Devotionals and black ice don't mix.
I had an exciting experience the other day that made me think that I needed something more than a sermon in a car. Liz and I have this habit of reading or listening to devotionals in the vehicle. The other day I was so focused on what we're talking about that I very nearly got into a car accident. There have been other times when Liz has read a devotional, and then poured out her heart only to realize that I wasn't listening to her at all because of something that happened on the road.
Maybe you're more skilled at handling these two tensions in balance than I am. For me, all it did was point out why it can't replace my alone time with God.
There needs to be a space in my life where I can focus on Jesus and just Jesus. A space Where I can process what I have been taught at church, where I can hear him speak to my soul, and where I can wrestle with Scripture. I need to handle how others have hurt me and take stock of how I hurt others in short. I need time to focus - to be present with Jesus.
Please don't hear me discourage redeeming your commute with a good sermon. My point is only to say, we need focused time with God. Time away without distraction; a time where it's you and Him and nothing else. It's becoming something of a lost art these days.
The struggle is real.
As I get older, finding the time gets difficult. When I was a teenager, this was a relatively easy practice as I had an ample supply of discretionary time. Then I graduated high school and went to College. Then I got a real job. Then I got a girlfriend. After that, I got a wife which in turn led to children. It's easy to see why I have to fight for something that seemed so comfortable in my early years. I'm lucky if I get "Free time" for an hour before 10:30 pm these days.
I'm not unique...
And yet the truth is I'm not alone in this battle to be alone am I? After seven years of ministry both in youth and at the church at large, I can say without a doubt that the most frequent challenge to believers own experience with God is to find a significant moment alone with God. There are a few reasons I've come to realize this a struggle at WEFC. Chan summarized it beautifully when he wrote:
"We live in a time when most people have a difficult time concentrating on anything. We are continually looking for a quick fix and faster solutions. So the thought of sitting quietly to meditate on Scripture and praying intensely in silence can be eagerly replaced by listening to a sermon while driving to work.
We must learn to be still again. It's in that moment where we are along with God that our faith becomes vibrant and alive and personal. It becomes more than a thought, and it becomes a real relationship. here is nothing more important you could do today than to spend meaningful time alone with God.”
If you're like me and are fighting for focus -( time to be alone with Jesus) then this post is for you. Along the way, I've picked up a few ideas to help me fight for time alone.
I have found that this method is more useful than spending 15 min in a devotional. I find I need more time to focus and process my time alone with Jesus.
I hope this helps you draw closer to God and experience Jesus!
Ideas to help you find the time:
1) Quit Something
Francis Chan once wrote "There is no substitute for being alone with God. If you don’t have time, you need to quit something to make room. Skip a meal. Cancel a meeting. End some regular commitment. There is nothing more important you could do today."
One of the significant issues of generation is our busyness. Busy has become the new lazy in our spiritual life. Of course, there are seasons finding time alone is harder than other seasons of life. Life Crisis, adjusting to a new rhythm of life, becoming a new parent, adjusting to late hours can all throw our rhythm out the window. I think grace allows for this. However, if you're finding that you're regularly in crisis mode, it may be time to quit something.
2) Give God the Best part of your FREE time
We have schedules that we can't control. Our days are determined by that crying baby who needs to be fed now, our children's sports games, or our manager's decisions on our hours. These are outside of our control.
However, we do have control over how we are going to spend our free time. In those times, we can present our free time as offering to God by giving him the best part of our free time, not the leftover pieces of our free time. Two Questions I ask to help me decide when to spend time alone with God are:
1) In what part of my free time am I the most alert?
2) In what part of my free time being I am I free from distraction?
What should my alone time look like?
It can be hard for me to suggest what this should look like as I think this can look different for everyone. giving a list could seem legalistic but if you're struggling, Here's a skeleton you can build off of. Again, this is only a suggestion. I realize it won't work for everyone. It's just there to help. You don't have to stick to the suggested time if you don't want to
S.T.A.R.T (Scripture, Thoughts, Application, Response, Take Inventory)
Scripture 15 -20 min
There should be some space to read Scripture. If you're not sure where to start. I have found a good reading plan here. I have found it helps to mark my Bible when something impacts me a lot or a little. It also helps to re-reading and to study a small passage of Scripture rather than to read huge swaths.
Thoughts 10 Min -
There should be some place to reflect on what you read. After I read, I reflect on what part of the reading impacted me the most from the markings I write down any thoughts or observations I made about the text. Here I am trying to discern the meaning of the text including what the text is trying to accomplish.
Application / Listen in silence 15 min.
There needs to be a place where we ask "How do I apply this scripture? Should I apply this?" I've found this is the place where the Holy Spirit speaks to me personally after I read. I've asked God to show me how this passage applies in my life. I then spend a few minutes in silent listening, or I brainstorm specific ways I could live this Bible passage in my life.
For example, If the passage were convicting me to foster patience, maybe the application would be something like, "I'm going to stand in the longest check out line at Walmart because long lines make me impatient. " I've found the more specific, the better it is. I think this step is where most Christians struggle. Often the application is too general to create an action step and therefore no action is taken.
Response 10 min
There needs to be a place where you respond to God's Word. Maybe you're confused about what you just read. Perhaps you're afraid or your wrestling with what God is teaching you. Maybe the application is too difficult and yet you feel like God won't let you get past it. Perhaps you need to confess a sin. Maybe the Word has convicted you, and you don't want to do it. Write or Talk to God in prayer.
Spend some time in worship and prayer
Take Inventory of Your Day 15 min
Write down the following:
Something good I did today was........
Someone Offended me by _________________
Or you could take stock of the Good things Good is doing in your life.
Today - Something I'm thankful for at this moment.
Help- How did someone help me this week?
Answer - What prayers did God answer this week?
New - What is something I'm looking forward to?
Kind - What was something kind someone said or did to me this week?
Speak What had God been speaking about?
Spend some time in worship and thank Him for the Help, Answered Prayers, New things, and Kind Words he gave you this week.