Devotions. Quite Time. Time with the Lord. Reading my Bible and Praying.
Whatever term or phrase you use, it is referring to the idea of a time we set aside to read either a devotional book or the Bible and then pray. A time during the day where we put everything else away and devote time hear from God as well as speak to God through prayer.
As Followers of Christ, having this time is important. If we want to be able to live for God, we have to know what he tells us in his Word. And prayer is how we communicate with God about what we are thinking/feeling as well as ask him to help us with things such as applying what we’ve just read in our devotion time. So having a time set aside that is devoted to hearing from God and speaking to God is obviously important.
Far too often, it can easily become something that we can feel we are either expected, forced, or obligated to do. We may have been told that we have to do this to be able to truly follow Christ, that we must make sure we have this time in our life each day if we want to grow closer to Christ, or that we have to do it because it’s part of being a Christian.
I’m not saying all of those ideas don’t contain some truth. There is truth in each of those ideas. But when all we hear is what we must do, what we need to do, and what we have to, eventually we can begin to believe that if don’t then we aren’t a good Christian. It starts to put into our head the thought that if I miss one day…just ONE DAY…then we are failing God and aren’t being a good Follower of Christ, so maybe we need to repent and try harder to not miss a day. But then when we miss another day down the road, we begin to beat our self up, and we feel like less of a good Christian and more of a failure in our relationship with Christ.
That can quickly become a vicious cycle of making sure we can check that off our list of things we must do to be a good Christian.
Each time we can check it off, we breathe a sigh of relief for not being a failure…and each time we can’t check it off, we sigh for feeling like a failure that day. The entire focus of our devotion time becomes “don’t be a failure”.
THAT’S NOT GOOD!
Being a Follower of Christ should not be reduced to a checklist of things to do or things to avoid each day. Being a Follower of Christ is so much more than that. It’s about living our entire life for Christ, our Lord and Savior. Not just certain times of our day or aspects of our life…ALL of our life.
A checklist of what we need to do today or not do today reduces it to something less than what it should be. It reduces it to being more about following certain rituals or doing certain things each day out of obligation. Whether it’s having a devotion time each day or praying at certain times each day, or whatever feel we need to add to our list, reducing our relationship with God into a checklist at all is not healthy.
God himself even tells us that is not what he wants…
And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)
‘To obey is better than sacrifice’. The Israelites had several sacrifices they were to make for different reasons (won’t get into details here). They were aspects of living for God at that time, things that they knew they needed to do, rituals they had. And while those sacrifices were given to them by God and were important for them to do as God intended, we see here that God cared more about their obedience…living their lives according to his Word…than them only doing the rituals they were supposed to do. He wants our life.
“…For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
‘But the Lord looks at the heart’. We as people often focus more on the external than the internal. We want to look good, do the right thing, and give off the appearance that all is right and we are successful and doing well. That is one main reason we can easily allow ourselves to make our relationship with Christ a checklist type of relationship. We want to feel like we are succeeding…and appear to others as though we are succeeding. But as we see here, God is much more concerned about who we are inside than how we appear outside. He wants our heart.
And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”(Mark 12:41-44)
‘She…has put in everything she had, all she had to live on’. This story is not so much about money, but really more about devotion to God. Jesus does not say that those who gave a lot because they were rich did anything wrong, he simply pointed out that they had a lot to give. The widow, however, did not have much and yet she gave all she did have. She, more than the others, showed her total devotion to God, because she gave all she had. He wants our devotion.
Is having a time set aside to spend reading God’s Word and praying important? Absolutely! It is how we learn what God says and what it means to live righteously and how we grow closer Christ. But God wants it to be done out of our devotion to him, out of a desire in our heart to hear from him and speak to him, because we want to learn how to live our entire life for him.
We shouldn’t have in our heads the idea that if we do it today we are not a failure, and if we miss it today we are a failure. That’s putting all the focus on ourselves and how we think we will appear (to ourselves, to God, or to others), and that is not the right focus.
Question is, how do we get past the thinking that it’s a checklist item we must do each day or we will feel like a failure that day? In part 2 of this blog, I’ll share practical steps that will help us have the right focus…