happy, gregarious fellow who enjoys the company of humans and his fellow canines, he can aptly be described as having attention deficit disorder. The sights and smells of obedience class, the park, the car, the kitchen, the backyard—anyplace—are much more appealing than obeying the three basic commands all dogs should learn. These commands are “come,” “sit,” and “stay.”
While musing over my frustration with Timmer one night as I was driving home from the obedience training session, I suddenly realized that just as a dog must learn to come, sit, and stay in order to be a good canine citizen, so we must learn these same commands in order to be good citizens of Christ’s kingdom. And generally speaking, it isn’t any easier for us to learn them than it is for a wiggly puppy.
Lesson 1: Come to Jesus
Let’s begin with the “come” command. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus gives us an invitation. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (NIV).1 This invitation is “the gospel call; whoever will, let him come. All who thus come will receive rest as Christ’s gift, and obtain peace and comfort in their hearts. But in coming to him they must take his yoke, and submit to his authority. They must learn of him all things, as to their comfort and obedience. He accepts the willing servant, however imperfect the services. . . . Such is the Redeemer’s mercy; and why should the laboring and burdened sinner seek for rest from any other quarter? Let us come to him daily, for deliverance . . . from sin and Satan, from all our cares, fears, and sorrows. . . . Come to Jesus to find rest for your souls.”2
Lesson 2: Sit at the Feet of Jesus
Once Timmer learned to come, it was important that he learned to sit. So it is with us in our relationship with Christ. In John 6:1-3 we read that because of the miraculous healings Jesus was performing, a large crowd followed Him as He traveled to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Once there, He went up the mountain where He sat with His disciples. People did not just sit with Jesus—they stayed with Him mentally and listened carefully.
In Luke 10:38-41 Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to Jesus’ teaching while her sister Martha scurried around the kitchen, dealing with all the preparations that she felt had to be made. When Martha complained about Mary’s lack of interest in these preparations, Jesus said to Martha: “Martha, Martha,” “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (verses 41, 42, NIV).
When we visit people, either in their home or in their office, sitting down implies a willingness to stay awhile. We signal that we want to be friendly and that we care about our relationship with them. So when we sit down with God, we are communicating that we want to spend quality time with Him. We are not in a hurry and are willing to set aside a few daily tasks in order to be nurtured by Him. Indeed, it is nearly impossible to grow in Christ, to be fed by Him, if we seldom sit down with Him or rush through our devotional time so we can get on with the rest of our day.
Lesson 3: Stick Around
Dogs who learn to sit for longer periods of time are better able to learn the “stay” command. The results of staying involve the growth of a healthy relationship between canine and human. Likewise, as we learn to sit with Jesus, we learn to stay, or to abide, with Him. As we abide in Him, we develop, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22, 23).
Listen to Jesus talking to His disciples: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4, 5). This union “is no casual touch, no off-and-on connection. The branch becomes a part of the living vine. The communication of life, strength, and fruitfulness from the root to the branches is unobstructed and constant. Separated from the vine, the branch cannot live. No more, said Jesus, can you live apart from Me. The life you have received from Me can be preserved only by continual communion. Without Me you cannot overcome one sin, or resist one temptation. . . . Abiding in Christ means a constant receiving of His Spirit, a life of unreserved surrender to His service. The channel of communication must be open continually between man and his God. As the vine branch constantly draws the sap from the living vine, so are we to cling to Jesus, and receive from Him by faith the strength and perfection of His own character.”3
Lesson 4: Stay Where It’s Safe
At the beginning of this article I mentioned that there were three commands a dog must learn. However, there is also a fourth command that makes life much more pleasant. That command is “heel.” This is when the dog learns to walk by its owner’s side, rather than always forging ahead and dragging you along. Unfortunately, forging ahead is also one of the problems I’m having with Timmer. One of Timmer’s trainers said to me during one particular difficult session with the heel command that “teaching your dog to heel is to teach him or her that the best and safest place to be is always by your side.”
I now understand much better Peter’s reply to Jesus’ haunting question to the disciples, “Are you going to leave also?”: “Lord, to whom would we go?” (John 6:66, 68, NLT).4 Indeed, after we’ve learned to come, sit, and stay, we will discover that the best and safest place for us to be is always by Jesus’ side.
1 Scripture quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
2 Matthew Henry, Concise Commentary on the Bible.
3 Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 676.
4 Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Lyndelle Brower Chiomenti is the editor of the Collegiate Quarterly at the Sabbath School/Personal Ministries Department of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.