by Rick Warren
Pick a Specific Time
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35 NIV)
To have an effective quiet time, you must pick a specific time to meet with the Lord each day and decide how long it should be. The general rule is this: The best time is when you are at your best! Give God the best part of your day, when you are the freshest and most alert. Don’t try to serve God with your leftover time. Remember, too, that your best time may be different from someone else’s.
For most of us, however, early in the morning seems to be the best time. It was Jesus’ own practice to rise early to pray and meet with the Father: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35).
In the Bible, many godly men and women rose early to meet with God. Some of these were:
- Abraham (Genesis 19:27)
- Moses (Exodus 34:4)
- Job (Job 1:5)
- Hannah and Elkanah (1 Samuel 1:19)
- Jacob (Genesis 28:18)
- David (Psalm 5:3; 57:7,8)
(See also Psalm 143:8; Isaiah 26:9; Ezekiel 12:8)
You might even consider having two quiet times (morning and night). Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators, used to have code letters for his nightly quiet time: HWLW. Whenever he was with a group of people at night or home with his wife and the conversation seemed to be ending, he would say, “All right, HWLW.” HWLW stood for “His Word the Last Word.” He practiced that through the years as a way of ending a day with one’s thoughts fixed on the Lord (Betty Lee Skinner, Daws, Zondervan, 1974, p. 103).
Whatever time you set, be consistent in it. Schedule it on your calendar; make an appointment with God as you would with anyone else. Make a date with Jesus!
Then look forward to it, and don’t stand him up. A stood-up date is not a pleasant experience for us, and Jesus does not like to be stood up either. So make a date with him, and keep it at all costs.
The question is often asked, “How much time should I spend with the Lord?” If you’ve never had a consistent quiet time before, you may want to start with seven minutes (Robert D. Foster, Seven Minutes with God, NavPress, 1997) and let it grow naturally. You should aim to eventually spend not less than 15 minutes a day with the Lord.
Talk About It
- What is the best time for you to set to have your quiet time?
- What are the things that you regularly put before or in place of your quiet time? What steps will you take today to re-prioritize your day so that God has the first and last word?
Find a Special Place
“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.” (Luke 22:39 NIV)
The location where you have your quiet time is also important. The Bible indicates that Abraham had a regular place where he met with God (Genesis 19:27). Jesus had a custom of praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives: “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him” (Luke 22:39).
Your place ought to be a secluded place. This is a place where you can be alone, where it’s quiet, and where you will not be disturbed or interrupted. In today’s noisy Western world, this may take some ingenuity, but it is necessary. It ought to be a place:
- Where you can pray aloud without disturbing others.
- Where you have good lighting for reading (a desk, perhaps).
- Where you are comfortable. (WARNING: Do not have your quiet time in bed. That’s too comfortable!)
Your place ought to be a special place. Wherever you decide to meet with the Lord, make it a special place for you and him. As the days go by, that place will come to mean a lot to you because of the wonderful times you have there with Jesus Christ.
Your place ought to be a sacred place. This is where you meet with the living God. Where you meet the Lord can be just as holy as the place where Abraham met God. You don’t have to be in a church building. People have had their quiet times in their cars parked in a quiet place, in an empty closet at home, in their backyards, and even in a baseball dugout. Each of these places has become sacred to them.
Talk About It
- Following these guidelines, where is the best place for you to have a quiet time?
- What can you do to minimize the distractions that keep you from focusing on God during your quiet time?
Follow a Simple Plan
“Search me, O 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.” (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV)
Someone has said, “If you aim at nothing, you are sure to hit it!” To have a meaningful quiet time, you will need a plan or some kind of general outline to follow.
The main rule is this: Keep your plan simple.
You will need the following three items for your planned quiet times:
- A Bible — a contemporary translation (not a paraphrase) with good print, preferably without notes.
- A notebook for writing down what the Lord shows you and for making a prayer list.
- A hymnbook — sometimes you may want to sing in your praise time (see Colossians 3:16).
Wait on God (relax). Be still for a minute; don’t come running into God’s presence and start talking immediately. Follow God’s admonition: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 NIV; see also Isaiah 30:15; 40:31). Be quiet for a short while to put yourself into a reverent mood.
Pray briefly (request). This is not your prayer time, but a short opening prayer to ask God to cleanse your heart and guide you into the time together. Two good passages of Scripture to memorize are Psalm 139:23-24 and Psalm 119:18. You need to be in tune with the Author before you can understand his Book!
Read a section of the Scripture (read). This is where your conversation with God begins. He speaks to you through his Word, and you speak with him in prayer. Read your Bible:
- Slowly. Don’t be in a hurry; don’t try to read too large an amount; don’t race through it.
- Repeatedly. Read a passage over and over until you start to picture it in your mind. The reason more people don’t get more out of their Bible reading is that they do not read the Scriptures repeatedly.
- Without stopping. Don’t stop in the middle of a sentence to go off on a tangent and do a doctrinal study. Just read that section for the pure joy of it, allowing God to speak to you.
- Aloud but quietly. Reading it aloud will improve your concentration and help you understand what you are reading better because you will both see and hear what you are reading. Read softly enough, however, so that you won’t disturb anyone.
- Systematically. Do not use the “random dip” method — a passage here, a chapter there, what you like here, an interesting portion there. You’ll understand the Bible better if you read it as it was written — a book or letter at a time.
Talk About It
- Which of these guidelines goes against your nature (reading slowly, relaxing, etc.)? Ask God for help in those specific areas so that your quiet time can be more effective.
- How does an effective quiet time change your day?
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America’s largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller “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 the founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.
This devotional ©2013 by Rick Warren. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Show Your Love Now!
‘…He has commanded us to love one another…’ 2 John 1:6 NLT
Each morning pray: ‘Lord, whether or not I get anything else done, help me to spend this day loving You and loving others, because that’s what Your Word says life is all about.’ If you do that, you’ll treat those around you more graciously. And people will notice it. You’ll start winning in areas where you’ve lost. The more time you give to someone, the more you reveal their importance to you. It’s not enough to tell them they’re important, you must prove it by investing in them. The best way to spell love is T-I-M-E. Love is not what you think or feel about others; no, it’s how much you give of yourself to them.
Men in particular struggle with this. They say, ‘I don’t understand my wife and children. I provide everything they need. What more could they want?’ They want you! They want your attention! Love concentrates so intently on another that it forgets itself. This kind of attention says, ‘I value you enough to give you my most precious asset – my time.’ Why is now the best time to express your love? Because you don’t know how long you’ll have the opportunity to do so. Circumstances change, people die, children grow up. The truth is, you’ve no guarantee of tomorrow. If you want to express your love, you’d better do it now.
So, who do you need to start spending more time with? What do you need to cut out of your schedule to make that possible? The best use of life is love, the best expression of love is time, and the best time to love is now.
(1) Who are ‘the just’? Paul writes, ‘Know that a person is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith…’ (Galatians 2:16 NIV) Justification (just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned) can’t be earned, it’s a free gift that comes by faith. If you have placed your trust in Christ then you are fully accepted in God’s eyes. How good is that?
(2) What is ‘walking’? Paul says, ‘We walk by faith and not by sight.’ Walking requires that you get up and start moving. You can’t just sit around aimlessly, waiting for the rapture. Walking involves: Motivation – you’re moved by a purpose. Direction – you’ve chosen a destination, a goal to reach. Motion – you’re committed to mobilising your energy and resources in the pursuit of your God-given destination and purpose. To walk by faith you must be engaged in consistent, forward movement intended to bring you into God’s destiny for your life.
‘…I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’ Mark 9:24 NIV
Here is another question to consider: What is ‘walking by sight’ (2 Corinthians 5:7)? It’s living your life based on how things look to the natural eye. It’s deciding and acting in accord with your perceptions and circumstances, rather than God’s Word. It’s being dictated to by your feelings and thoughts. Your thoughts and feelings are – yours! Examine them. Don’t let them hijack you. Use your spirit-controlled temperament to bring them under control. Too often we are sandwiched between faith and doubt, in a ‘Catch-22′ between what our transformed spirit says and what our carnal mind says. One day a distraught father brought his son to Jesus for healing. Jesus told him, ‘…Everything is possible for one who believes.’ (Mark 9:23 NIV) At that point the boy’s father said, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’ At times we experience both faith and doubt. This man was honest about his doubts, yet Jesus still worked a miracle for him. If he had needed correcting, Jesus would have corrected him. If his faith was not genuine, the Lord would have known it. But Jesus accepted his declaration of faith, despite his doubts. There are three lessons here for us: (1) Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your doubts. (2) Don’t let your doubts overrule your faith. God’s Word in the matter is God’s will for you; stand on it. (3) Hand your doubts over to the Lord and say, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’ How long does it take to learn to walk by faith? A lifetime!
‘Faith comes from hearing the message…through the Word…’ Romans 10:17 NIV
What does it mean to ‘walk by faith…’ (2 Corinthians 5:7 NAS)? It’s radically different from walking by sight, reason, emotion or intellect. It calls you to live above these things. It enables you to enter the realm of supernatural possibilities because Jesus said, ‘All things are possible to one who believes.’ (Mark 9:23 ESV) Here are some Scriptural principles about faith that will help you:
(1) It is not rooted in human effort. Self-confidence and intellectual acumen don’t qualify. Optimism, good luck and social connections don’t qualify. Learning religious formulas won’t do it either.
(2) It’s rooted in God’s unlimited power and unchanging Word. ‘Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word.’ The Word of God, received and residing within you, continuously produces faith within you. No teeth-gritting super-effort is required; you simply decide to believe what God says and respond to it.
(3) Walking by faith calls for action. ‘Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.’ (James 2:18 NIV) Until you act, your faith is useless. ‘In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.’ (James 2:17 NIV) The moment you act your faith springs to life, inviting God to move on your behalf. Today He’s waiting for you to act so that He can respond to you. Even if you don’t feel like it, ask yourself, ‘What would my first step of faith be if I really felt like taking action?’ Do it! You’ll be walking by faith and reaping the rewards! (Hebrews 11:6)
To Obey God, Let Go
by Tom Holladay
“When the wise men had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.” (Matthew 2:13-15a NIV)
Joseph and Mary had to let a lot of things go because of their faith journey. They left everything they knew when they headed to Egypt. And, in one sense, what they were sacrificing was their comfort at the deepest level.
It is often uncomfortable to trust God and follow his plan because we get comfortable with the wrong things. We get comfortable with our little habits and rituals, the things that get us stuck where we are instead of getting us to where God wants to grow us.
If you commit your health to God, it will probably mean giving up some of your favorite foods. If you commit your finances to God, it will probably mean cutting back on your spending.
It’s uncomfortable to break a habit. It’s uncomfortable to face a fear. It’s uncomfortable to go somewhere you’ve never been before or forgive someone who has hurt you. But growth and change always come through doing those uncomfortable things, and that’s what’s good in it.
But if we don’t face those fears, we continue to hold onto something that makes us feel comfortable and end up turning our back on God who is the source of comfort.
The Bible says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3 NIV).
I invite you this Christmas, like never before, to recognize that God is the God of all comfort. And in those moments when you want to turn back to that old habit, that old way of thinking which pulls you off track, turn to God and say, “God, give me your comfort.”
Talk About It
- What act of obedience have you put off because of your fear or discomfort?
· Pray for God’s comfort and courage to move you out of complacency and into obedience.
You’re Here for a Reason
‘…I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.’ Genesis 32:30 NLT
The Bible says Satan works ‘day and night’ building a case against you (Revelation 12:10). But with God’s Word ‘…in your mouth and…heart…’ (Romans 10:8 NCV) you can overcome him. When Satan says give up, God says stay the course (Matthew 5:11-12). When Satan tells you to look out for number one, God says put the other guy first (Philippians 2:3-4). When Satan says it’s ok to hold grudges, God says forgive as often as it takes (Matthew 6:14-15). When Satan says get even, God says be a peacemaker (Romans 12:18-19). When Satan tells you to take all the credit, God says glorify Jesus (John 17:5). When Satan says clean up the outside and people won’t notice the inside, God says He looks at your heart (1 Samuel 16:7). When Satan says you’re ugly, God says you’re ‘…wonderfully made…’ (Psalm 139:14 NKJV). When Satan says you’re alone and nobody understands you, God says He’ll never leave you and that He has plans for your life (Deuteronomy 31:6 and Jeremiah 29:11). David said, ‘I know You are pleased with me…You have not let my enemies triumph over me. You have preserved my life…’ (Psalm 41:11-12 NLT) The devil will play any card, and if that first one doesn’t work he’ll try the childhood memories trick, or he’ll dredge up your past sins and remind you of all the broken promises and dreams. Jacob said, ‘I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.’ Bottom line: God has a plan for your life; otherwise you wouldn’t be here!
It’s Just Part of Life’s Journey
‘No temptation has overtaken you…’ 1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV
Paul writes, ‘No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to [mankind].’ Notice the word ‘overtaken’. Suddenly you’re ‘overtaken’ by a set of circumstances you didn’t create, don’t want, and don’t know how to get out of. Understand this: You don’t pick the test, the test picks you! You don’t get to choose who breaks your heart, or who gets on your nerves, or who lets you down. When you first held your child you didn’t think that one day you’d be down at a detention centre trying to get them released. You couldn’t have known that a routine checkup would have you in the hospital fighting a life-threatening illness. Maybe your problem is so personal and embarrassing that you’re afraid to even discuss it with anybody.
So you walk the floor at night praying, ‘Lord, get me out of this or I’m finished!’ Even Paul wrote, ‘…We despaired…of life.’ (2 Corinthians 1:8 NAS) When you’ve been ‘overtaken’ by a situation you learn three things:
(1) Don’t judge others. The Bible says, ‘Every man is…drawn away by his own lust, and enticed.’ (James 1:14 KJV) When you don’t know what somebody’s been through or the circumstances which have conditioned them, be quiet. If you have to talk about it, talk to God!
(2) Don’t tell your troubles to the wrong people. Look for people who will share your burden, not spread your problem.
(3) Bring it to Jesus. ‘Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’ (Hebrews 4:16 NIV)
‘…But such as is common to man…’ 1 Corinthians 10:13 NAS
The Bible says your struggle is not unique, it’s ‘common to man’. Your secret is not really a secret, it’s just a secret shared by others who are equally afraid to talk. The only time we tend to be honest is when we’re in trouble. As long as we think we can manage our dysfunction, we don’t talk about it. You are not the only one who got married and then wanted a divorce, or lost control and lashed out, or quit a job and now doesn’t have a job to go to. This is important to know, because it takes away your feeling of isolation and enables you to overcome self-pity. It also helps you to say, ‘If others made it, then by God’s grace I can too.’ Perhaps you wonder if God is judging you, or the devil is attacking you, or if you did something to bring it on yourself. No, it’s just part of life’s journey! You’ll notice in Scripture that God doesn’t whitewash His heroes. He doesn’t exempt the people He uses from struggle and sorrow. ‘These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us…’ (1 Corinthians 10:11 NIV) Every age and every stage of life brings a different test, and a different level of testing. You can’t pray away the tests of life, or quote Scripture and make them disappear. God never promised you a trouble-free trip to Heaven. Jesus said, ‘I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ (John 16:33 NIV)
‘…But God is faithful…’ 1 Corinthians 10:13 KJV
Here’s a promise you can stand on when your world has been shaken: ‘But God is faithful.’ Jesus said, ‘Heaven and earth shall pass away: but My words shall not pass away.’ (Luke 21:33 NIV) In a world of uncertainty you can sing, ‘On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.’ Your job, your health, your relationships and your investments are all ‘sinking sand’. But God’s faithfulness is as solid as a rock. He will be faithful to you in the delivery room, in the operating room, in the nursing home, in the unemployment line, in the criminal proceedings, and during marriage counselling. The Psalmist wrote: ‘I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart…’ (Psalm 27:13-14 NKJV) Focusing on God’s faithfulness will keep you from falling apart, giving up, having a nervous breakdown or losing your mind. Be honest; hasn’t God been better to you than you’ve been to Him? Hasn’t He been faithful when you’ve been unfaithful, and consistent when you’ve been inconsistent? ‘The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.’ (Romans 11:29 NKJV) When God gives you a gift, He doesn’t take it back. When He makes you a promise, He won’t break it. Even when Abraham died, God remembered His promise and blessed his children down through the generations. Why is this important to know? Because when you begin to see God’s faithfulness to you, it will make you want to be faithful to Him.
‘…He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear…’ 1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV
The Bible says, ‘He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.’ You have been tempered for the test! Like tempered steel or glass, certain additives have been placed within you to increase your ability to stand up to the pressures life will throw at you. The fact that you’ve been exposed to this level of testing is a sign that God has given you the grace to handle it. He’s not going to let you escape this trial, because He’s equipped you to deal with it. So stop feeling sorry for yourself, or giving up, or saying you can’t take it anymore.
Not everybody in a gym can handle the same level of weight because each is at a different stage of development. But the trainer knows. He will push you to your limit, but he will never add one weight more than you can carry. God is a good trainer and He’s working according to a plan. He not only knows the right technique, He knows how much weight needs to be added in order to get you to the next stage of development. He will let you strain, shake and sweat, but He won’t let you break. While you are focused on temporary stuff like getting a better house or car or job, He has something entirely different in mind: ‘We…are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord…’ (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV) Once you understand this and line up your will with God’s will, you’ll begin to appreciate what He’s doing and cooperate with Him.
‘…God…will…make a way of escape…’ 1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV
Look at the last part of this verse: ‘[God] will…make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.’ Before the Army sends you into battle it first sends you to boot camp. You’re up at dawn running kilometres with a heavy backpack, climbing over barricades, crawling through mud with the sounds of gunfire all around you, taking orders from authority figures you don’t like, who make you do stuff you don’t want to do. But when you pass the test you get to wear the uniform and fight for your country. Now with that picture in mind, reread these words: ‘But with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.’ The Living Bible says, ‘…So that you can bear up patiently against it.’ God is looking for people who are able to bear up under training, then go out and win the battle with the enemy. For every problem, God has a solution. But it may not be the solution you have in mind! Satan’s strategy is to defeat you by wearing you down, so winning is not a matter of escape but of endurance. Tenacious faith and commitment is one of the great themes of Scripture. It’s also the secret of victory. When their prison doors miraculously opened, Paul and Silas realised that God’s plan for them was not to escape but to stay there and win the jailer and his family to Christ. Sometimes God’s ‘way of escape’ is to keep you where you are and use you to bring glory to His name.
God Can Turn Your Failure into Success
‘…Because you say so, I will…’ Luke 5:5 NIV
‘[Jesus] said to Simon: Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch. Simon answered, Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will… When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.’ (Luke 5:4-6 NIV) Notice two principles in this story:
(1) God will use failure to get your attention.Peter was tired, empty-handed and disappointed when Jesus spoke to him. And He will speak to you through a rocky marriage, a child you’re about to give up on, or a job that seems too hard. He doesn’t want you to run from your problems, He wants you to learn from them; to discover the difference He can make in your situation when you invite Him into it.
(2) God can take you back to the place of failure and give you success. We assume that because we weren’t successful at something, it wasn’t God’s will. But often the truth is that we failed because we relied on our own strength instead of His. When Jesus spoke, the fish responded. The Bible says: ‘…They caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.’ (Luke 5:6-7 NIV) God is not limited by your circumstances, He’s only limited by your unbelief.
When you obey Him, you’ll discover He has a level of abundance in mind that will exceed all your expectations.