By Gareth Maggs.
Every morning we wake up, climb on our hamster wheel, run like crazy and then sleep. Somehow, we manage to eat and if we’re lucky, squeeze in a little rest. Life for the modern person is crazy. In fact, it’s so crazy that often the thought of a “quiet time” becomes absurd. Time and quietness are rare commodities in our world.
Yet as Christians, we know we desperately need it! This is the dilemma. For many who do succeed, their bible ends up getting saliva and head in-dents from them falling asleep (Which could present even greater problems if their bible is a tablet or phone). So, what do we do? How do we deal with the rat race and manage to spend time with God?
1. Here’s your motivation
You have complete access to a caring and sovereign God. I’m reminding you of this truth, because when your life gets crazy and you go for days without spending time with the Lord, you show who you really think is sovereign. Yourself. A couple of days without a quiet time is a couple of days without the one who really is in control. When you oust God as the sovereign Master over your life, you will instinctively place yourself in charge, and with that comes all the stresses and strains of a sinful human, who isn’t God, trying to be God.
When you are stressed, or when you don’t feel like spending time with the Lord, remember this: Christ died for you so that you could have unrestricted access to the sovereign God of the universe (Ephesians 2:13 and 18). When Christ died, he defeated the sin that was separating us from him. Now, you and I have complete access to the one who created the blue prints for everything in existence, the one who controls everything in life, the one who has the power to move mountains with a single word and the one who has a plan for this world. Oh, and add this to the fact that he did this out of love (John 3:16)… what more motivation do you need?
2. Don’t compartmentalise, decentralise
We tend to be people who segment our time. We have a time for devotion, a time for work, a time for family, a time for eating… you get the picture. While we should devote a time to read God’s word and pray to make sure it actually happens regularly, God should not be confined to those few minutes of our day, as though He can be kept locked up in a little compartment to which we hold the key. We need to bring time with God into our work, our family time, our meals… again, you get the picture. Spending time with God is worship and worship happens throughout the day…and sometimes the night if you’ve been blessed with insomnia! To be practical, reading and discussing a text followed by praying with friends and family is spending time with God. Believe it or not, this IS a quiet time, and often the opportunity will come spontaneously, completely outside of the compartment labelled “Personal Devotion.” Strike while the iron is hot and seize hold of moments throughout the day to spend time with God.
I used to struggle to find even half an hour with the Lord in the morning, but then I started downloading sermons so that when I exercised, I could spend time with the Lord. I deliberately prayed every so often at work, I chatted to trusted Christian brothers and sisters about what they were reading and dispersed Christian books amidst the novels I read before sleeping. I never gave up reading my Bible, but I found I didn’t have to cut out one hour in the morning for a complete devotion. Your life will be different to mine, but I encourage you to get creative about how you can spend time with the Lord throughout your day. Just don’t neglect reading your Bible!
3. Be Disciplined
There is great joy in knowing that we are saved by the Grace of God. In the context of our devotion, this means we don’t have to feel like we lose favour with the Lord when we don’t do our devotion. God does not give us a list of boxes to tick off before we have His approval. However, we mustn’t become so relaxed and complacent about our devotion that we allow other things to usurp that specially designated time with God. Something I feel my generation, and those younger than me, have lost is discipline. We are not good at sticking to a routine, because the moment we feel obliged to do anything, whether it’s from ourselves or others, we don’t want to do it. We don’t want our freedom restricted. We are rebels at heart and believe the lie that we shouldn’t do anything we don’t feel like doing. Feelings rule in the millennial generation, and Christians aren’t immune from this narcissistic worldview.
What the new generations can learn from the older is that a disciplined life reaps reward. There’s an old kid’s song that says, ‘Read your Bible, pray every day… and you’ll grow, grow, grow… forget your Bible, forget to pray and you’ll shrink, shrink, shrink’. I used to joke about this song and sing ‘forget your Bible and you’ll need a shrink, shrink, shrink’. I made this joke because the foundation of life is found in God’s Word; if you don’t make God’s Word a daily part of your life, your foundation will slowly break away.
4. Sacrifice and putting first things first
We can’t be people who only read the Bible when it’s convenient. We have to make time, and making time often involves sacrifice. The thing about sacrifice is that it hurts. It hurts as it involves giving up something. I say this because often Christians will tell me that they ‘sacrifice’ time for the Lord, when really what they mean is that they shifted around their day to accommodate Bible reading. It’s not wrong to shuffle your day, but when your day gets too hectic, does your Bible get thrown out in favour of the most urgent? If yes, then you are not really sacrificing.
Sometimes, setting aside time for personal Bible reading and prayer hurts us. You may need to give up time spent at the gym, with friends, watching tv, enjoying leisure and hobbies, etc. You may also need to give up ideals, like the thought that your family or job will crumble if you take an hour out of your duties and responsibilities. As I mentioned at the outset, when you exclude God from your day to day ordinary life, you are trying to control the reins of your life, and that’s his job, not yours. You need to sacrifice your own leadership for his.
5. Tips on good devotions
Finally, if you are not sure what to read, here are some great resources that you can sink your teeth into:
Devotion books (Thank you Lauren Maggs for your help on these):
1. My Utmost for his Highest – Oswald Chambers
2. Worship the King – Chris Tiegreen
3. Daily Thoughts from Keswick – Stevenson H, F. (Editor)
4. Sit, walk, stand – Watchman Nee
5. Through the Bible, through the year – John Stott
Devotions on the Bible App:
1. Search for John Stott – he has a series of 6-day devotionals on some of the books of the bible
2. Prayer: A 14-Day Devotional By Tim Keller
3. Romans 8: With Tim Keller
The Explore App (The Good Book Company) has been endorsed by The Gospel Coalition. This amazing digital resource is free from the App store and Google Play, and handy to download on any phone or device. Each book of the Bible has a useful, day-by-day, verse by verse commentary, with personal questions, practical applications and prayer suggestions, which can be purchased for a small amount (R29-R49). Each day’s reading and meditation can easily be done in ten to fifteen minutes.
From Christ Church Midrand:
1. Rosie Moore writes a blog called “The God Walk” based on various Scriptural texts, which provide a wonderful springboard for personal devotions. Her blog can be accessed on free89042.wordpress.com.