If you are like me, your pantry and your calendars are both very full. Your free time, however, is not. We commute, we carpool, we care give, but how often do we concentrate on the one relationship that holds all things together? When do we honestly have time to read our Bibles, pray, meditate on and memorize Scripture without interruption?
Last week's article about our spiritual diets confirmed that our stomachs aren't the only parts of us that need feeding. We need spiritual food as urgently as we need physical food. The Bible is the mega-market where we find the staples and sustenance required to mature and grow up in our salvation.
God’s Word is a light to guide our steps (Psalm 119:105), a weapon to guard our hearts (Hebrews 4:12), and the bread to grow our lives (I Peter 2:2). We simply cannot abide in Jesus without consistently reading His Word and talking with Him through prayer.
But how do we make the time?
Time, combined with honest motivation, is typically the biggest hurdle to both physical and spiritual well being. We will not meet our health goals without spending time working out and eating right. Likewise, we will not see spiritual growth without spending one-on-one time with God and feeding ourselves with His daily bread.
This predicament is so common that Paul talked about time management in his letter to the Ephesians:
“Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness” …
“Pay careful attention, then, to how you live – not as unwise people but as wise – making the most of the time” …
“Wake up from your sleep, climb out of your coffins; Christ will show you the light! So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!” (Ephesians 5:15-16, The Message and CSB).
Paul compares wasting time to living as the walking dead. He urges the Ephesians to “climb out of your coffins” by not running down the clock on things that have no eternal value. Are we turning into spiritual zombies as we mindlessly scroll through social media, binge on Netflix and saturate our minds with stress instead of Scripture?
The rub is that even if we know we should spend time with Jesus, we think we don’t have the time or that the time we do have just isn’t enough to make a difference. The “tyranny of the urgent” crowds out the truly important things, and little by little, Jesus gets shoved to the sidelines. We don’t mean to do it. We plan to get to our Bible reading. We plan to pray. But then it doesn’t happen. We are perpetually pressed for time, scrambling to this activity and that appointment, and all the while God’s Word sits unopened and disregarded for days, weeks or even months.
When we go without God, our spirits - if in Christ - will eventually scream to be fed like an infant wailing for milk. We will be so depleted by the world and all its demands that we will come to Him, famished.
Fellowship with the Father is essential, not optional, as a believer in Christ.
Do we value God’s Word enough?
Perhaps we don’t make time for God because of the shocking admission that we haven’t come to value Him enough. We haven’t come to cherish His words as a divine revelation of Himself, a memoir of sorts, to us.
Do we take access to the Bible for granted? Absolutely. What if we had never read or heard the gospel in our native tongue (like nearly one billion people currently on the planet) and then received it for the first time?
Would we discard it and perhaps peruse its pages only when convenient, or would we cling to it and make it the central focus of our souls and schedules?
“Your words were found, and I ate them. Your words became a delight to me and the joy of my heart …” (Jeremiah 15:16).
If you lost your iPhone, would you shrug your shoulders and just hope it turned up? Or would you panic, stop everything and search for it until you found it? God’s Word has been found and revealed to us. Do we treasure it as much as our technology?
Habits can’t be changed until we have a heart change. And heart change is what will make us hunger for God’s Word.
Even more important than how much time we spend with God is how we approach spending time with Him. Do we revere Him and respect His words as truth? Do we delight in them like the prophet Jeremiah? Are we expectant and eager to be filled and satisfied when we read the Bible? Do we believe that we are meeting with the living God through prayer and Scripture?
If we don’t believe this, we will never “find the time" to meet with Him.
“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Hebrews 4:12).
God creates abundance from scarcity
Perhaps you are in a season right now that genuinely doesn’t allow you to linger with the Lord. You may be shuttling a loved one to doctor’s appointments, juggling a newborn's diapers and feedings, or managing a full-blown crisis.
Like the woman who had little money to give at the temple, there are instances when we truly have a deficit of time.
“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had – all she had to live on,” said Jesus to His disciples (Mark 12:43-44).
Jesus knows we need to sleep, work, take care of ourselves and others. He designed it that way, but He also designed us to need Him to do all of these things. Can we even sleep in peace without His gentle assurance (Psalm 4:8)? When we give Him the time we have, He will honor it - whether it's the first five or fifty minutes of our day.
God is not limited by our time, but we limit ourselves by not giving our time to Him.
Integrate God into your day
Don’t categorize spending time with Jesus as another task. Integrate Him into all the tasks you do. Bring Him with you on the errand, to the meeting, during chores. Pray while you prepare dinner, nurse the baby, drive or go on a walk. Turn off the TV so that you can listen for His voice. He’s made it so easy for us to abide in Him, with His Holy Spirit living within us.
Let the Holy Spirit lead and reorder your steps. A neighbor once shared this simple, childlike prayer that has proven profound: "Good morning, God. Today is your day. Show me your way." Let the Holy Spirit show you how to make the most of your time and emerge from the walking dead into a living and vibrant relationship with Jesus.
As we connect with God, our priorities will come into focus.
Honest introspection: 5 reasons why finding time is hard
Take a moment to move past your busyness to the business of spending time with God. An internal assessment will help you identify and break through the barriers to intimacy with Him. All of these issues may not apply to you, but here are five possible reasons you may be struggling to meet with God consistently:
1. Is there unconfessed sin?
When I look back at when my faith life was inconsistent, unconfessed or habitual sin was usually the root of my problem. It perpetuated the cycle of sinning and avoiding God. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, are you hiding from the Lord because of shame? Do you doubt your worthiness? Are you afraid of what He might ask of you? Go to Him. Confess, repent – turning completely away from the sin - and be received by a loving and patient Father. He’s already provided the forgiveness for you through Jesus. And if you read even a little of His Word, you’ll see that He’s in the business of welcoming liars, cheaters, prostitutes, murderers and the likes and rehabilitating their lives. Jesus makes us worthy and is always ready to receive us.
2. Is there a distorted view of Who God really is?
Sometimes we can bring our own personal experiences (and disappointments) with people or the church and project them on God. If you had a father who abandoned you, criticized or ignored you, for example, you might associate those memories and character with your heavenly Father. It may make trusting God and His promises difficult. Invest the time to learn about the steadfast and unchanging character of God (Hebrews 13:8). Investigate Who He is and who He says you are to Him.
Replace your misconceptions with the Truth of His Word:
He is faithful (Deuteronomy 7:9, I John 1:9, 2 Timothy 2:13).
He keeps all His promises (Psalm 145:13, 2 Corinthians 1:20).
There is no darkness or ill motive within Him (I John 3:5, Romans 8:28).
He has desired a relationship with you since before you were born and proved it by sending Jesus to die for your sins (Psalm 139:16, John 3:16).
He knows you by name (Isaiah 43:1).
If you have made Him your Savior, your name is engraved on the palms of His hands and written in His book of Life (Isaiah 49:16, Malachi 3:16).
He rejoices over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).
You outshine the stars in His eyes (Daniel 12:3, Philippians 2:15).
He promises to draw near to you if you draw near to Him (James 4:8).
You are His beloved (Song of Songs 2:16).
3. Is there a lack of motivation for spending time with an invisible Person?
“Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief” is probably the most relatable prayer in Scripture (Mark 9:24). Ask God to give you a deeper faith and a renewed awe for the reality of Who He is. Think of your favorite person, most sought-after celebrity or historical figure. Would you find the time to spend with him or her if given the chance? The fact that we have total access to the God of Creation because of Jesus is astounding. Ask God to plant a hunger and thirst for His righteousness in your heart. I’ve prayed this very thing to overcome the struggle to get up early in the morning when I’d rather be sleeping. Pray that He would give you the discipline and self-control to want to spend time with Him.
4. Does it feel intimidating to study Scripture?
Are you at a loss for where to even start? I have learned over the years that if I don’t have a plan for spending time with God, then I won’t spend time with God. It’s like eating an elephant one bite at a time. Do not be overwhelmed by Bible study. If you can read, you can study Scripture. As much as my unstructured self would love to have an organic yet productive time with the Lord, the reality is that rarely happens if I don’t have a plan. Much like any other relationship worth having, things will not just naturally fall into place unless you are intentional about time together and how you spend it. There are a lot of suggestions and personal preferences for how to approach time with the Lord, but always start with prayer. Asking the Lord for divine revelation and understanding before you even crack open His Word positions your spirit in the posture of humility and total dependence on God. The Holy Spirit will illuminate God’s Word to you (John 14:26). Decide on a devotional or a book of the Bible or a Bible study with Christian community and work your way through the text. Just like exercising, consistency is the key to building your faith muscles.
5. Are you overcommitted and guilty of never saying no?
This is a touchy subject, I know. It is for me too. But God is clear about us making the most of our time (Ephesians 5:15-16). I don’t think any of us plans on being unwise, but it’s hard to say no at times. But I think it’s safe to say that none of us is busier or have more urgent tasks than Jesus did. Yet, He regularly slipped away from the crowds and His disciples to spend time with His Father (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16). He knew that He was too busy to not spend time with God. He knew His energy and strength, patience and wisdom – all the things He needed during His long, demanding days – came directly from time with God. Your time is an offering to God - a spiritual sacrifice that promises to bring God to you. “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me” (Jeremiah 29:13). What better motivation could there be? Take an honest look at your schedule and lifestyle and see what you can shift or omit to make more space for God. Practice saying no so that you can say yes to Jesus.
A change of habit without a change of heart is merely moral alteration. Heart change is Holy Spirit transformation that will wet our appetite for God’s Word and cause us to, somehow, “find the time” to meet with Him. And when you do meet with God, you will have made an eternal investment.
Even if dishes stay dirty or laundry piles up or your bed is unmade, your heart will be washed clean by the sanctifying Word of God (Ephesians 5:26)
Trust God with your time; time in His hands is never wasted. Abide in Jesus.