I remember exactly where I was when I decided I would stop spending time with God. As I drove away from class at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, I determined I had enough. I was going to give up my disciplined quiet time for two weeks.
That might seem like an odd commitment. Don’t people usually commit to begin healthy habits like spending time with God for 1-2 weeks to develop the discipline? Not me. I was through. I was going the other way.
The purpose of spending time with God—also referred to as “devotions” or “quiet time”—is to develop our relationship with God. It’s a vital tool followers of Jesus have in their toolbox. Time with God is usually (but not always) scheduled, and often (but not always) includes Bible reading and prayer. It’s a mini-retreat where we get to sit with our heavenly father to learn from him, be encouraged, and receive direction for our day and life. It’s invaluable, and there are numerous reasons to practice it.
Spending time with God is a mini-retreat where we get to sit with our heavenly father to learn from him, be encouraged, and receive direction for our day and life.
But spending time with God can also be a weight that overwhelms and frustrates. It can be a weapon Satan uses to manipulate and distract, and it all depends upon our motive for spending time with God. And that’s why I gave it up. I was tired of feeling guilty and destined for doom when choosing to use time in ways that did not include God. And that’s reason #1.
Don’t Do It—Reason #1—You feel guilty
I lived with the tension that God loved me only when I spent time with him, and if I ignored him, he would ignore me. That was an incorrect way to think and an unhealthy way to live. The Apostle Paul states in Romans 5:8, “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Set aside time to be with God because he loves you—even when you are unlovable. Let God’s love motivate you rather than guilt.
Don’t Do It—Reason #2—You’re afraid you’ll have bad luck
You’re scared God will hurt you or someone you care about if you skip a quiet time. You believe your success and well-being are dependent upon your act of devotion. Ideas like these induce stress and reflect poor theology. God’s love for us is not contingent on whether or not we spend time with him. The health of our heart and mind benefits from time with God, and he is not preparing to send a series of lightning bolts our way the moment we check Facebook instead of reading the Bible. God “saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:5a).
Don’t Do It—Reason #3—You’re trying to earn God’s favor
You believe God only blesses those who love him. However, Psalm 37 is one of many Bible texts that reveals the opposite. The psalmist writes, “Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes” (v. 7b). The wicked do prosper. God blesses the righteous and the unrighteous. But Psalm 37 also says the satisfaction of the wicked is temporary. Don’t spend time with God to earn his favor—you’ve already got it. John 1:12 says you are a child of God, a kid of the King! Instead, spend time with God to learn (and be reminded) how much he loves you and how you can show your love to him.
Don’t Do It—Reason #4—You’re trying to impress God
We buy insurance policies to protect ourselves from disasters, and we use the same logic with God. There may not be anything immediate that you want or fear, but you have a quiet time (or perform an act of service) as an insurance policy in case you overlooked something, like an unknown sin you committed. With this logic, you’re putting money in the bank and waiting to make a withdrawal. “Hey God, if I scratch your back, you’ll scratch mine, right?” We’ve got to get comfortable with the fact God already loves us. We do not have to strive to impress him with the hope he’ll help us in the future. As God’s children, he enjoys blessing us, regardless of whether or not we spend time with him.
Don’t Do It—Reason #5—You’re trying to impress others.
You’ve worked hard to get others to think you have it all together, and you hope a consistent time with God will seal the deal. You dream of hearing people at school or work describe their weekend Netflix binge-watch, and then applaud you for having not ten or twenty but THIRTY-minute quiet times! It’s hard to believe, but peer pressure doesn’t go away. It’s there when you’re 13 and 33 (and much older, as I can attest). The best way to respond to the temptation to do things to impress people is being honest. It may pain you to say you have not spent time alone with God in two weeks, but it will begin your healing. It works for me.
It may pain you to say you have not spent time alone with God in two weeks, but it will begin your healing.
But wait! Don’t give up!
Don’t throw your quiet time tools in the trash. Time spent with God is a blessing and will breathe life into your soul. While in seminary, I did commit to not having a quiet time for two weeks. I wanted to know and experience God’s love, even when I didn’t make him a priority. And my discovery? I felt God’s love in a new way. And I was so hungry and eager to spend time with him.
I still struggle with weak motives for lots of “good” things that I do. But I’ve learned to enjoy the thrill of being God’s child, the blessing to know that God is available whenever I need, and the power found in being still and knowing God is in control. Click here to discover a handful of reasons why we SHOULD spend time with God.
QUESTION (leave a comment below)
On a scale of 1-10 (1 is “I don’t want to talk about it.” 10 is “Beyond AMAZING!”), how would you evaluate your time with God? If it’s a ‘5’ or below, what’s something you can do that might help? If it’s a ‘6’ or above, what is something you’ve learned from God lately?