WORSHIP 2021: PART 5 – FINDING YOUR QUIET TIME WITH GOD
TRUE INTIMACY IN WORSHIP
And so, we come to our final study on “Worship 2021”. And I conclude with the message that I have been bringing since the beginning – that worship is the relationship that we have with God. If our relationship is close, then our worship is good. If our relationship is not so close, then our worship will be not so good. We have seen that marriage is the closest example that we can get to the worship relationship that God wants to have with us.
My final message from God is this: That He longs for us to find our “quiet time” with Him.
In a good marriage relationship, husband and wife will spend quality time alone together. No matter how busy they are with work, family and other responsibilities, they will ensure – for the health and success of their marriage – that at some point they will say goodbye to all their friends, turn off the TV, put the kids to bed, switch off their smart phones and just curl up together and talk to each other and listen to each other. Successful marriages cherish and protect their “date days” and intimate evenings. Let these lapse and the marriage will begin to founder. It takes two to make a relationship, and in the most intimate of relationships it means spending time alone with your partner – allowing no interruptions.
Our worship relationship with God is deeper and more intimate (or should be) than even the best of marriages. In the same way, in order to worship, we need to spend quality time alone with Him – away from all others – time to listen and time to talk.
We call this our “Quiet Time” – also known as “Daily Devotions” or “Personal Devotions” or “Daily Communion with God” or even “The Morning Watch” (though I have never heard this one myself). Whatever it is called, our Quiet Time is a daily (and, yes, I join with those who believe it should be daily) appointment with God, a regular period of communion with Him, usually through prayer, Bible study, meditation and praise and having the primary objective of intimacy with God. Although “Quiet Time” is not a phrase found in the Bible, yet, as we shall see, the Bible is permeated with the principle from beginning to end.
I shall simply quote from the life of Jesus – our example in all things – to show that He followed this principle as His regular practice (Mark 1: 32-39):
32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all who were ill and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
35 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. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’
38 Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’ 39 So he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
He had been SOOOO very busy – healing and delivering. Even though everyone “wanted a piece of Him” He found it more important to go off alone, very early in the morning, to a solitary place, to spend time with His Father God. And what happened afterwards? He launched into public ministry to the lost sheep of Israel. It is clear that this Quiet Time was incredibly important. If it was for Jesus, then how much more so is it for me and you?!
THE CHALLENGE TO ME TO FIND MY QUIET TIME. THE CHALLENGE FOR YOU
Oh, I have been a Christian for a long, long, time! And my Quiet Times have gone through cycles of success and failure. Mainly this has been because I have felt I HAVE to have a Quiet Time, of at least “THIS” length of time (be it 5 minutes or 5 hours). And there have been times when this has been a blessing – and I have experienced real closeness to God and hear His voice so clearly; and there have been times when this has been almost unbearable – as if I am walking through mud or am screaming out “is anybody there?! Times when I am looking at my watch and thinking “oh no! Still another ½ hour to go!”
You see, a Quiet Time is not a RITUAL (that if performed will bring the reward of a blessing) and neither is it a ROUTINE (an act that has to form part of my daily life – I have found that I can have a routine of a Quiet Time but not actually meet up with God!). No! “Quiet Time” is a RELATIONSHIP – it is something I want to do, or I should not do it at all (though it could be argued that sometimes, in any relationship, we have to keep on slogging on even when it seems hard). It is the intimacy of my worship relationship with Him.
I like the way that one commentator puts it:
“We meet Christ at the CROSS and call that ‘CONVERSION’; we meet Christ in the CLOSET and call that ‘CONVERSATION’”
The challenge for me to find my Quiet Time in a new, worship relationship way, came in the middle of May this year. I was listening to a UCB2 podcast where a woman who had been healed from cancer spoke of the importance of her daily Quiet Time in helping her manage her illness. She cited the words of Canon J John who spoke of being a young man under the mentorship of the awesome John Stott. In his innocence he asked the great man about Quiet Times and when he should have them. The reply came back:
“An hour a day, an afternoon a week, a day a month, a week a year”.
J John says that this has driven Him in his intimate worship relationship with God since that day. He has not managed to be 100% successful with this – but it is his daily habit.
I felt challenged immediately to commit to the same thing and it has become my regular practice since that day. Of course, you say, it is EASY for me to do this…I am a full-time pastor – “it’s my job”!
Let us not be legalistic about this. You might not be able to give the same amount of time to your Quiet Time as I do. But will you be challenged by God today to find YOUR Quiet Time? I guarantee that you will not regret it! Indeed, you shall be “blessed out of your socks”! You shall hear more from God, you shall be refreshed more from God, and you will have a better idea of “which path to take” in your daily life (Proverbs 3: 6). One commentator puts it this way:
“It seems to be the vital ingredient missing in the lives of so many followers of Christ – for many their Quiet Time is more ‘drudgery’ than ‘delight’”
Our Father in Heaven just loves to spend a Quiet Time with you. It should be a delight. It should be an oasis in a desert, a place of calm and safety in the midst of the storm of life. God is crying out to you today: “find your Quiet Time with me”.
THE IMPORTANCE OF MY QUIET TIME
The testimony of Rob Morgan (the respected American author and teaching pastor) is this:
I enrolled at Columbia Bible College in South Carolina, transferring there as a sophomore. It was on my second night there that I surrendered my life to the Lord, and it was at that school that I began to learn the importance of the Quiet Time.
In fact, student life was, at that time in the early 1970s, very regimented, and the daily Quiet Time was a required part of our schedule. We were awakened every morning at 6:15 by a bell loud enough to call the fire department. We had a half-hour to shower, shave, and dress, then another bell would ring, signaling our Quiet Time. We had half an hour every morning, from 6:45 to 7:15, and then a third bell would clang, releasing us to go to breakfast. For three years that was my college routine, and it established my Quiet Time habit for life. But I’ll also have to say that I first I wasn’t too excited about it. I liked to stay up late, and sometimes I’d just sit there during my Quiet Time period in a dead sleep.
Then one day a man came to preach in our chapel services, and I had never heard anyone like him. He stood in the pulpit like a machine gun, with a rapid fire, crystal-clear delivery with a crisp British accent, and he delivered brilliant expositions on interesting passages of Scripture. He had a great deal of spiritual power about him, and after chapel one day I went up to him—his name was Stephen Olford—and I asked him if he had any advice for a young man contemplating going into the ministry.
“Yes,” he said with the same dramatic delivery I head heard in the pulpit. “Yes,” he said, “I do. Never, never, never miss your Quiet Time.”
That’s all he said. But that was enough. I began to realize that there must be something pretty important about this half-hour between the bells.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME FOR MY QUIET TIME?
But commentators all seem to agree that the best time is the morning. An opportunity to start the day the way you mean it to go. As Rob Morgan puts it:
- The morning’s the best time to start your day
- The morning’s the best time to stop and pray
- The morning’s the best time to plan your way
And this seems to be the pattern found in the Bible:
- Jesus, as we have seen, met with God in the early morning – Mark 1: 35
- Abraham – “Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord” (Genesis 19: 27).
- Job – “Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, ‘Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’ This was Job’s regular custom” (Job 1: 5).
- Jacob – “Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it” (Genesis 28: 18).
- Moses – “Moses chiselled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning” (Exodus 34: 4).
- Hannah and Elkanah – “Early the next morning they arose and worshipped before the Lord” (1 Samuel 1: 19).
- David – “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5: 3).
- Isaiah – “The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed” (Isaiah 50: 4).
Now, I am suggesting a “once a day” special Quiet Time with God – that this will be like food to your soul, medicine to your body – but maybe we might even be challenged by the daily practice of Daniel:
- “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God” (Daniel 6: 10).
I MUST NEVER BE TOO BUSY TO HAVE MY QUIET TIME WITH YOU!
But the best time for you, in the midst of a very busy life, might be simply…the best time for you.
The story is told, whether totally true or apocryphal I do not know, of John Wesley’s mother, Susanna. She had 19 children to look after and bring up! But every day, in the midst of her busy-ness, she would find the time to sit in her chair, pull her apron up over her head and have her Quiet Time of prayer and Bible study…and woe betide any child who would interrupt her during this time!
With this example set before us, how can we ply the common excuse of “I don’t have enough time for my Quiet Time today”. It is said that “If you are too busy to have a Quiet Time…then you are too busy!” and “You know you are in serious need of a Quiet Time when you don’t have time for a Quiet Time”!
John Wesley was an INCREDIBLY busy man riding a quarter of a million miles to preach the Gospel and preaching over 40 000 sermons! Yet he would rise up at 4 AM every day to seek God for the first four hours of the day. In his later years Wesley was known to spend up to 8 hours in prayer. In addition (horror of horrors for me!), he would fast for 2 days a week up till the mid-afternoon! He truly believed that his personal Quiet Time with God was essential for his relationship with God and for his ministry to others. The more time he prayed the more work he seemed able to do. There is a lesson here for us surely.
HOW LONG O LORD…SHOULD MY QUIET TIME WITH YOU BE?
I am truly humbled by the time that Wesley spent with God. But 4 hours!!! Maybe I need to build up to this a bit more slowly!
As for me, at this time, the J John story has been my challenge – and I am truly delighting in it. It’s not always easy, but it is always beneficial.
What about you? Oswald Chambers says that even a few minutes of Quiet Time can make all the difference:
“5 minutes with God and His Word is worth more than all the rest of the day”
Five minutes a day (Chambers), an hour a day (Stott), four hours a day (Wesley)? There is no command in Scripture. We are not meant to be legalistic about this. However, to have a daily pattern of time in Quiet might be good for you – might focus you and challenge you.
REMEMBER THE MORNING WATCH and THE CAMBRIDGE SEVEN
It was in 1882 on the campus of Cambridge University that the world was first given the slogan: Remember the morning watch.
Students like Hooper and Thornton found their days “loaded” with studies, lectures, games and bull sessions. Enthusiasm and activity were the order of the day. These dedicated men soon discovered a flaw in their spiritual armour — a small crack which if not soon closed, would bring disaster.
They sought an answer and came up with a scheme they called the morning watch — a plan to spend the first minutes of a new day alone with God, praying and reading the Bible. The morning watch sealed the crack. It enshrined a truth so often obscured by the pressure of ceaseless activity that it needs daily rediscovery: To know God, it is necessary to spend consistent time with Him.
The idea caught fire. “A remarkable period of religious blessing” followed, and culminated in the departure of the Cambridge Seven, a band of prominent athletes and men of wealth and education, for missionary service. They gave up everything to go out to China for Christ.
But these men found that getting out of bed in time for the morning watch was as difficult as it was vital. Thornton was determined to turn indolence into discipline. He invented an automatic, fool proof cure for laziness. It was a contraption set up by his bed:
“The vibration of an alarm clock set fishing tackle in motion, and the sheets, clipped to the line, moved swiftly into the air off the sleeper’s body.”
Thornton wanted to get up to meet his God!
BUT SURELY I’VE GOT TO COME WITH THE RIGHT MOTIVE?
A couple in a marriage relationship, passionately in love, cannot keep away from each other! They delight in being alone together and just sharing one another’s love. But feelings cool and change and are affected by circumstances. For so many couples the death knell is sounded when they lose this time of intimacy with one another. “But”, he says, “I have got to be real with her. I can’t just pretend to delight in being with her alone and intimately!” Not so! A man and wife must choose to work on their relationship – even when it gets hard. They must choose to maintain their intimate time together – even when it is not giving them pleasure.
In the same way, do not let your excuse for not having a Quiet Time with God be that you do not feel very close to Him at this time. Of course you don’t! You need to work on your relationship with Him when you feel far from Him. It has been rightly said that our Quiet Time with God can be compared to an iPhone! This devise loses its charge during continual usage and needs regular recharging. What about your spiritual life? Our Quiet Times with God recharge our “spiritual batteries”.
WHAT DO I DO DURING MY QUIET TIME WITH GOD?
Again, let us not be legalistic about this…it’s a “relationship thing” and so is unique between you and God. I love the little story told by Pete Greig of a night of prayer where he was on his face before God and was shocked (and then delighted) to see a group of young women come in and dance around a cd player in their worship of God.
However, most commentators agree that there are these common aspects to having a good Quiet Time:
- Just spend some time MEDITATING on the Lord – this is sitting quietly and just allowing thoughts of the day to go out of your mind and allowing thoughts of God to fill your mind. The Bible encourages us over-and-over again to just wait on Him, and in Him, and for Him. Psalm 62: 5 is just one of many such verses: “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him” (ESV). Psalm 46: 10 gives us the classic encouragement: “Be still and know that I am God”. And, of course, Isaiah 40: 31 tells us that “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint”.
- PRAY – maybe using a “Prayer List” of people and situations that you do not want to forget to bring before God. Maybe using the acronym “P.R.A.Y” meaning to pause (listen), repent and rejoice, ask and yield (accept God’s answer as He knows best). And, as you pray, remember that communicating with God is two-way and it is better to listen to Him than to talk “at” Him.
- BIBLE reading – He will speak to you through His Word. Read it intelligently. Apply what you read to your life now. Use a Bible reading plan if it will help. Take care with “Devotional Thoughts” – they can be so helpful, but must not be seen as a substitute for personal time listening to what God is saying to you through His Word.
- JOURNALING – use a journal to embed what God is saying to you – so that, having written down His words to you, you can regularly refer back to them and see and remind yourself of where He is leading you.
CONCLUSION AND CHALLENGES
Jesus regularly went away by Himself to a secluded place to have a Quiet Time with His Father. In Matthew 14: 22-27 He performed one of His most powerful of miracles – the feeding of the 5000 – and found it so important to go away to a mountainside to pray – before re-joining His disciples, calming a storm and then ministering to, and healing, multitudes. In the same way He directly calls us, His disciples, to go away to re-charge our batteries. In Mark 6: 31 He tells His disciples, after they had gone out to spread the Good News, to “come ye yourselves apart to a desert place and rest a little” – we need to “come apart” or we will indeed come apart! We NEED our Quiet Time with God. It is our intimate act of worship to Him.
Hear God’s message to you today: “find your Quiet Time with God”!
Robert Boyd Munger in his little booklet, My Heart Christ’s Home compares his heart to a home where Christ has been invited to dwell as the heavenly guest. He goes room by room, showing how the Lord cleaned the dirty books off the shelves of the study, took down the filthy pictures, how He cleaned the dining room of unhealthy appetites and desires, etc. The living room was a comfortable room with a quiet atmosphere.
The Lord said, “This is indeed a delightful room. Let us come here often. It is secluded and quiet, and we can fellowship together.” Well, naturally as a young Christian I was thrilled. I couldn’t think of anything I would rather do than have a few minutes with Christ in intimate companionship.
He promised, “I will be here early every morning. Meet me here, and we will start the day together.” So morning after morning, I would come downstairs to the living room and He would take a book of the Bible from the bookcase. He would open it and then we would read together. He would tell me of its riches and unfold to me its truths. He would make my heart warm as He revealed His love and His grace He had toward me. These were wonderful hours together. In fact, we called the living room the “withdrawing room.” It was a period when we had our quiet time together.
But, little by little, under the pressure of many responsibilities, this time began to be shortened. Why, I’m don’t know, but I thought I was just too busy to spend time with Christ. This was not intentional, you understand; it just happened that way. Finally, not only was the time shortened, but I began to miss a day now and then. It was examination time at the university. Then it was some other urgent emergency. I would miss it two days in a row and often more.
I remember one morning when I was in a hurry, rushing downstairs, eager to be on my way. As I passed the living room, the door was open. Looking in, I saw a fire in the fireplace and Jesus was sitting there. Suddenly in dismay I thought to myself, “He was my guest. I invited Him into my heart! He has come as Lord of my home. And yet here I am neglecting Him.” I turned and went in. With downcast glance, I said, “Blessed Master, forgive me. Have You been here all these mornings?”
“Yes,” He said, “I told you I would be here every morning to meet with you.” Then I was even more ashamed. He had been faithful in spite of my faithfulness. I asked His forgiveness and He readily forgave me as He does when we are truly repentant. “The trouble with you is this: you have been thinking of the quiet time, of the Bible study and prayer time, as a factor in your own spiritual progress, but you have forgotten that this hour means something to me also. Remember, I love you. I have redeemed you at great cost. I value your fellowship. Now,” He said, “do not neglect this hour if only for my sake. Whatever else may be your desire, remember I want your fellowship!”
Patrick Morley declares:
“Whenever a man tells me that he doesn’t feel very close to God, the first question I ask him is ‘tell me about your devotional life’. Often the problem is just there”
Is God calling out to you, as He did to Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3: 8-9). He wants to walk with you day-by-day. He is distressed and sad when you are hiding from Him. Relationship has to be 2-way. Our Quiet Time is not just good for us, IT IS WANTED BY GOD! He wants a Quiet Time with us more than we want it with Him. Find your Quiet Time with God!
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT OR DISCUSSION
- What have you taken away from this message?
- Why not simply look at YOUR Quiet Time with God. Review how it is going, how often you come to Him, whether it is truly “Quiet”, how much time you spend with Him, and what you “do” when you come before Him in your “Time” with Him.
- And be honest with yourself and with God – what are the things that often act as barriers to your Quiet Time being as good as you would like?