One of the distinguishing characteristics of successful people is their ability to master the fundamentals. Success in any endeavor whether it be athletic, academic, playing an instrument, or becoming a great parent or spouse starts with identifying the fundamentals and learning to master them. This is particularly important when it comes to building a strong relationship with God.
One of the fundamentals in building a relationship with God is learning to begin your day with God. Many people call this a quiet time. It’s a time free from distractions where you can read your Bible and pray. It’s where we engage our heart and set our mind to walk with God through the rest of our day. Although everyone’s schedule will be different, the decision to make time for engaging your heart and setting your mind to walk with God is fundamental for building a strong relationship with God.
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.
Developing the conviction to consistently start each day setting our mind on God is fundamental to building spiritual strength. There are too many Christians who are weak simply because they are either inconsistent in their time with God, or don’t engage their heart during their time with God.
Because I am righteous, I will see you. When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied.
How strong spiritually are you? Can you handle the responsibilities life requires of you, as well as the challenges life throws at you?
If you fail under pressure your strength is too small.
Proverbs 24:10 NLT
If you give up when trouble comes it shows that you are weak.
Proverbs 24:10 NCV
Are you ready to take advantage of the opportunities God gives us to do good each day?
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
When we put in the time with God, we will grow strong.
Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God.
2 Chronicles 27:6
Here are three principles for developing great quiet times.
Develop a Training Mindset
We all know that when there’s a race, all the runners bolt for the finish line, but only one will take the prize. When you run, run for the prize! 25 Athletes in training are very strict with themselves, exercising self-control over desires, and for what? For a wreath that soon withers or is crushed or simply forgotten. That is not our race. We run for the crown that we will wear for eternity. 26 So I don’t run aimlessly. I don’t let my eyes drift off the finish line. When I box, I don’t throw punches in the air. 27 I discipline my body and make it my slave so that after all this, after I have brought the gospel to others, I will still be qualified to win the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 MSG
This Scripture teaches us that Christians like athletes are in training. The difference between a Christian and an athlete is the end reward. This Scripture also communicates that we do not come into Christianity prepared to run our race or walk with God but must undergo training. In fact, training is a fundamental characteristic of the Christian life.
Learning to set aside time with God each day requires discipline and discipline is obtained through training. Some of the best training days are on the mornings that are particularly challenging with distractions or when we don’t feel like spending time with God. These mornings give us opportunities to learn where we need to improve or areas we need help from others.
Planning is an attribute of good training. Do you look at each day’s schedule and determine when and where you are going to spend time with God?
Great athletes think ahead. They prepare. They go to bed knowing where they need to be and what time they need to get there. They know how long they are going to stay, and unless they are meeting a coach, they know what they are going to do.
Learning is an attribute of good training.
Every failure is an opportunity to learn and improve. Do you learn from your failures in your time with God? Do you talk to anyone about your failures to gain insights and learn from others how to avoid the same mistakes?
Everyone has distractions and days they don’t feel well and everyone has faced unexpected interruptions in life. Well-trained Christians know when they need to be out of bed, know where they need to read and pray to avoid distractions, and are determined to finish strong during the days they don’t feel well or experience the inevitable interruptions of life.
Transparency – Start your quiet time with complete openness and honesty
David had a relationship with God that we can learn from. David was aware of his sins and emotions and could express them to God. This helped him see his need for God.
I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Psalm 51:3 NIV
Awareness is not one of my strengths. In my pride, I flatter myself too much to detect or hate my sin (Psalm 36:2). I need conversations that help me get in touch with what I’m feeling and the sin that so often happens as a response to my feelings.
For I am ready to fall, and my sorrow is continually before me. For I confess my iniquity; I am full of anxiety because of my sin.
Psalm 38: 17-18 NIV
Most of the sin we commit is a reaction to an emotion we feel. Many of us have difficulty identifying our sin because we are not in touch with our emotions. God has given us a way to be able to understand our emotions and our heart condition – conversations.
Be careful, brothers and sisters, that none of you ever develop a wicked, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 Encourage each other every day while you have the opportunity. If you do this, none of you will be deceived by sin and become stubborn.
Hebrews 3:12-13 GW
Starting your quiet time with honesty and awareness will require the daily work of engaging in conversations to help see our heart condition.
Not knowing what to read in our Bible is one sign that we are out of touch with our heart condition and are not doing the work through good conversations to understand our heart.
Do you believe in engaging conversations? How often do you initiate them? This is part of the daily preparation strong Christians practice.
When you start your quiet time, you should be able to identify what emotions you feel and why you feel them. You should be able to identify sins from the day before and what drove them. The goal would be finish your quiet time honest and guilt free and emotionally strong.
Who do you talk to on a regular basis? Does this person understand their role to draw you out and help you understand your heart condition? Have you given them permission to ask engaging questions?
Does this person know your core sins? Is this person willing to ask questions to help you get in touch with your heart condition?
Do you both have a conviction that you need conversations that lead to helping each other understand each other’s heart condition?
Do you provide information to help each other be successful in helping you?
Decision: I will develop a set of relationships that are open and inviting to input to help each other be honest and aware of our heart condition. Who will that be? Start praying for them every day to put Hebrews 3:12-13 into practice.
Putting the word into practice
Why are you so polite with me, always saying ‘Yes, sir,’ and ‘that’s right, sir,’ but never doing a thing I tell you? These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundation words, words to build a life on.
“If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last. But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation. When the swollen river came crashing in, it collapsed like a house of cards. It was a total loss.”
Luke 6:46-49 MSG
One of the most important attributes of a great quiet time is putting into practice what God has revealed to us in his Word. In fact, this Scripture teaches us that God would question the sincerity of our relationship with Him if we don’t put into practice what he is communicating.
These Scriptures teach us that obedience is the difference between our ability to handle life’s challenges and being destroyed by them.
Obedience is a condition of intimacy.
You see, to love God means that we keep His commands, and His commands don’t weigh us down.
1 John 5:3
Intimacy with God is the goal and the reward. When we obey his commands we are expressing interest in God, honoring God and showing faithfulness toward God. God longs to be close to us. This is relationship building.
Obedience is the condition of agreement.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
James 1:22 NIV
Religious people often mistake hearing the Bible with agreeing with the Bible. Religious logic goes like this: If I hear it and believe it’s true then, by default, I am in agreement. God has a different definition for agreement. Obedience is how God defines agreement. We show we agree by our obedience.
Mastering the fundamentals takes practice and patience and planning. We have outlined three basics that can help develop a stronger faith. However, they will require working at them each day, learning from our mistakes and being patient with the process.