Ask the average Christian which is more important. Making money or spending time alone with God. I bet you almost every one of them will answer “spending time with God” without thinking twice. But, watch how the average Christian actually lives out his life and notice where he or she really invests their time and energy. Money gets made, TV gets watched, magazines and books gets read and music gets listened to but God gets left out, that is except on Sundays if a family outing can’t be planned. That’s why I believe many church services are kind of “ho-hum”. Boring. See, the public worship services are a reflection of the private worship that each of our people have. The reason some of services are “dead” is because many of our private devotional lives are “dead”. The “quick-fix” of injecting more upbeat music into our services may FEEL like it solves the problem but it just covers a disease that’ll destroy us unless we seek God’s cure and people can’t sing with heart if their heart isn’t in it. An abundant life begins with a passion for God. In Job 23:19, “…I have esteemed the words of God’s mouth more than my necessary food.” Job was saying that to him, the most important thing was getting together with God and listening to God’s still, small voice on the inside.
One day, I was thinking about this. I had so many people I had to visit, meet with and serve, that I was rushing through my prayer time very impatiently – so I could get OUT of the Lord’s presence and “out with the people”. Then, Isaiah 53:3 came to mind, “He is a man despised and rejected by people; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And, it was a though we hid our faces from Him.” I had never thought of that verse like that before. Here we are, people who know and love the Lord, putting Him off, being too tired for him, too busy and almost as if we’re turning our faces away from Him. At the same time, we know that He’s the source of all the good that we seek and the abundance that He promises through the Word. You won’t get anywhere else the things that come to you from daily time with Jesus. Several years ago, a young Christian guy named Bill had a job at a pawnshop. He disliked the work but he did it faithfully “as unto the Lord” until a better job came along. During this time, he wrote on a scrap of paper the following promises: “I do promise God that I’ll rise early every morning to have a few minutes – not less than five – in private prayer. I’ll try to conduct myself as a humble and zealous follower of Jesus and I’ll try to lead others to think of the needs of their immortal souls. I hereby vow to read no less than four chapters in God’s word every day and I’ll cultivate a spirit of self-discipline and will yield my life to the Redeemer of the World.”
Part of the problem is that we think prayer as drudgery instead of delight. One man that God really used in days past, Henry Ward Beecher tells how he learned to pray. He learned from an old African-American who lived by his father’s farm in Litchfield, Connecticut. Beecher said: “He had a little room, in one corner of which I had a small cot and as a boy I used to lie there and wonder at the enthusiasm with which he engaged in his devotions. “It was a regular thing. First, he would read the New Testament, hardly aware that I was in the room. Then he would alternately pray, sing and laugh. I never saw the Bible enjoyed like that but I want to bear record that his praying made a profound impression upon me. It never entered my mind whether or not his actions were appropriate. I only thought, ‘How that man does enjoy it!’ I gained from him more of an idea of the desirableness of rejoicing prayer than I ever did from my father or mother. He led me to see that there should be real overflowing gladness and thanksgiving in it all.” Publisher Ted Engstrom shares three strategies that work to keep him on top:
- “I deliberately place myself daily before God to allow Him to use me as He wills.”
- I isolate a known point of spiritual weakness and work with the help of the Holy Spirit to correct and strengthen this area of my life.
- I ask Got a specific time daily to reveal His strategy and will for me that day.”
Here are just some of the benefits of being with Jesus every day:
- Release of Pressure and Stress.: The pressures of work, home and kids can lead to explosions if you don’t have a safety valve. “Casting your cares on the Lord,” like it says in 1 Peter 5:7, provides that release. The problems might still be there but you don’t have to bear the burden of them. Either you carry them or Jesus does but you both can’t do it.
- Maintenance of your inner fire.: A daily time alone with God will fan the fire in your relationship with Jesus. The two depressed disciples on the road to Emmaus experienced the burning of their hearts while Jesus was talking with them and you can too.
- Prevention of burnout.: Burnout doesn’t come from doing too much work. It DOES however come from time with the Lord. Proverbs 29:18, “Where there’s no vision, the people perish. But he that keepeth (spiritual) law, happy is he.”
You and I need that daily time alone with Jesus to give us direction, energy and focus. Otherwise, we’ll be functioning out of the energy of our flesh rather than the power of the Spirit. Even Jesus had to get up a great while before day, to get time with the Father, that’s how busy he was. Make regular appointments with God, just like you would with a doctor or counsellor. Write them down and keep them. Be ready for that time, which may mean changing some plans or varying your routine. Don’t focus on establishing a habit; just remember Who you’re meeting with. For example, Ralph Neighbour tells about meeting with Korean pastor David Yonggi Cho in Seoul several years ago and he had an appointment and they talked for some time. Then, his secretary entered the room to inform him it was time for his next appointment. Ralph said that he dismissed himself and sat in the waiting room outside of his office to wait for a friend who was coming to meet. Curious about who his next visitor would be, he watched his office door to see who would follow him. 15 minutes later no one entered the room.
So, tactfully he asked his secretary, “Has Dr. Cho’s next appointment been delayed?” She smiled and replied, “Oh, no. They’re together now. Each day he uses this time to talk to the Lord.” Dr. Cho’s church is the largest church in the world, containing more than 1 million members. So, how can we treat our appointments with Jesus with less respect? Write your appointment with God on your calendar and treat your time with Him like you would an important and close friend. Garrison Keillor, the Lake Wobegone guy, remembers from his childhood: “My grandfather (and Uncle Jim) began every day with a family altar, right after breakfast. After you had your Post-Toasties and your coffee, you went into the front room seldom used for anything else, and you sat there and read a chapter and talked about it. Then you knelt down and prayed for as long as Grandfather figured was necessary. This was a long, slow prayer – everybody kneeling, putting your face into the sofa – sort of smell other members of the family and it was lovely to a kid.”
What a great memory and one that your kids deserve to have. How can they get it? By you and I drawing near to God and not letting Jesus be left alone during our daily appointment with him. Like in James 4:8, “Draw high unto God and He will draw high unto you.”