“The faintest pencil is better than the sharpest mind.”
This, more than any other statement, underscores the importance of journaling as part of your devotions. Research has established that writing is one of the surest ways of knowledge retention.
As you study the word and spend time in prayer, it is always a good idea to journal the journey. If you are using a devotional booklet, it most probably has some space for you to do this. If not, you can use a notebook or you could use the sample below:
Journals are powerful measurement tools. You can use it to analyse how far along you have come in your study and know when and where correction is needed. If you have a blog, you can use the journal entries as possible blog posts that you can add flesh to and publish on the blog. Journaling also helps in strengthening your discipline since it is something you get accustomed to doing day in day out.
Let us look at some of the reasons why you should start keeping a devotional journal:
Journaling helps you to walk in obedience
Journaling will force you to slow down your pace of reading the Bible and this gives our mortal mind more time to hear from the immortal God. As you jot down the thoughts the Holy Spirit inspires you to, you hear him more clearly and it becomes easier to walk in obedience. You can use different pen colours to colour-code your journal entries. For instance, red can be used for when you are upset, green when you are happy, blue when you are remorseful and black for all other notes. These colour codes can help you to easily locate related topics in the past entries.
Journaling helps you to remember and memorize scripture
Research shows that you remember only 10% of what you read but over 50% of what you wrote. Journaling is, therefore, a great way of memorizing scripture.
Journaling helps you out words into feelings
Writing is used by psychologists as a tool of therapy. That is because writing causes the feelings that were buried to come alive. When journaling, you express your raw thoughts to God and this results in an authentic relationship. That is the kind of relationship David had with God. When he was mad at God, he would let him know. When he was hungry and tired, he would let God know. You can get to this level of relating with God by starting a regular journaling regimen.
Journaling documents your growth
Journals are instruments of recording your spiritual growth. As you mature in Christ, you will probably find stuff in there that you will not be too proud of – but that is okay because it shows growth. You can also look at the prayers you made before and how God answered them.
Believers who spend no time reviewing and pondering in their minds what God has done, whether they are alone and reading their Bibles or joining with other believers in corporate adoration, should not be surprised if they rarely sense that God is near.
Here are a few tips to get you started journaling.
Buy a nice notepad and keep it in your devotional space.
Just be yourself. Don’t worry about doing it right – just be personal.
The first step in stopping procrastinating your devotions is understanding why you are doing the devotions in the first place. You have to stop and ask yourself, why are you doing the devotions anyway? The following are some of the main reasons why doing a regular devotion is good for you:
Exercise the soul – devotions are comparable to physical exercise. We work out in order to promote our health and wellbeing as well as build our endurance. Exercise also helps us to shed off unnecessary weight. In the same way, devotions will help in keeping our spirits healthy. They also help us to deal with habitual sins and generally strengthen or spirits. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Romans 15:4). Likewise, devotion time like work out time must be intentional, you can just walk around the gym looking at the equipment and expect to be fit.
Successful living – the more we soak in the word on a daily basis, the more knowledgeable we become in the word. Hosea warns that we perish for lack of this knowledge. When we spend time in His word, we get to glean up the wisdom in the scriptures and then we can apply it in our lives for successful living (Proverbs 23:12; Psalm 119:11; 97).
Love cultivation – when a couple falls in love, the hormones are usually raging, but over time they have to keep cultivating the love they have and as they do this, they grow to love each other even more. If they neglect to do so, however, their marriage will be in turmoil. Devotions are our way of cultivating the love we have for God. The more we neglect it, the less we experience his love on a day to day basis.
Unity – you might have seen the wall hanging that says, “a family that prays together stays together” How true! The modern day family is fragmented due to the different interests and tastes and also thanks to technology. Having a regular devotion as a family is one way of ensuring the family is united and as the Psalmist says, when” brethren dwell together in unity, God will command a blessing.” Psalms 133.
There are many more reasons that we could add to the list but the bottom line is that devotions are very beneficial to the Christian. You cannot afford to whip through them or allow them to be crowded out of your schedule by other things.
Scheduling your devotions
As we have already mentioned, whatever gets scheduled gets done. after you have understood why it is important to do your devotions, the next step is to schedule them. Scheduling means that you properly plan when, where and for how long you will be doing your daily devotions. There are a couple of important steps that you need to observe as you schedule your devotion
Calendar – look at your devotions the same way you do dates. Schedule them in your calendar and stick to it no matter what. It is best to schedule the devotions early in the morning or late at night (for the night owls ) because this is the time when there are fewer distractions from friends and family.
Be realistic – if you are already having trouble with your devotions, it is unrealistic to expect that you will suddenly start spending 3 hours in the word of God every day. A realistic approach would be to start by committing 15 minutes every day and then gradually increasing the time as days go by.
Accountability partner – no man is an island. It will be beneficial to have an accountability partner whom you can grow with. If you live together (e.g. spouse or roommate) then you can discuss your daily progress before going to bed or over breakfast. If your accountability partner lives in a different place, you can meet on a weekly basis to review each other’s progress. You could also leverage technology by posting your daily devotional notes on a blog, YouTube or via a podcast such as I do.
Find a system that works for you – there is no one-size-fits-all devotion. You have to find one that fits you and stick to it. For instance, do you prefer using a devotional booklet? And how do you prefer structuring your devotions? For instance, some people find it easier to pray or read the word after listening to some worship music. Others prefer taking a walk in nature. It is important to realize that what works for your neighbour might not work for you so just identify a method that works and stick to it.
Deal with distractions – Take measures to deal with any distractions that might interfere with your devotion before you begin. Mobile phones are the most notorious interrupters in today’s word so you can either switch it off or put in on airplane mode. That way, you can still use your Bible app without having to deal with the push notifications from Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc. some people believe that playing the radio in the background helps in creating a reverent mood but for some it actually does more harm than good. It is impossible for your mind to concentrate 100% on two things at the same time.
Work with goals and deadlines – there is nothing as unproductive as trying to study without setting measurable goals and deadlines. For instance, you can state, “this week, I want to finish reading the book of Matthew by reading x chapters per day.”
Supporting materials – think about any materials and tools that you might need beforehand and gather them prior to commencing your Bible reading. For instance, will you need your Bible markers? Do you have a notebook to jot down notes? Will you be doing a cross-reference in this study? Assembling all the tools you need beforehand helps you to stay focused once you commence your study instead of running up and down every minute to get something you just remembered you need.
Eat healthily and work out regularly – one reason we feel too tired to do our devotion is our bad lifestyle.as a rule of thumb, keep away from sugary drinks or junk food because those can make your blood sugar to jump like crazy thereby affecting your performance and concentration. Fish, nuts, berries and whole grains are some great examples of foods to eat. In addition to this, try to do your work out before you do the study. The exercise will help your body to be alert which will help you to grasp more in your Bible study.
Drop the perfectionism – last but not least, you must drop any perfectionism. For instance, even if you have said that you must read four chapters per day and end up spending too much time on the first chapter as you do an in-depth study on it, do not feel the pressure of reading all four. The goal of the devotion is not to be a perfect reader of the Bible but rather to enjoy the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
Example of devotion time schedule
Start with a prayer – Ask God to speak to you as you read his Word
If you like, sing or listen to a worship Song
Read a passage of Scripture –
Mediate on what you’ve just read – Ask some questions about it
Write down some reflections –
Pray again asking God to help you apply what you’ve learned.
Give thanks to God for his goodness and answered prayers
Pray for others or situations
In the next week article, we will look at journaling and how it can help you to overcome procrastination in your devotional time.
Alternatively, you can download the whole guide now.
We all know that it’s important to spend time in God’s Word. We probably even want to spend time reading His Word, listening to Him speak afresh to us and enjoying a loving relationship with Him. Why then don’t we do it as often as we should? The simple answer is procrastination.
“My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time” – Charles Dickens
The worst thing about procrastination is that we often have convincing reasons for why today is not good. Think of the time you went to bed with a resolve to wake up early to read your bible, but then you had a rough night and you kept hitting the snooze button. Or maybe when you opened your Bible app on your mobile phone only to realize you have been tagged in a Facebook photo that you just have to check out before you proceed. Or maybe you decide to fix a cup of coffee to sip it as you study but as soon as you walked into the kitchen, you realize there were still a pile of dirty dishes from the night before and before you knew it and you just had to clean them, and before you knew it, you were already getting late for work.
Procrastination is a subtle vice. It creeps on you so gently that you might not even notice it at first. By the time you realize it, it will probably be a full-blown problem. But the good news is that it is a habit that can be easily broken. And that is what these series of articles are all about – I want to share with you some of the practical tips that can help you deal with procrastination and start enjoying a daily devotion with God.
But first things first, read the scripture below slowly and take a minute to reflect on it:
Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. (James 4:17, NIV)
That’s a bold statement don’t you think? It applies to so many areas of our lives too! If as I am sure you will agree, reading God’s Word and having a daily devotional time with Him is a good thing, anytime we skip our devotion, by James’s definition we have sinned. We knew the good thing we ought to do and yet we didn’t do it. So it is accurate to say that procrastination is, in fact, a sin. I don’t’ say this to make you feel bad. I am only trying to show you how serious skipping our devotion time is.
Six reasons why we procrastinate
We already know the importance of having regular Bible study. The question that we need to answer then is why do we procrastinate? If we really understand why we keep on pushing our devotion time away, we will be one step closer to solving the problem.
1) The absence of structure.
This is arguably the biggest reason why we keep procrastinating our devotion time. Whenever there is a collapse of the delay between impulse and decision, the impulse is inevitably favoured. (e.g., checking Facebook instead of doing work); our easy online access makes urges easily to gratify. One solution to this is to design your environment in a way that makes your desired goal more likely to happen. For example, if you tend to check your email or Facebook too often, schedule your internet to only work during set hours.)
There is a little known Bible Character by the name Jotham but the Bible has something really interesting to say about him:
So Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the LORD his God. 2 Chron. 27:6
Evidently, his success was pegged on his preparation. And that is true of us even today. If we take time to prepare, we will enjoy good success. You have to structure your devotion time way ahead of time because whatever gets planned gets done. If you have not decided what time you will do your devotion and how long you will do it, you will never find time for it. When structuring your devotion time, it might be a good idea to have an accountability form and an accountability partner. An accountability form should clear outline the details of the devotion time e.g. how many verses of the Bible you will read and how long you will pray. Every day at the most convenient time, you should have a sit down with your accountability partner (e.g. your spouse, roommate or friend) and discuss your devotion time achievement for the day.
Anxiety is another big reason why we procrastinate our devotion times. Avoidance is a well-known form of coping with anxiety. When you are anxious about something, the temptation to procrastinate is usually very high. This must be the reason God commands us not to be anxious whenever we approach him in prayer.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Anxiety and worry are twins. The word worry is derived from an Anglo-Saxon word which literally means “to strangle.” Whenever you worry, you are more or less strangling your hope. The Greek word for anxiety, as used in scripture, is merimnao and it means, “to be torn apart.” Anxiety comes when you are confused on what you should do about a challenge or a decision you have to make. The sad part is that when anxiety pushes you away from your devotion time, it kills the chance you had to find a lasting solution in the word of God. See, the word of God has a solution to every human problem and that is why we should endeavour to be good students of it.
Worry and anxiety comes when we focus on the wrong things. Paul understood this and that is why he went ahead to offer an interesting solution to anxiety.
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8
Worry and mediation work the exact same way. When you spend the entire day thinking about a problem you have, you are worrying. On the other hand, when you spend the entire day thinking of God’s faithfulness and how he will come through for you as he always does, you are meditating. So the only difference between meditation and worry is that one focuses on the bigness of your problem while the other one focuses on the greatness of your God. So Paul gave us the antidote for anxiety in the verse above. We should be careful what things we allow to enter into our hearts for as King Solomon warns, everything else we do depends on what is in our hearts.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
The reason we have to guard our hearts is because it is always under attack from the enemy. Satan not only opposes God but he will also do all he can to oppose whatever the child of God tries to do. A 2010 article in the New York Times reveals how much the devil is trying to fight God’s people:
“Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension, and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.” (New York Times, 2010).
We should never be oblivious of the devil for he uses all kinds of weapons. Sometimes, all he does is introduce a bad thought while other times, he introduces situations and circumstances that make us feel disillusioned, discouraged and anxious. If you lose your heart, you have lost everything so must guard it to ensure anxiety doesn’t creep in.
3) Sin – We feel unclean to go into God’s presence.
Sin is another big one. Every Christian feels convicted whenever they sin. The purpose of this conviction is to take us back to God. However, the enemy often capitalizes on this conviction to condemn us and this leads to feelings of unworthiness and this could easily make one to feel too bad about themselves to the point that they opt not to continue with their devotions. The Bible has a lot to say concerning sin but we should always remember that God deals with sin differently in the New Testament than he did in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, every sin had to be atoned for by a sacrifice as stipulated in one of the over 600 ordinances that were given by God through Moses. There were all manner of sacrifices and punishments for all manner of sins. Then Christ came and the story changed.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—
But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Romans 5:12, 15-17, KJV
Jesus came as the second Adam to deal with sin in our lives. And just as the sin of one man made the rest of us sinners, so did the sacrifice of one man, Christ Jesus made us righteous. The implication is that we no longer need to atone for every sin we commit. All we need to do is to ask God for forgiveness and he is just and faithful to forgive us of all our sins.
But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtainingeternal redemption. Hebrews 9:11-12
Jesus paid it once and for all. That is how the new covenant works. No more sacrifice is needed. All your sins past, present and future have already been atoned for on the cross of Calvary. All you have to do is repent, believe and accept the free gift of forgiveness!
Sometimes, the devil keeps reminding us of sins we committed years ago even before we received Christ and that can really weigh down on us. However, you should not allow the enemy to make you feel bad about the sins of yesteryears. Whatever you did in your former life was blotted out when you received Christ and a new page was turned in your life:
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Cor. 5:17, KJV
The redemption of Jesus from the power of sin also means that we are totally guiltless. How can you be guilty of a son whose sentence has already been paid in full? So whenever the devil tries to make you feel guilty, just remind yourself of the work of the Cross and refuse to be deceived by the beguiler and accuser of brethren. Here is a good scripture to use:
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Romans 8:1, KJV
We live in a fast paced world. The average Christian has to juggle between more than one job, family, ministry and social life. It is almost like we spend all the time we have moving helta skelta from one pressing responsibility to the next. And this lack of free time is the reason many Christians end up postponing their devotion time. Many years ago, Martin Luther was faced by a similar predicament. He was just too busy with his numerous responsibilities. But, he had a somewhat unorthodox view of his devotion time. He is quoted to have said,
“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” – Martin Luther
Why would he say that? Well, there are two answers to that question. First of all, he had prioritized the kingdom of God above all else. If he had little time, he would drop whatever needed to be dropped in order to create time for his personal devotion time. But secondly, he had caught a very important revelation. He realized that he was fully dependant on God for his day to day activities. The busier the day was, the more he needed God’s help. And that explains why he had to spend the first three hours of the day everyday even though he was probably busier than most of us.
Martin Luther must have learnt this from our Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ. By all standards, Jesus was a busy man on earth. He was so busy with the work of ministry that he often lacked time for mundane things like eating even when he wasn’t fasting (John 4: 31- 34). His day was always jam-packed with activity. He was either preaching a sermon, healing the sick, or travelling to the next city. But even with such a crazy schedule, Jesus always made time for his personal devotion. He always spent the first few hours of the day in prayer. Other times, he was on the mountain all night in prayer.
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:16, NIV
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. Luke 22:39, NIV
The scriptures above show the discipline that Jesus had in the area of personal devotion. He probably chose dawn and night as his time of prayer because that was when nobody would bother him. If Jesus was able to make time for his devotion albeit his busy schedule, we simply have no justified excuse. In fact, he wanted this lesson to be passed to his disciples and that is why he often took them with him. One time, he observed them as they were doing ministry and did something startling.
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:30-31 NIV
Jesus wanted them to realize the important of unplugging from the busyness of life and to take some moments of reflection and rejuvenation in God’s presence. He wanted to underscore the first reason why he called them – to be with him.
And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Matthew 10:1
Before Jesus called the disciples to preach the gospel, before he gave them power to bind devils and cast them out, before he gave them power to heal, he first of all called them to himself. He wanted them to realize that he was more interested in their relationship than he was in their performance. And since we serve an immutable God, we can be sure that has not changed even today. However busy we get, we need to always find time to be with him.
Remember when you gave your life to Christ and were all excited to start reading your Bible? If you were not lucky to get a new believers pamphlet or book that gave you some practical steps on how to get started, you most likely felt completely lost. But this feeling is not just a feeling for new believers alone. In fact, everyone has at some point been at a point where they feel so overwhelmed that they do not know where to start.
The Bible is a library of 66 books. In total, these 66 books have 1189 chapters. That means that even if you read 4 chapters daily, it would take you an entire year to read through the Bible. And then there is the issue of the length of chapters. While some chapters have less than 10 verses, others like Psalms 119 have a whopping 176 verses. The Bible is clearly no ordinary book and you can easily get confused on how to go about it.
But this overwhelming feeling is not always about reading of the Bible. Sometimes, it is about prayer. It could be as a result of so many needs that you get completely lost on how to begin. Other times, you might not just know how best to approach God in prayer and that can easily lead you to procrastinate. There are many examples of people in the Bible who had to deal with this challenge but David is an epic example. He not only went through this but he knew exactly what to do in such situations
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put..
We all know that it’s important to spend time in God’s Word. We probably even want to spend time reading His Word, listening to Him speak afresh to us and enjoying a loving relationship with Him. Why then don’t we do it as often as we should? The simple answer is procrastination.
Acedia Definition – What Does Acedia mean?
The word acedia is a Greek word that literally means, “Without care.” The closest equivalent English word is sloth. Suppose you were asked to name seven of the worst sins, what would your response be? I am almost sure you would immediately think of the common list know as the seven deadly sins.
When this ist was created, the desert fathers placed in the middle the world ‘acedia’. Even though acedia sounds like sloth upon translation, it meant a lot more than that to the desert fathers of the fourth century.
To them, it was a dejection that made it hard or impossible to be spiritual and it was characterised by a boredom that led to one falling to sleep when reading the word of God.
Furthermore, they placed it central to the list to demonstrate it was a sin common to all people and from which all the others flow.
The history of desert fathers
The term desert fathers (and also desert mothers) refers to a group of devout hermits, monks and ascetics who lived in the Scetes desert in Egypt in the third and fourth century AD. There are a number of well-known desert fathers but ‘Anthony The Great’ is arguably the most known. He is in fact referred to as the founder or father of desert monasticism. He was in the desert in the year 270 AD and stayed there until 271 AD. At the time of his death, he had inspired thousands of monks to take the path to seclusion in the desert.
Christian Monastism was greatly influenced by these early hermits. For instance, the Mt. Athmos monastic traditions, as well as the Rule of St. Benedict, were all largely influenced by the earlier desert fathers. While they are not so well know in today’s evangelical church, a look into church history reveals that almost all of the church renewal movements were somewhat pegged to some devout men and women who chose to separate themselves from the ordinary mundane life in order to hear God more clearly. Examples of such renewals include the German evangelicals and the England Methodist revival. Even though each of these renewals had different effects and took different turns, they were all largely influenced by the desert fathers.
What began as one man’s quest for separation gradually grew into communities of monarchs. It started by monarchs grouping into twos or threes and then over time, it graduated into fully fledged monarch communities. This evolution is what birthed monasteries that were guided by some rules and guidelines in order to enhance discipline, guarantee silence, establish fasting and prayer. Monasteries also included some work like weaving baskets and clothes in order to cover their living expenses.
The desert fathers were led into the deserts because of their resolve and commitment to seek God. For instance, when Christianity was legalized in the Roman Empire in the year 313, one of the fathers by name Anthony resolved to sell all his possessions and go into the desert. In those early days, these monarchs believed that mixing religion with politics was not the method of producing a Christian society. As far as they were concerned, the only way to be a true Christian was to be spiritual as opposed to the pursuits of the mundane things of this age.
The noonday devil: Distractions and Procrastination
The desert fathers had only one goal – to obey the most important commandment:
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’
‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:28-30, NIV
As far as desert fathers were concerned, the only thing that mattered was loving the Lord and the best way they knew to do this was by forsaking everything and everyone in order to completely focus on God. But then, they realized something they had not envisioned – it suddenly became apparent to them that it was almost impossible to think of nothing else than scriptures the whole day. Even though they were out there in the desert to do nothing but just focus on reading the word of God, praying and fasting, they often had wandering minds or got tired of doing one thing all day, all week. It didn’t take them too long to realize that this was not working. That brought them to a new realization – that even in solitude, you could still lose your focus on what took you to seclusion in the first place. It was an interesting challenge that needed a creative solution.
The biggest challenge was around noonday when the sun was blazing hot. It was not easy to maintain focus on God and they often suffered from wandering minds. This phenomenon was so common that they nicknamed it the noonday devil. One of the ways the desert fathers dealt with this challenge was to create a schedule and stick to it. Also, as monarch communities evolved, it became necessary to do some work in order to keep the facility afloat. This also helped them to plan out their day and for their prayer time become more fruitful.
Lessons from the Desert Fathers
We might not agree with everything that the desert fathers did, and we probably might not get a chance to seclude ourselves out there in the wilderness. Nevertheless, there are some timeless principles that we can glean from the desert fathers and apply them in our modern day life. Let us have a look at some of these:
The power of separation
There is power in separation. As you look through the scriptures, you will realize the pattern of separation – God would separate his people before he used them to do a great work. Consider the following Bible examples:
Abraham – God wanted to bless him, to make his name great, and to bless the families of the earth through him. But before that happened, God required Abraham to separate himself from his father’s house, from his people and from his country. When Abraham Obeyed, God fulfilled his promise (Genesis 12, 13).
Noah – Noah is a man we would identify with easily. He lived in a perverse generation. A generation that was so full of wickedness that God decided to wipe them out completely. But even though he lived in such a sinful environment, Noah was still a just and righteous man. He lived a separated life so to speak. Because of that, God revealed his 100-year plan to him and gave him a way out of the punishment that God was about to release on mankind (Genesis 6:8-9)
Moses – Moses was raised in royalty – in Pharaoh’s household. But he knew he was Jewish and he didn’t like how his people were mistreated by the Egyptians. So he took the matter into his own hands and killed one of the Egyptians that he caught mistreating his people. This led him to flee away from the glamorous life and while in the wilderness, the Lord appeared to him and gave him a call (Exodus 3). Even after answering the call and successfully leading the Israelites out of bondage, he would occasionally go up the mountain alone in order to hear from God (Exodus, 19:3, 24:15).
Samson – Samson is arguably one of the most famous Bible Characters. He was the strongest man that ever lived and he literally led a one-man assault against the philistine nation and prevailed. He was so strong that he could tear a lion into pieces, carry the gates of a city up the hill, capture 300 foxes and attach a torch on their tails, and other exploits as recorded in the book of Judged. But what was the secret of his strength? The secret was that God had called him to lead the life of a Nazirite, a separated life from the day of his conception to the time he died (Judges 13:1-7).
Jeremiah – Prophet Jeremiah was called at a crucial time in Israel’s history and his ministry helped to restore hope to the Jewish people who were at a point of despair. When God called him, he was a bit confused and was wondering why God would call him at such an early age and give him such a huge and noble responsibility. That is when God took him behind the scenes and told him how He had separated him for that assignment right from his mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1:5).
John the Baptist – John was the prophet that had the noble responsibility of preparing the way for the coming Messiah. His ministry was so phenomenal that even though he went preaching in the wilderness, where there were no people, people literally flocked there to listen to him. Just like Jeremiah, God had set him aside from his mother’s womb and in fact, the angel that announced his birth even said that John would be filled with the Holy spirit right from the mother’s womb (Luke 1:15).
Jesus – after John the Baptist baptised Jesus, He was led into the wilderness where he remained for 40 days and 40 nights. This moment of separation prepared him for the public ministry and eventually, his suffering, passion and death on the cross. The devil probably had no clue whom Jesus was prior to this but when he was baptised, God announced him and everyone who was there heard it. The devil must have heard it too and from then on, he started trying every trick to pull his ministry down. But after the 40 days of separation, Jesus was ready to tackle any temptation the devil hurled at him.
Paul – Paul, who was initially called Saul, was one of the persecutors of the early church. One day, however, Jesus appeared to him while he was on his way to persecute the church and what transpired from this experience was a radical transformation. Paul later one became a major contributor to the Bible having written close to three-quarters of the New Testament. But before he ever wrote his first epistle, or preached his first sermon, he went through a period of separation. He stayed in the wilderness of Arabia where he probably got most of the revelations that he later wrote in his epistles (Galatians 1:17-18).
With all this said, I think there is no surprise that Jesus said:
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6
God is all we need
The second lesson we can learn from the desert fathers is the importance of making heaven our primary focus. The desert fathers knew that our life on earth was temporary and we were headed to a more glorious future on the other side of death. This understanding is what prompted them to sell their properties and go to seek God in the wilderness. Even though God does not want you to sell your stuff as a way of showing your devotion to him, He wants you to serve him with your possessions. The pursuit of happiness should never be our principal goal in life. On the contrary, serving God should be the main driving force behind our existence.
Just like the desert fathers, we should always remember that God is all we need. And there are many scriptures that remind us this. An example is what Jesus said when teaching his followers on the importance of not being ruled with worry. He said,
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Matthew 6:31-34, KJV
Nothing steals out time like the pursuit of the things of earth. And Jesus was reminding his followers that it was all about priority. As long as meeting our needs is our priority, we will never have enough stuff. However, if we could make seeking God and his kingdom as our priority, then he would be more than willing to step in and make sure we had all we needed. Just to emphasise this thought, the Holy Spirit repeated this in other portions of scripture. For instance,
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Col. 3:2
As difficult as that might sound, it is not only possible but a requirement for us. The only way of enjoying our walk with God on a day to day basis is to endeavour to set our mind on things above and not just on earthly things. Peter also encourages us to do this.
But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy—acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord. Always be ready to give a [logical] defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance [elicited by faith] that is within you, yet [do it] with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15
You are not alone
I think this is the most powerful lesson we can learn from the desert fathers. Even though they had taken stringent measures to be closer to God all day, they were still found themselves losing sight of it. They reportedly had to deal with wandering minds and thoughts when they were supposed to be in meditation and prayer. So don’t be too hard on yourself. You are not alone in this. Those that went before us went through dry spells and we will for sure have to experience them too. But then, we should look at devotion as a discipline. That way, we will not rely on feelings but on discipline. Once we discipline ourselves to have regular devotions, it will not matter if we feel like it or not. It will not matter whether we feel close to God or not – we will keep on doing our devotions and our persistence will eventually wear out any resistance.
We ought to approach God daily in faith and say, “Lord, I know I am very busy with a lot of stuff that needs to be done but still, I want to fulfil your will. That is the primary thing. ”
Whenever you start struggling in your devotions, just remember, you are not alone.
It’s not smooth all the way
Another important lesson to learn from the desert fathers is the fact that you can still go through challenges in your devotion even after making up your mind to start being more committed.
Let’s say you went to a solitary place and was just in God’s presence all day and night for 40 days and 40 nights – what do you think would be the result? Maybe something really awesome and spectacular like say, raising someone from the dead? But guess what, when Jesus completed his 40 day fast, the Bible says the Devil came to tempt him. That is not the response you would expect right?
Likewise, you shouldn’t expect it to be smooth all the way. Scripture says,
Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. Psalms 34:19
Hurdles will always be there but the good news is that God is an ever-present help in the time of need.
The desert fathers usually did most of the hard work in the mornings when it was cooler but as they sat down at noon to relax and reflect, their minds would often wander and they would lose focus on God. The same is bound to happen to us wherever we may be. For instance, you might be at home all ready to start your devotion and then something happens. Your phone rings or someone knocks at the door, hubby asks for a cup of tea, etc. Even when in church, you could still get distracted easily. For instance, you could start praying and then a thought crosses your mind and before you know it, you are busy worrying and thinking about things back at home.
Jesus had his fair share of distractions in his public ministry. As you read the gospels, you realize that he had to deal with a lot of that on a day to day basis. A classic example is when he was on his way to heal the daughter of Jairus only to be interrupted by the woman with the issue of blood. Even though the Bible uses just a couple of verses to describe that interruption, it must have been a lengthy one because the servants of Jairus managed to come with the report that the daughter was already dead. In this example, as is the case in almost all other cases where Jesus’ ministry was interrupted, He always dealt with the interruption without losing focus on the original goal.
Even though we all look forward to a time when we will be totally immersed in God’s presence, it is only human that we will have to deal with interruptions in our devotion. The rule of thumb is to never let the interruptions decide if you are going to do your devotion or not. You have to make up your mind to always keep the main thing the main thing. There are many interesting things that will happen to us and some will definitely take our attention. Other times, they will not even be interesting things but they will be important nonetheless. Whichever the case, we should never allow the interesting and the important to ruin our personal walk with the Lord.
I couldn’t wait until my son, Timothy, was old enough to start eating solid food—even if solid food consisted of sloppy baby rice. Prior to that moment, I had endured months of him staring into my mouth every time I ate. He would look at me in such a way to show what he was thinking, “Why can’t I have some?” His big, brown eyes never failed to make me feel guilty.
When the day came that he could eat solids, he took to it right away. Immediately, he wanted to hold the spoon himself and put the rice into his mouth. He didn’t even dribble a bit (I think he thought he had waited so long, he had better not waste any). As the days progressed, so did his eating skills. He ate pretty much anything we offered him. One of his favourite things to do was pick tomatoes from the greenhouse and eat them right away.
Then one day, Timothy decided on his favourite foods. He determined that he no longer wanted to eat what was put in front of him but rather what he wanted to eat ONLY what he wanted to eat.
The technical term for this behaviour which peaks between the ages of two and six is food neophobia. In January 2016 research from a journal called Appetite showed out of 120 kids aged three to eleven, an overall 39% were identified as picky eaters at some point. Personally, I think the percentage is far higher.
As I was reflecting on Timothy’s eating habits, I wondered how often I’d approached my spiritual diet the same way.
Much like physical food, spiritually, I am inclined to digest the things which are to my taste and reject the parts I dislike. I tend to lean towards soft and sweet rather than chewy and nutritious. When I read a chapter from the Bible, I often find myself like a child on Christmas, eating what I enjoy while avoiding the brussels sprouts.
Three Reasons Why We Become Picky Eaters
According to the professionals, there are three major reasons why children become picky eaters: fear, independence and boredom.
The main reason children become fussy eaters is because they are scared that food might hurt them. Consider the time before supermarkets existed. We had to hunt and gather our food in the wild. In that sort of environment, we had to know which foods were safe to eat and which foods would kill us.
Today, we don’t suffer from the same extreme (unless of course, you decide to go on holidays with Bear Grylls). Nevertheless, we still experience pleasure or displeasure when we put food into our mouths. Imagine eating a sweet bit of fudge or a red hot chilli pepper. Both are very different tastes, and without knowledge or experience, there is no way of knowing what experience you will receive. How confident would you be to eat blindfolded? This is how a child feels when given new food for the first time.
Fear is often a bigger motivator than pleasure. For example, imagine there are two unmarked boxes, one with a cheque for a thousand dollars and another with a deadly scorpion. Most people would not take the risk to put their hands in either box, even for the chance of the pleasure of winning a thousand dollars.
Along with the fear of the unknown, there is also the fear of the known. As adults, if we don’t like something, we simply don’t eat it but imagine if someone forced you to eat your least favourite food. Dr Gillian Harris, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Birmingham, asked, “What is going through your mind—disgust? And if I tried to make you eat your horror food—anxiety and then fear.”
So what does this look like when it comes to reading God’s Word?
Often I find myself wanting to stay within the parts of the Bible that I am most comfortable. For example, many Christians are happy reading the Gospels and the Sunday school stories, “Noah and the Ark,” “Samson,” and “Joseph and His Technicolor Dream Coat.” However, they choose to stay out of the more difficult passages and Old Testament prophecies. We like to stick with what we know. The Hebrew church had a similar problem. They became content with drinking milk and would not move on to solid spiritual food.
“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:11-14
Perhaps we need to wean ourselves off spiritual milk and move onto solids.
Timothy and I eating toast
Another reason why children often reject food given by their parents is that they want to show their independence. To begin with, Timothy was more than happy to be fed with a spoon, but then all of a sudden, he hated it. He wanted to hold the spoon himself. In fact, he would often rather not eat than be helped. Now, this was not a problem at all when it came to finger foods, but when it came to eating breakfast cereal, well, let’s just say the phrase, “Don’t cry over spilt milk,” didn’t sound so funny anymore.
As parents, we try everything. The choo-choo train coming through the tunnel. The aeroplane flying in the sky, but NO, NO. That tunnel is bricked up and staying shut.
We often call this time “the terrible twos.” Although, children will often begin to show their independence long before they are two-years-old. Children’s growing independence shows itself in a variety of contexts beyond eating. They want to choose their own clothes, decide which toy to play with, walk by themselves, and so on. On some days, toddlers want help, but on the next, they refuse it.
When children demonstrate their independence, it is their way of saying, “I know what is best for me.” Children don’t care about the nutritional value of foods. They don’t care about eating a balanced diet. They only want to eat the food that gives them instant pleasure.
Yummy yummy ice-cream – one is never enough
Like children, we have a tendency to refuse to eat anything that is not suited to our tastes. I could list all the reasons why sugar is bad for you, but in all likelihood, if I mention cakes, ice cream and chocolates, it will only make you crave them. If you’re more of a savoury person, I could talk about the fat and salt in crisps, sausage rolls, and pork pies. Yet again, while you may know that they are not good for you, you will still crave them anyway.
Equally, I could talk about the healthy benefits of tofu or how raw cabbage and spinach shakes will reduce your acidic level and provide you with loads of micronutrients. But it is probably not going to encourage you to go out and drink one.
How does this translate into spiritual food? Well, we find ourselves only reading the things that we enjoy and ignoring the things that we dislike or don’t fit into our belief system.
“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” – 2 Timothy 4:2-3
What does this look like in its simplest form? It means that we read about God’s love but not his holiness. It means that we study about the blessings of God but not about the disciplines of God. Often we try to pick and choose verses from the Bible to support our positions on something. Our motivation in doing so is that we want to run our own lives, and we don’t want God to interfere. This is a very dangerous and ungodly way. The life of the believer is one of dependence—not independence.
Another reason why children often reject food is because they are bored of it (sorry parents but it’s true). As parents we eventually decide it’s not worth a battle each meal time and so pick the easy option of just cooking foods that our child likes. Then, to our surprise, they start rejecting that food also. The reason? They are tired of eating it. There are only so many chicken nuggets any one child can eat.
My grandfather always told me, “Don’t tell your nan you like anything because if you do, you will be stuck with it forever.” He would then go on to tell the story of how forty years prior, he had told my nan that he enjoyed the ham, potatoes, and parsley sauce she made for tea one Wednesday evening and as a result had been left eating it every Wednesday night for the rest of her life.
Spiritually speaking, as sad as it is to admit, we can become bored with God’s Word. We scan over the things familiar to us. We switch off our attention during the Sunday Service and think to ourselves, “I’ve heard this before.” This was often my Sunday School experience as I would hear the same stories year after year with the same application. One survey showed that 75% of Sunday preaching is from the New Testament. Could it be that we don’t have a balanced spiritual diet?
I love the passion that this psalmist had for Scripture:
“I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Be good to your servant while I live, that I may obey your word. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me. My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.” – Psalm 119:14-20
“Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”” – Matthew 4:4
Matthew 4:4 is a familiar passage to me, but I want to focus on one word: “every.” Man shall not live on bread alone, but on EVERY word. Just as we need a balanced physical diet, we need to balance our spiritual diet as well. We can’t just live on SOME words. We need every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Has your child taught you any lesson in regards to your relationship with God or Scripture?
What tips can you give to help us stop becoming spiritually fussy eaters?
As followers of Jesus, we all know that we should be reading God’s word. You may have read my other post “7 reasons why memorizing Scripture is vital”. We also know that we should be studying God’s word. We have also been taught that we ought to be memorizing God’s word, but, many of us have convinced ourselves our memory just is not good enough. Let’s be honest, sometimes we need to stop and think just to remember how old we are or where we parked the car. If we become convinced that we cannot memorize parts of the Bible, how are we going to live out Psalm 119:11?
Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You (Psalm 119:11, NIV).
Rather than working so hard to convince ourselves that it is impossible for us, let’s take some proactive steps to see how we can hide God’s word in our heart. Here are 7 Steps to Memorizing Scripture. If you will put these into practice, you will discover that you CAN memorize Bible verses and it will positively impact your walk with the Lord.
Step 1: Read the verse. Then, reread the verse.
When you come across a verse that you want to memorize, read and reread the verse several times. Start to get the flow of the words. Read it slowly. Look at each word. What purpose does each word play in the sentence? As you read the verse, you will start to get a feel for the impact this verse can make in your life.
Step 2: Study the verse.
Carve out some time to study the verse. Read what others say about that verse. Look at the truths that a few commentaries pull out of that verse. Work at pulling the verse apart to find what others say the verse means and how it applies to life. What is the context of the verse? Who wrote it? To whom was it written? How does it fit into the narrative of what God’s word is teaching in that passage? Is it a part of an Old Testament account? If so, learn the events that occur in that account. Is it a part of a parable of Jesus? If so, learn the gist of that parable so that you can tell the context as you quote the verse. When conversing with others, knowing the context of the verse you are memorizing will be extremely helpful in conveying the truth of Scripture to them.
Step 3: Meditate on the verse.
To meditate on a Bible verse means to let the words roll through your head and your heart over time. You know you are meditating on a verse when it is what your mind goes to when you are not thinking about anything else. Meditating on a verse is like having a song stuck in your head, but rather than a song, it is the verse you are memorizing. As you meditate, the Holy Spirit will show you deeper truths from the verse. What does that verse mean to you? How can you live out the truth of the verse? What changes are required to live out the truth of that Scripture? When you meditate on a Scripture verse, the truth of that verse sinks deep into your heart. When you start to apply the meaning of what the Bible is saying in that passage, it will be easier to memorize the words because the truth is changing you.
Step 4: Write the verse out.
Using pad and pen, or computer and keyboard, write out the verse several times. When you start producing the words, your eyes and your hands will help your mind cement the words into your heart. As you write it out, be sure to check that you are writing it out correctly. Making repetitive mistakes will only make it harder to memorize that verse. But, as you correctly repeat the verse in writing, you will find yourself knowing what the next word is without having to look. Do that several times and you will be close to memorizing that verse.
Step 5: Hang the verse up.
Find somewhere to hang the verse up where you will see it every day. A post-it note or paper from a small pad will suffice. It does not need to be fancy. Just a reminder to you to read every day in a obvious location (The fridge door, your desk or bedside table for example). This will keep the verse before your constantly.
Step 6: Review the verse.
For a verse to truly be memorized, you must review that verse over time. At first, you will need to review the verse daily. Then, you can move to reviewing the verse once a week. Finally, you can go to once a month. But, if you really want to remember the verse, you should start a review process where every verse you have memorized is reviewed at least once a month. Notecards are very helpful for this review process.
Step 7: Use the verse in conversations.
Probably the best tool in Scripture memory is to use the verse in your conversations. That may be as overt and intentional as: “Let me share with you this verse that God is using to speak to my heart. Romans 1:16 says….” As you quote the verse in conversations with others, you are forced to remember the verse and the reference. Then, you will have that verse in your arsenal of Scripture that you can use during the spiritual conversations that you have with others. It makes a significant impact on those who are searching to know what the Bible says about a certain topic. You quoting the verse will bring validity and power to the conversation because others will hear what God says rather than what you think.
What was the last verse you memorized?
If it has been awhile or never, why don’t you get in the habit of hiding God’s word in your heart? If you think that you can’t, try these steps and watch over the next couple of weeks how that verse will not only start to be etched into your memory, but the truth of the verse will begin to shape your life to be more like Christ.
You can memorize Scripture. Give it some effort. Work at it and you will be amazed at what you can remember, and God will use it in your life.
We are constantly being bombarded with an earthly way of thinking through numerous channels. Movies, television shows, commercials, music, the internet, social media radio programs, blogs, podcasts, and many other vessels carry the message of the world straight into our minds. God has called us as followers of Christ to be set apart, holy, and different from the world. To do this, we must be consistently filling our mind with the truth of God’s word. His Scripture is truth. We combat the lies of the world with the truth of God’s word. But, to fight that battle, we must carry the weapon of the sword of the Word with us. We must let the changing truth of the written word change our hearts. The only way to have God’s word with us and let it change our hearts is to memorize it. Then, the Bible can always be flowing through our minds and permeating our hearts.
Each day in our daily devotions I included a key verse. I would like to encourage you to take the key verse each day as a memory verse. Here are 7 reasons why memorizing Scripture is vital.
Follow the Example of Jesus
As Christians, we are constantly being reshaped to be more and more like Jesus. In Romans, Paul says it this way:
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Romans 8:29, NIV)
If we are being conformed into the image of Jesus, then we are doing more things that He does with more of the heart that He has. We follow His example in action and attitude. There is no doubt that as Jesus walked this earth, He was one who knew the Bible. He was constantly quoting from the Old Testament. The example that we have from Jesus is knowing and living the word of God. We should be memorizing Scripture because Jesus did.
God Commands It
God told us that we need to be carrying His word around in our hearts. After giving His people the law, God told the people this:
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart (Deuteronomy 6:6, ESV)
The very words of God that He was giving to the Israelites were to be in their heart. They are to know it so they can live it. The passage goes on to instruct the people to impress the words on their children and talk about the Scripture often. How can we be talking with our children about God’s word if we do not know God’s word? We memorize God’s word so that we can have it in our hearts to know and to live.
Renews Your Mind
If the world is incessantly blasting its message into our minds, we must consistently recondition our minds to think as God wants us to rather than like the world shapes us to:
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2, NASB).
To have our minds renewed means to filter out the trash of the world and to replace it with the beauty of God’s word. Memorizing Bible verses and passages fills our hearts and minds with the good things of what God says. It changes our minds. It cleans our thoughts. Verses that we can recite from memory show that our thinking is on what God wants rather than what the world is selling.
Transforms Your Life
In that same verse, Romans 12:2, we read that the renewed mind brings about the transformed life. The life that is being transformed is being remade in Christ. The old habits are being replaced by new habits. The old way of talking is gone as new, Godly words are used. The old way of loving oneself is exchanged for the new way of loving others. The old way of life is dead. Jesus is growing a whole new life. Memorizing the Bible transforms us from the inside out. A renewed mind leads to a transformed life.
Every time we memorize a verse of the Bible, we provide ourselves with another piece of truth that can be used to fight off the lies of Satan. When temptation comes, it is God’s word that can speak the truth into the situation and give us the ability to say no to the temptation. That is exactly what Jesus did. When tempted by Satan to turn a stone into bread because of His hunger from 40 days of fasting, Jesus quoted Scripture.
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4, NIV).
Throughout this passage in Matthew 4, Satan tempts. Jesus responds with a Bible verse. If that is how Jesus fought off the temptation from Satan, we should use that same plan. When Satan tempts us, we can fight off that temptation with a truth of God’s word. But, that only works if we have God’s word in our heart and mind for it to be used.
Helps Share Christ
When we are talking to a friend, we can use the verses that we have memorized to share the love of Christ with that friend.
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15, ESV).
God’s word has power. When we quote Scripture in our witnessing opportunities, we are unleashing the power of God into the conversation. We need to be able to speak that kind of truth, especially when someone is searching. Those words of power can only come out of our mouths at that time if they are in our hearts and minds all the time. Memorizing the Bible enhances our witnessing abilities.
When we listen to and live by Scripture, we are drawn to live the pure life that God has called us to. The psalmist speaks of the value of knowing the word of God.
Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You (Psalm 119:11, NKJV).
Hiding God’s word in our heart will change the way that we walk every day. We avoid sin more when the Bible is in our hearts. Memorized Scripture is a wall of defense against impurity in our life.
Memorizing God’s word is a discipline that will change everything about us: how we think, how we act, how we talk, how we love, how we share, and how we obey. Let the Bible sink deep into your heart. Know it so you can live it.
The Christian life is not about a set of religious rituals and going through the motions each Sunday. Instead, walking with Jesus is all about relationship. When we become a follower of Jesus, growing that relationship with Christ is the most important spiritual endeavor for us to pursue. All relationships have one ingredient that inspires growth – TIME. Just as a dating relationship requires time spent together for the couple to grow closer and a marriage needs time invested between the husband and the wife, so to our relationship with Jesus demands time invested in the relationship for closeness to occur. Intentional time. Dedicated time. Devotional time. Daily Devotions time.
Here are five reasons why you need to discipline yourself to spend a time of daily devotions with the Lord:
1. Daily Devotions are Essential for Connection
Since our walk with Christ is all about relationship, our daily devotional time allows us to connect with the Lord in meaningful ways consistently. This closeness will enable us to talk with Him, and He to us. We can share what is on our heart by praying, and He will share with us what is on His heart through our time in the Bible and the Holy Spirit illuminating our hearts to the truth of who God is and what He is doing. Through this time of growing our relationship with Christ, we will experience a deeper love for God, a more significant appreciation for what Christ did for us when He died on the cross for our sins, and a stronger relationship with our heavenly Father who loves us and has a plan for our life. Without this time of devotion, our relationship will weaken as the world bombards us and pulls us away from our walk with the Lord. The Apostle Paul says it this way:
“I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11, NIV).
Paul wanted to know Christ and everything about Him in a personal, relational way. That connection comes through consistently spending time with Jesus through a daily devotion.
2. Daily Devotions are Essential for Direction
The truth is, we are not as smart as we think we are. Issues are going to come up in life when we wonder what to do. Which direction should we go? What choice should we make? What does God want us to do for a living? When is it time to change jobs? How is God calling us to serve Him? These are just some of the many decisions that we face and will continue to face. Where do you go for answers? How do you know which choice to make? God will show us which path to take, and He will show us which direction to go. But first, we need to ask Him, then, we need to listen to Him. We strengthen our communion with God and our listening to Him through an ongoing conversation with Him. Daily devotions provide an avenue for that interaction to be consistent and growing. We need direction, and God wants to provide that direction.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV).
How do we hear those plans? We ask the Lord to show them to us and listen for His response during our daily devotions. God has a direction for you to take. Learn to listen to His guidance.
3. Daily Devotions are Essential for Correction
Everyone gets off track sometimes. Every Christian has habits that need to be adjusted, attitudes that need to change, and growth that needs to occur. Romans 8:29 teaches, we are being conformed into the image of Jesus Christ. God highlights the areas of our life that need correction by bringing the conviction of the Holy Spirit upon our heart. Our daily devotions give God the opportunity to point out areas that He wants to change in you. When Isaiah came into the presence of God, Isaiah’s response was:
“Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5, NASB).
Isaiah’s sin and the sin of the people became evident when Isaiah stepped into the presence of God. When we step into the presence of God during our daily devotions, our sinful acts will become apparent, like sunlight reflecting off dust. By His grace, we can confess them, turn away from them, and grow in to be more like Christ.
4. Daily Devotions are Essential for Refreshment
The world is continually trying to beat us up and tear us down. Sometimes in life, we feel attacked and defeated. Where can we go to be healed? Where we you go to be rejuvenated? Where can we go to be refreshed and renewed? We step into the presence of the Lord. He will bring healing when we are hurt, encouragement when we feel defeated, and renewal when we feel depleted. This refilling from the Lord happens in our daily devotional time.
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings life eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31, ESV).
Being replenished with the joy, peace, and strength of the Lord comes from being in His presence in an intentional way. Daily devotions accomplish this for us.
5. Daily Devotions are Essential for Worship
God is worthy of our worship, adoration, and devotion. He deserves our heart pouring out praise to Him. This act should happen more than just on Sundays when we gather at the church to worship. It should happen in our personal walk with the Lord. Our daily devotions gives us the chance to praise God often. He deserves it, and it blesses us.
Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1, HCSB).
God deserves our continual worship. A daily devotional time reminds us that we should be intentional about pouring out our worship to the Lord consistently. We need to spend time with the Lord every day. We will be blessed. God will grow us through it. And, spiritual progress made in our life.
Take you Bible. Find a quiet place. You may bring a devotional guide with you, an online devotion or sign up to receive devotions by email. Spend time in God’s Word. Spend time in prayer. Spend time with the Lord. Our Christian life will never be the same once we develop this discipline in our life.
I think most of us have a desire to spend time with God each day. Yet, many of us struggle to make it a reality. We’ve bought the devotional books but never made it past the first few pages and signed up for the emails, but never get round to reading them. If you have decided to try and keep up daily devotions in 2017, here are 12 steps that will help.
Commit to Thirty Days
Most of us have heard that it takes about 21 days to form a habit. Truth is that it usually takes around 66 days, but committing to one month is a good place to start. If you can make it through the initial days, it becomes much easier to keep up daily devotions in 2017. A month is a good block of time to commit to a change since it easily fits in your calendar. Use the first 30 days as a trial run to get organized and see what works best for you.
At jtdyer.com we will be spending the first 30 days of 2017, looking the attributes of God. Since the bible begins with In the beginning God, so will we. Why not join me for 30 days, as we have a better understanding of who God is. You may also sign up to receive devotional by email here or using the form on the right sidebar.
Do it daily
It is much harder to do something regularly if we don’t do it daily. As the saying goes, “tomorrow never comes”. Scripture is compared to food on more than one occasion in the Bible, so as we plan to eat daily, we should also plan to spend time in God’s Word.
If you want to keep up daily devotions in 2017, Don’t try to spend hours in your quiet time on day one. If you are starting at zero, then ten minutes is already a 10x improvement. Try to schedule thirty minutes, that should give you time to pray, maybe listen to a track of a worship song, read a chapter of the Bible, a short devotion, and time to pray and meditate on what God has revealed.
The more consistent your time of devotions is the easier it will be to keep up daily devotions foe the rest of the year. Try doing it the same time, in the same place for your thirty days. When cues like time of day and place are already set, it makes it much easier for us to stick it.
Get a Friend
I am sure you have heard the importance of an accountability partner. If you’re struggling to have time alone in your devotions, invite your spouse, parent or friend to join with you and keep up daily devotions together. That way you will keep each other accountable and you are far less likely to put it off until later. If it doesn’t work daily, choice a reading plan, then meet up with a friend once a week to discuss what God has spoken to you both.
Write down what you’ve read and what God has spoken to you, as well as your prayers and answer to prayers. It will change your life and remind you of how important daily devotions are to your spiritual walk. I don’t have the space to write the full value of journaling here, but I will do in a further article.
Restructure your place of devotions so it won’t tempt you in the first thirty days. For example, do you check your phone first thing each morning, then get lost in facebook and twitter. Put your phone away from your place of devotions. In fact, don’t even pick it up until after you’ve had your devotions. Do you end up being distracted by the radio or TV. Leave them off, or go to another room. If you remove the temptations, you won’t need to struggle with willpowerto keep up daily devotions later.
Know why you need a time of daily devotions
If you’ve read this far, you probably know that you need to make time for devotions each day. The truth is that we always make time for the things we need to do, but not always for the things we want to do. I have never once met someone who said they didn’t have the time to go to the toilet or drink water in 24 hours. Here are 5 Reasons Why Daily Devotions are Essential
Know the consequences
We should also be aware of the consequences. If we don’t commit to keeping up daily devotions we will continue to lack the intimacy in our relationship with that that He desires. We will continue to value the opinions of the world over God’s Word.
Place reminders in an obvious place or even download an app that does it for you. It often helps if you can piggyback off another already formed routine. For example, if sit down with a cup of coffee every morning, leave your Bible and anything else you need on the table the night before. That way, it’s there waiting for you the next morning.
Go to bed early
The main reason why so many people don’t keep up daily devotions each morning is they cannot get out of bed in time, that extra five minutes, becomes twenty and you end up rushing out of the door without time to eat breakfast, never mind read and pray.
Don’t end the devotion when your time is up
Write the key verse down and revisit and meditate on it throughout the day. Allow God to continue speaking to you.
Since today is world thinking day, I thought I would write a small article on the importance of guarding our minds.
Paul tells us in Romans 7:23 “But I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” The mind is a battlefield, and we must “let His (Jesus) peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
Our mindset is can be our greatest strength or our biggest weakness. It determines how we view life, our attitude towards what happens, and how we will react to situations. The mindset we have can hold us back or take us to a higher level.
What are some ways we can ensure our mindset is geared for think about whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise(Philippians 4:8)? What are some characteristics that can take us forward in this battle?
For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)
Fear is the biggest thing that holds people back from never fulfilling the call of God on their lives simply because every time they try to go forward, the devil uses fear to stop them. Is he using fear to stop you?
Whether it’s fear of failure, fear of being laughed at, or fear of success itself, there are an endless amount of reasons why fear is stopping us serving God. Throughout scripture, we find numerous people who faced the same fears as we did, but more importantly we find a God that allowed them to overcome the fears they faced.
David wrote in Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
In Isaiah, we see a promise from God “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10
Jesus reminds us that God cares for the birds of the air, so how much more will He provide for His children? “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31). Just these few verses cover many different types of fear. God tells us not to be afraid of being alone, of being too weak, of not being heard, and of lacking physical necessities.
God loves you and cares for you!
Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” Mark 10:27
Another mindset that holds us back is to have limitations in our faith. There are people who only mop around, claiming to the a victim believing that they are stuck where they are at.
Someone once said, “Why settle to do the great, when God wants you to do the impossible?”
Like fear, the Bible is filled with examples of great people that God used, but they all understood what it meant to be limited.
Moses felt limited by his ability to speak.
Gideon felt limited by his 300 men
The disciples felt limited with the five loaves and two fishes
Jeremiah felt like he was just a child in Jer. 1
Paul had a thorn in the flesh; admitted he was weak and trembling in I Cor. 2
But above his limitation Paul took God at His word and says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13 It’s not about our abilities but his faithfulness.
Know your direction
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9
Having a focused purpose in life makes it so much simpler to overcome obstacles because you know what you are ultimately working for. This is the starting point.
In Jeremiah 29:11 God says “ For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
When God gives you a vision, it is specific and individual. Although it’s expressly for you, it is also intertwined with His bigger picture. Your job is to obey the vision you’ve received just like mine is to obey the one He’s sent to me. Then, as with Cornelius and Peter, when our worlds intersect, the mission of the Church will be advanced, God receiving the ultimate glory.
Every day there is a new possibility for serving God, but we must watch or mindset and the battle which is raging there. Don’t hold yourself back with senseless limitations and fear just because you don’t know what the future holds.Trust God because if we “Trust in the Lord with all our heart; do not depend on our own understanding.6 Seek his will in all we do, he will direct our path.”