Having a Quiet Time | The Challenge
Monday— My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? Psalm 42:2
Ms. Pruneface glared over the top of her reading glasses as she surveyed the class. “Did everyone copy down the list of spiritual disciplines?” she squawked. She tapped the marker board with her pointer, naming each one: “Prayer. Bible reading. Worship. Giving. Church attendance…yes, Miss Jones?” She lifted a brow as a timid hand slid into the air. Lucy Jones cleared her throat and spoke nervously. “I was wondering why they seem like rules when they’re things I like to do. Since I met Jesus, I…well, I look forward to meeting with Him. Praying. Reading His word. It’s a privilege. Why are they called disciplines?”
That term makes our hearts sink, doesn’t it? Spiritual disciplines. Brings to mind a boot camp with God in sergeant stripes. Legalists prefer terms like “rules” and “disciplines,” but worshipers use words like “thirst,” “hunger,” and “longing.” David, who wrote this Psalm, was a worshiper and the eagerness in his heart is reflected in his songs. He’s like an excited kid waiting for the gate to open at the theme park (“When can I go in, Mom? When? When?”) We do need to discipline ourselves so our laziness doesn’t win. But in a healthy relationship with God, we’re excited to learn about more ways we can please Him. Spiritual disciplines are more like a checklist for our benefit, so we can keep a relationship with God our first priority.
Final Thought: Cultivating a thirst for God turns legalists into worshipers.
Prayer: Father, the term “spiritual disciplines” sometimes describes how I feel about it. I don’t always long to meet with you, but I guess that’s a sign that I’m drifting away. Help me cultivate the kind of thirst for you David had. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday— Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Psalm 119:11
The decision beats against your brain; the consequences could affect your future. You’re almost certain there’s a Bible verse about this, but for the life of you, you cannot remember where it is or what it says. You call a friend. He doesn’t know either. Pastor Rick’s not available and Google isn’t helping. Now what? You keep making foolish decisions and you’re not sure why. You listen in church. You signed up for the YouVersion verse-for-the-day. You’re trying to do right, but becoming a wise person seems as unattainable as a Ferrari. You see other people being wise, having better outcomes. What’s the problem with you?
Look closer at the above verse. Notice it does NOT say “Your word I have read, tweeted, posted, made a meme, and taken out of context.” The secret sauce is the phrase “hidden in my heart.” We hide things that are valuable so we can keep them. God’s word is valuable. It’s a fountain of wisdom when we need it—but only when it’s been hidden away for such a moment. We hide it by reading, meditating, and memorizing. Then we personalize it by asking ourselves, “How can I live this?” God’s answers become part of us. So when culture shouts, family frowns, or lust demands satisfaction, His word is the automatic basis for our responses. We’re no longer so fooled by Satan’s lies or susceptible to His tricks because God’s word is hidden in our hearts.
Final Thought: Hiding God’s word in our heads doesn’t help if it’s not also in our hearts.
Prayer: Father, I’ve been lazy about hiding your word in my heart. It’s so readily available at the touch of a screen that I treat it like a good-luck charm instead of a treasure to hide in my heart. I will start making it part of me. In Jesus name, amen.
Wednesday— I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
1 Corinthians 9:27
A uniformed cop handcuffed Pastor Joe while another turned to the stunned congregation. “We’re sorry to disrupt your Sunday morning, folks,” he said. “But the judge thought he was a flight risk.” As they ushered Joe off the stage, his sermon on the evils of drunkenness remained half-finished. The following week, horrifying details emerged. Pastor Joe was living a double life. The very sins he’d railed against had taken over his life. But how could such a thing happen? How had a beloved pastor become a drunken pervert? Paul told us: Joe had stopped keeping his body under control and let sin disqualify him for ministry.
We see it happening all around us. The secret lives of people we once admired are being exposed and it shocks us. They didn’t start out that way. Little by little they began giving themselves permission to listen to Satan, justifying it with excuses:
“You’ve worked hard. You deserve it. Nobody will know.” The apostle Paul feared disqualifying himself by giving in to sin, so he kept his lusts under tight wrap. The moment we claim the name of Christ, we begin to represent the kingdom of God to those trapped in the kingdom of darkness. Satan can’t steal our souls if we belong to Jesus, but he can destroy our testimony by exploiting our sinful desires. Paul urged us to discipline our bodies and our minds so we don’t become another statistic.
Final Thought: What area of weakness in your life is Satan most likely to exploit? What are you doing to master it?
Prayer: Father, help me discipline myself better. I let myself get away with things I know displease you. I’m ready to stop making excuses for my weak areas and start taking control of my body, my desires, and my actions. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday— As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue… Acts 17:2
“How do you find time to do a daily devotional?” asked Henry. “I get so busy and then I forget.” Carl hung up his tool belt. “Hey, I hear ya. Since Amy’s mom moved in, the kids started soccer, and I’m going to school part time, I don’t feel like there are enough hours in the day. That’s why I created a habit of meeting with God, whether I feel like it or not.” Henry frowned. “Yeah, I tried, but stuff kept getting in the way.” Carl smiled as they started toward their cars. “If you needed medicine every day to live, would you have time for it? It’s more than just praying on the way to work. I stay in His word and if I skip it, I don’t feel right.”
From Bible times until now, the people who were used mightily by God had a custom of seeking him regularly. Even though Paul knew he’d face stiff opposition, he kept going to the synagogues. Daniel knew he’d be arrested for praying, but as was his custom, he did it anyway. Jesus knew He’d be rejected, but as was His custom, He went to the temple on the Sabbath. Developing new habits takes intentionality. Remember learning to drive? You had to think about every little detail until it became second-nature. When we’re intentional about creating a habit of meeting regularly with God, it soon becomes second-nature and we don’t feel right if we skip it. And through that regular interaction with Him, God builds a relationship.
Final Thought: What customs have you built into your life that keep you spiritually on track?
Prayer: Lord, I’ve been too haphazard about my spiritual life. I’m undisciplined in this area but I want to change that. I commit now to making it my custom to _________________. I want a relationship that makes a difference. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Friday— Everything comes from him and exists by his power…intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Romans 11:36
The only way to learn the difference between the genuine and the artificial is to study the genuine. Much that is celebrated today as Christianity is artificial and leading people astray. So before we set out to establish a daily devotional time with the Lord, we need some guidelines. There are some cold truths we have to accept before we’re ready to draw close to the REAL Jesus (Yes, there are thousands of artificial ones). Christendom has become very ME-centered and New Age influenced. (God exists for me. The Bible is about me. Worship music should be about me, and the devotionals I read should build me up and convince me that Jesus thinks I’m awesome.) If that’s the fluff we’re gonna call a quiet time, we might as well skip it.
There are different ways to study the Bible. Exegesis means reading to understand what the authors meant. Eisegesis means reading it through the lens of my own ideas. But Narci-Jesus is a tongue-in-cheek term that means cherry-picking the Bible so that it affirms me and my lifestyle. Narcissism is epidemic in our culture and this method of using the Bible allows us to feel virtuous when we name-drop Jesus into our argument—even though we ignore the bulk of what he said. Many of the best-selling “Christian” books were written by authors using narci-Jesus to assure us we can have our best life now without the cross, surrender, or obedience. So when choosing devotionals, avoid those that offer a narci-Jesus approach to scripture.
Final Thought: Look for Bible-grounded materials that teach you how to love God and bring Him glory.
Prayer: Father, I’ve been attracted to material that makes me feel good about myself instead of learning how to be in right relationship with you. Help me find study materials that dive into your word without narci-Jesus. In His name, amen.