Personal Devotions and Quiet Times
I'm here today to tell you about the story of my devotion time with God. I hope that those who have a similar difficulty will take my testimony as an encouragement. -JR
"Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you" Matt 6:33
It so happens that I used to lead a bible study on this particular passage. "Seek Him first, Seek Him first" this phrase kept repeating itself in my mind. I had a hard time trying to keep my devotion time with God in order. I tried to change back and forth the quiet time between the morning and before bedtime. It worked for a while, but it went back to the same habit again. Here are the 4 issues that I had been dealing with.
1. I was too busy and didn't have enough time for a quiet time with God.
2. Most of the time, I felt tired before my hand even reached the Bible.
3. Often I mistreated the Bible by turning it into my pillow. Yes, I fell asleep on the Bible. That's a real quiet time, isn't it?.
4. Even when I was reading the Bible, I felt dry on the subject that I read.
What went wrong here?
My number one prayer request when I met with Pastor or brothers and sisters in the small groups was always to pray for my devotion time so that I would have an effective time with God. I knew the existence of the problems, but I did not carefully look at the root cause of the issues. Thank God for His grace. He answered my request. One day, early this year I started to examine the issues I had with my devotion time. I started to see the cause and effect of each issue clearly.
"I was too busy and didn't have enough time with God" This was just an excuse. Let me do the math for this.
I have 24 hours a day, 6-7 hours of sleep (should be enough for me), 8 hours of work, 1.5 hours of commuting to work, 2.5 hours of having meals. 1 hour for misc. Add them up, I have around 4-5 hours of free time. How did I use my free time? I spent some time with my wife and some with the TV or VDO, sometimes I did both at the same time. How could I say I didn't have enough time with God then? I had to be wise in allocating time for Him.
"When should I allocate the quiet time to God?" It looked like the morning time might be better because I felt less tired than I did in the evening (after work). Sometimes I was still tired even in the morning. Why? Because I didn't have enough sleep. Why didn't I have enough sleep? Because I stayed up late watching TV or reading music books.
I actually overspent my free time. As a result, it ate up the sleeping time I was supposed to have, and I ended up having less sleep. I find self control with my free time is critical. I should be prepared to meet Him in the morning. Therefore, I must have enough sleep at night so that I will feel refreshed in the morning. What can I say if I am on time and be prepared for the meeting at the workplace but can't do it when meeting with God?
"Where should I read the Bible?" I found that I easily fall asleep on the place where it is comfortable. When I was looking back, I realized that I often read the Bible on the bed or on the sofa. That was a temptation. I should stay away from the environment that would distract me from God. The sofa in the morning is the tempter. I should sit at the desk.
I also would fall asleep if what I read did not catch my attention. I used to just read the text and it would turn into a hypnotizing tool. As I was reading, it hypnotized me. I decided I should take notes so that I would pay attention and learn more about His words.
I thanked God that He gave me the wisdom to see through the issues. I prayed that He would enable me to wake up in the morning, would keep me disciplined, have self-control, and would protect me from any distractions.
That night I prepared 2 alarm clocks; one was put on the table and another was going to sleep next to me, my wife. I asked her to wake me up when the alarm clock rang. Thank God that both alarm clocks worked the next morning. I woke up, sat at the desk and had a pretty good time with Him for almost an hour. That was considered a record high for my regular quiet time. I am so thankful for my wife who had been helping me to wake up during this stage of struggling. Now, I can wake up without both alarm clocks.
Transformation and Influence
As my meeting with God has become more consistent, and I was taking more notes/more highlights than I used to do before, God has shown me so many things in different perspectives. As I read the Bible, I see various characters, many kinds of relationships, roles of disciples, roles of servant leaders, different names for Jesus Christ and His disciples, and many other things. This knowledge is applicable to my life. The Bible for me will never be the same anymore; it is not dry anymore.
I can think of the analogy of my relationship with God as a cordless phone (myself) receiving a signal from the transmitter (God). The closer my relationship with Him, the stronger the signal I pick up from Him. Clean and clear, no static.
This relationship changed the priority in my daily life. I am more eager to find time to recharge my battery and to learn about His words. The Word of God brings me a sense of righteousness. I can sense the Holy Spirit's conviction more clearly when I did something not right. His conviction humbles me because I found out there were a lot of areas in my life I had already given up to Him. There are a lot of things I do not want to do although I am supposed to do.
I have to ask God honestly, "Father, I don't want to do this, if you want me to do it, I will step forward one step, and I will let you take care of the rest." The Holy Spirit gives me discipline and self control from the distractions around me. I realized that we live in a world full of distractions. Sometimes the things that we take for granted like TV or entertainment activities could steal time we should have with God if we are not cautious. I still continue to pray for the protection of my quiet time with Him because there are many things that could occupy my free time.
The change in my life does not only have an impact on me but it also does to people around me. I can see this influence upon my wife as she starts to wake up and have a morning devotion time as well. My friends in the small group get encouraged when they learned about His work in my life. As I conclude, I hope that my testimony would encourage you to want to go back and do the math at home to see how much time we daily have with God and how we can reallocate time to Him. I believe that if we have a desire in our heart to improve the time with God, He would definitely help us because He wants to develop our intimate relationship with Him. I would like to use Paul's instruction from Col 3:16-17 as a prayer for you all.
"Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father" Amen.
Other questions on personal devotions? Click Next.
Biblical Foundations for Freedom
By Paul J. Bucknell