The daily devotional, your ‘quiet time’ with God, can be a source of guilt and angst. If you’re like me, you know how important it is to spend time with God and His word. But you’ll also know what it feels like when other people in church manage to do it and you can’t. It feels a bit rubbish because no matter how hard you try you ‘never seem to find the time’.
Sure, you start off with all the will in the world, maybe even with a new year’s resolution but life just gets in the way and spoils everything. The daily devotional is left aside for the more important stuff.
Then the guilt keeps coming back because you know ‘your personal relationship with Jesus’ suffers as a result. So you try again, setting your alarm even earlier making sure you get that quality time with God.
But then the comfort of a longer lie in takes hold and you’re back to square one, feeling even more guilty and Godless for not being able to even get up a little earlier in the morning for Him.
It’s a vicious circle. A no-win situation. Paul’s words, “for what I want to do I do not do” (Romans 7:15) may as well be written just for you and your experience of daily devotionals.
If that description resonates with you, I want to help provide a way forward with some tips on how I finally made my daily devotionals, daily.
I write with experience because by the grace of God I’ve at last found some devotional consistency. Here’s what works for me and I hope will be helpful for you too.
Drop the guilt
We need to get rid of the guilt around daily devotionals. God is not going to think any more highly of you if you get up early to pray and read his word. Nor will he think any less of you if you don’t. His love for you is constant and unchanging and that is a real reason to celebrate!
The more we feel guilty about not doing something, the less likely we’ll actually get around to doing it. Guilt tends to be a disabler in life, not an enabler. It robs us of a right mind and the right approach to life.
But here’s the difference between guilt and our conscience. We do need to listen to our conscience because we know that it’s right. That little voice inside us prompting us to take some action is more often God speaking through the Holy Spirit, asking us to do something in order to help us to grow and change. And that could be anything that fulfils His will.
So where you feel prompted to make a daily devotional a priority, listen to it and act on it out of willingness, not an obligation or some kind of spiritual duty.
‘Seek and ye shall find’
What would happen if you change your whole mindset to the daily devotional? What if we simply called this time ‘seeking God’? All we need to do every day is simply to seek God. That doesn’t sound so difficult, right? And we can seek God in so many different ways.
But there’s something else that’s really incredible and worth remembering; God has been seeking you all of your life. Do you recall the amazing picture of the Father running to welcome the prodigal son even from afar? (Luke 15: 20). That’s God’s attitude toward us too. So before you’ve even begun your quiet time, just remember that God is already running towards you. It makes for a very good start!
That’s because of His love for us. God desires to spend time with the creation he loves, which is you.
I believe much of our Christian growth is about coming to realise and experience the love of God more and more. So when we do seek Him, he will find us and we change and learn to love like he does. Daily devotionals get a whole lot easier because we’re acting in love.
‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.’ Matthew 7:7.
So don’t try to have a ‘daily devotional’, resolve to seek God every day instead. Eventually, you’ll find that this seeking will be time for scripture and prayer. And when you do, your love for Him will grow and your worship will flow from it.
Find a time and place that works for you
You may not be a morning person and that’s ok. But doing a daily devotional can be done at any time of day and anywhere. It could be done on public transport (so long as you’re not distracted). It could be done in your lunch hour or in the evening before bed.
After trying all of these, I have settled into a first thing routine when I get up. My personal opinion is that this is best as it sets up the day. And that’s coming from someone who is a night owl! A devotional may only last 10-15 mins, so allowing that extra time shouldn’t be too onerous.
Or if that proves to be too difficult, try having your devotional while doing a daily routine. For a period of time, I would read my Bible while eating my breakfast. It really worked! It was my daily bread with my daily cereal. So if that helps make it easier, then do it. Better that than no time at all.
Find a good devotional guide to help you
There are some wonderful publications that prepare for you a passage of scripture and explain it, help you to reflect and to pray. I used to do devotionals unguided by simply reading scripture such as an Epistle, Psalm or Gospel but this can limit my perspective as I’m relying too much on my own interpretation of the text.
One devotional I’ve discovered is called “Fresh from the Word” and is published yearly by a charity called the International Bible Reading Association. They are long established and have been helping believers access and grow in the word for 135 years!
I’ve loved going through their devotions for a number of reasons. Each week there’s a different theme. There are contributors from all walks of life and from all over the world. All of the daily devotions explain the passage and prompt a reflection and response.
I also love the fact that I’m sharing this devotional with over a million other believers all over the world!
I’ve been blessed to know and grow in the Bible from a young age. I feel I know it pretty well but that’s a very different thing from applying it and also being challenged by it! That’s where, for me at least, a guide like “Fresh from the Word” has been a joy to experience.
You may well find your own preferences for daily devotionals but do find one that helps to inspire you in God’s word because God’s word is inspiring and more!
Little and often is the key
When trying to improve or change something about our lives, I love the ‘little and often’ approach. If all these tips still seem a challenge (which I hope not) then just doing something a little but often can be the next best thing.
Even if it’s saying the Lord’s prayer, praying each line for the things of your day on your way to work. God will honour the time we give Him.
The key is consistency and not to give up and to know that growing in God really is the greatest calling we can have.
‘I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread’ Job 23:12.
My prayer is you discover that treasure of God’s word, each day and every day as we grow and love Him more.
© Not Only Sundays, January 2018.
All scripture quoted from the NIV translation.
Images CC0 Public Domain – Sourced on pixabay.com under a creative commons licence.