The quiet time has been called many things in the history of the Christian church. It is known as the "morning watch," "personal devotions," "appointment with God" or "personal devotional time." It really doesn't matter what you call it, as long as you have it regularly.
"Have it regularly?" you ask. Yes.
"Even if I read the Bible often in preparation for the work of ministry?" Yes.
I have assumed that any person who is committed to personal Bible study also has a regular quiet time. Unfortunately, some people do Bible study just for the intellectual stimulation it brings them. That is not enough.
A regular quiet time provides a daily time of personal fellowship with God through the Word and prayer. It is a time we deliberately set aside in which to meet with Him. The objective is that we might grow in our personal relationship with God so that we can know Him, love Him and become more like Him. It is about something so much more than mere intellectual stimulation.
So, why should quiet time be a priority? Two major reasons given in Scripture are because we need fellowship with God and because it is our privilege. Let's unpack both:
Reason No. 1: Because We Need Fellowship
The first reason we should have a quiet time is that we need fellowship with God. Because we are Christians, now rightly related to the eternal God of heaven and earth, we must have regular fellowship with Him in which we get to know Him and love Him more intimately.
Why is daily fellowship with God so important? Here are five reasons:
1) We were created to have fellowship with God. God created people in His own image for the purpose of fellowship. We are the only creatures in all creation that have the capacity to have fellowship with the Creator. Adam had that fellowship perfectly in the garden of Eden before the Fall (see Gen. 2-3).
2) Jesus Christ died on the cross so that fellowship could be restored. When Adam sinned, his fellowship with God was broken. And all of us sinners who have followed in Adam's footsteps cannot by nature have fellowship with a pure and holy God. But God considered that relationship important enough to send His Son to this world to die for our sins so that we might again have the privilege of a personal relationship with Him. And God has called us Christians to have fellowship with Him (1 Cor. 1:9; 1 John 1:3-4).
3) The regular quiet time Jesus took during His ministry was a source of His strength. Personal fellowship with the Father in heaven was the top priority of Jesus' life (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; 22:39-44). He was never too busy for it; in fact, when His ministry was the busiest, that's when He made certain He kept in daily touch with the Father (John 5:30).
4) Every great man or woman of God throughout history has spent much time alone with God. Anyone who has ever been used mightily by the Lord was a person of the Word and prayer. Regular quiet time was the one thing they had in common. The common denominator among Moses, David, Daniel, Paul, John Calvin, John Wesley, Charles Finney, Dwight L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, Billy Graham and all of the other great saints of history is that they all spent much time with God in personal fellowship. Their writings and ministries clearly show this.
Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation, once said, "I have so much to do today that I must spend at least three hours in prayer." The busier he was, the more time he needed with God. If you are too busy to have a quiet time, then you're too busy!
5) We cannot be healthy, growing Christians without daily fellowship with the Lord. Having a quiet time is not just a nice suggestion; it is a vital necessity for the child of God. It is absolutely essential for Christian growth and maturity.
Have you ever gone without food for a day? If you kept it up, you would get weak and sick. The same is true in your spiritual life, for the Bible is the necessary food for your soul. If you go without reading it very long, you will get spiritually weak and sick. Yet many Christians get by with one "meal" per week in church on Sundays. You would not survive long on one or two physical meals per week, so how can you in your spiritual life?
Job considered the Word of God more necessary than his daily food (Job 23:12). Jesus, quoting the Old Testament, declared that people need to live by every word coming from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4; see Deut. 8:3). Peter called the Scriptures nourishing milk (1 Pet. 2:2), and the writer to the Hebrews thought of the Word as solid food (Heb. 5:14).
From the above observations, you can conclude that if you are not having a regular quiet time:
- You will never be used greatly by God.
- You will remain a weak and sickly Christian all your life.
- You are missing out on the privilege for which you were created.
- You are rejecting what Jesus made possible by dying.
- You will never experience the same power and refreshment Jesus did.
"But I don't have the time!" is an excuse we hear so often. Every person in the world—including pastors—has exactly the same amount of time each week: 168 hours. We know that pastors don't have time for everything; you must make time for things that really count. It's not a matter of time but a matter of priorities.
The key to making time for quiet time is your commitment to Christ and the kingdom of God. Jesus stated, "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matt. 6:33, NIV). Put God first in your life and you will have more time. Don't let anything rob you of that time of fellowship with the Lord. Preserve it at all costs. If Jesus is first in your life, you ought to give Him the first part of every day. Your quiet time should be the absolute priority of your life.
Reason No. 2: It Is Our Privilege
We should have a quiet time each day because it is a tremendous privilege to have been granted a personal interview and time of fellowship with the Creator of the universe.
The quiet time allows us four great privileges:
1) We give devotion to God. The first privilege of the quiet time is to give, not to get. David said, "Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness" (Ps. 29:2). Another psalmist urged, "Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker" (Ps. 95:6).
In recent years, two wrong emphases have been permeating the American church. The first is the overemphasis on getting: What will I get out of church, out of Sunday school, out of doing what God says?
It is the result of our culture's great emphasis on entertainment, in which the people being entertained must be satisfied. When carried over into spiritual matters, it becomes self-centered religion and is definitely not biblical. That's why so much is being said today about following Jesus but little is said about the tremenduos cost of discipleship. As church leaders, we try to offer rewards to entice Christians to come to church when they ought to be coming because they love their Savior.
The other error is the overemphasis on working for God and neglecting the worship of God. Satan, the god of this world, has sold us a bill of goods in getting us to substitute work for worship. Most of us are so much on the go, even in doing fine Christian things, that we don't know the real meaning of worship. Jesus said, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only" (Matt. 4:10; see Deut. 6:13). Worship comes before service.
We are to give daily devotion to God because God deserves our devotion. When John saw the multitudes of heaven singing praises to God, he heard them say, "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power" (Rev. 4:11; see 5:12). Because God is our Creator and Redeemer, He deserves to be worshipped and praised. We should go to our quiet times each day out of love for God, not out of a sense of duty: "God, I've come to worship You because You deserve to be worshipped and adored!"
We are also to give daily devotion to God because He desires devotion from us. Jesus told the woman at the well, "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks" (John 4:23). God seeks our worship.
How long has it been since you took time alone with God just to tell Him that you love Him?
2) We get direction from God. The second privilege of the quiet time is for us to get direction from God for daily living. This was David's attitude in life: "Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long" (Ps. 25:4-5; see also Ps. 40:8; 73:24; 143:10; Is. 42:16). A quiet time is a great opportunity to receive counsel from the Lord.
In this fast-paced age of hurry, we need a time when we can slow down, collect our thoughts, evaluate what is happening around us and get direction from the One who knows the end from the beginning.
On a number of occasions, Jesus invited His disciples to "come apart" with Him for a while (e.g., Mark 6:31, KJV), that they might recuperate physically and spiritually. Vance Havner has said, "If you don't 'come apart' periodically, you will literally come apart!"
When we get direction from God in our quiet times, He causes us to consider our ways. We take the time to assess our lives. That's what David did: "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps. 139:23-24, NIV; see also Prov. 4:26; 14:12).
Are you keeping on track for the Lord? Are you growing daily in your spiritual life? Have you allowed some sins to pile up in your life? Take these and similar questions and try to look at your life from God's point of view. This will help you keep God's perspective on things, because over and over you can get so caught up in the necessary details of life that you lose the overall picture.
The quiet time is also a time to commit our day to the Lord. Solomon urged, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight" (Prov. 3:5-6; see also Ps. 37:5). Ask God to show you His will for the day; commit your schedule to Him, and ask Him to guide you in your upcoming activities. You might even ask Him to help you budget your time so you can get more done (Ps. 90:12). Ask Him to help you sort out the necessary from the unnecessary (1 Cor. 10:23).
3) We gain delight in God. The third privilege of quiet time is to enjoy God and simply to bask in His presence. David told God, "You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence" (Ps. 16:11). The secret of real joy is knowing God personally (Ps. 34:8; 37:4; 42:1-2; 63:1; 73:25; Phil. 3:10). Many Christians are miserable and lead unhappy lives because they never spend time in God's presence.
Do you really know Christ, or do you merely know about Him? To know Him intimately was the apostle Paul's number one priority in life (Phil. 3:7-10).
To get to know someone intimately and enjoy him personally, you must:
- Spend quality time with him.
- Communicate meaningfully with him.
- Observe him in a variety of situations.
These same criteria apply in getting to know and enjoy God too.
Remember that it is hard to have a love affair in a crowd; you need to get alone with that one person. This is why the Bible speaks of our relationship with God through Christ as a love relationship. In fact, it is called a marriage: Christ is the Bridegroom, and we in the church are His bride.
When I first met Kay, my wife, and God knit our hearts together in love, more than anything else I wanted to spend time alone with her. We spent time with each other, we communicated, and we observed one another in a variety of situations. That is the way your relationship ought to be with God.
Are you anxious to get alone and share intimately with Jesus? If not, you should be. Make your goal for the quiet time not just to learn about Jesus, but actually to meet with Him. Expect to meet Him each morning, for He's there waiting to meet with you.
Sometimes we get so busy working for God or with our own affairs that we forget just to love Him. The best way to get to know the Lord is to spend time alone with Him, sharing your thoughts with Him in prayer and reading over and over again the love letter He has written you.
4) We grow more like God. The fourth privilege of quiet time is the opportunity to grow in our spiritual lives, becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. When God created the human race, He "created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them" (Gen. 1:27). His purpose for man was that he might become like God "in [His] likeness" (Gen. 1:26). But man chose to become like the devil instead (Gen. 3). So in the act of redemption, God went back to His original purpose. He wanted His people again to be like Him, like Jesus Christ: "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" (Rom. 8:29).
How do we become like Jesus Christ? First, we are made holy like God through His Word. In His high priestly prayer, Jesus asked the Father to "sanctify [all believers] by the truth; your word is truth" (John 17:17). Our growth in sanctification comes through the time we spend in the Scriptures, getting to know God intimately.
Second, daily growth comes as the Word builds us up: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). As we are taught in the ways of God, rebuked when we go astray, corrected to go back to the right path and trained in righteous living, we grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Third, we grow as our minds are transformed from thinking the world's way to thinking God's thoughts after Him. Paul wrote, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Rom. 12:2). Again, this comes only through Scripture, God's revelation of His perfect will for us.
Finally, we become like Jesus as we spend time contemplating Him. Paul wrote, "We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Cor. 3:18).
This change is gradual; as we keep on contemplating Jesus Christ in His Word, we grow to be more and more like Him. It is not a five-second glimpse of Jesus that changes us but a constant contemplation of Him over time.
The more you are with a person, the more you become like Him. This is why quiet time is an essential part of the minister's life—and, indeed, every life.
Rick Warren is founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches, and author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors. This article was excerpted from Rick Warren's Bible Study Methods: 12 Ways You Unlock God's Word by Rick Warren Copyright © 2012. Used by permission of Zondervan.
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