Daily Devotions: Duty or Delight?

Sept. 24, 2010 Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Session Transcript

Let’s take a moment and just thank the Lord for how He’s been speaking to us. I’d like to have some of you do that, but I’m afraid some people couldn’t hear. So let me just pray, and we’ll join our hearts. Why don’t you join hands with the women who are seated near you, if you have somebody.

We just thank You, Lord, for the fact that You are faithful. You are here. You are speaking to Your people. We love You. We worship You. We bless You. Thanks for ministering to our hearts through this day. Thanks for these women who are hungry for more and have come to hear from You. We want to hear from You about the importance of our devotional life. Some people perhaps have heard me talk about this before, but I need to hear this again and again. I pray that You would speak to us and encourage us and strengthen us. May something that is shared even in this next hour really make a difference in the lives of each of us here.

Lord, would You give us strength, stamina, physical. I heard there were a couple hundred women who were at the 7:30 prayer time this morning. It’s been a long day for them and a long day still to come for all of us. So would You just strengthen us in our inner man by the power of Your Spirit. Minister grace.

I look around, and I see some familiar faces. I know that a lot of women in this room have some difficult life seasons. Would You just assure them of Your presence, Your grace to walk through this season of need, whatever that looks like with them. We’ll give You thanks in Jesus’ name, amen.

I was doing a woman’s conference some time ago, and I asked the women, kind of like we did last night, to fill out a prayer card and tell us what they were wanting God to do in their lives through the course of that weekend and to turn those in. That was back in the days when our conferences weren’t quite so large, and I was able to read through those cards and see what was going on in women’s lives and how we could pray for them.

It was interesting to me after the conference to see a particular thread that ran through so many of those cards. I’m going to read you some excerpts of what those women said because I think this is so typical of the way so many of us as women live today.

Here’s what some of those women said:

  • “I feel I’m out of control some times with so many pressures.” You know that word, pressure?
  • “I face too much stress and responsibility.” That’s another word we hear a lot today—stress.
  • “I need God to show me how to cope with the stresses at this moment.” This one was asking for prayer that God would show her how to manage the different hats of teacher, mother, wife and daughter successfully and still have time for church work and me. “I feel like I’m torn in all directions.” Anybody relate to this? Lots of hats we’re wearing.
  • “I need to stop worrying about everything. I try not to, and I know I shouldn’t, but my worries that I conjure up even disturb my sleep and my dreams.”
  • This woman said, “I’ve given myself up to service for about 24 months, and I feel a need to slow myself down and renew myself, but, as you said, life gets real hectic.”
  • Some of you will be able to relate to this. This woman said, “With a new baby”—we have some new moms, young moms here. You’re like major sleep deprived. You know what I’m talking about, or you can remember. “With a new baby, I need to find the Lord’s peace and rest, physically and emotionally.”
  • Then this woman said, “I often get overly busy and find my day gone without having done the things I most wanted to do.” You ever been there? Of course you have.
  • Here’s another one many will relate to. She said, “I’m a single person by divorce, and I really am tired.”

With or without divorce, there are a lot of life circumstances that just leave us really tired. I’ve honestly felt that way a lot of the past year or so just with some of the things that have been going on in our ministry—good things. God is doing great things, but I just feel sometimes like, “I don’t think I can keep going, put one foot in front of the other.” We all know what that experience is.

  • One woman said, “I’ve left a whirlwind at home and need a renewed spirit to face all that these coming weeks will hold.” Perhaps you can relate to that.
  • Or this one: “I want to slow down. I feel as if I’m on a speeding treadmill, and if I try to jump off, I will stumble and fall.” Sound familiar?
  • Another woman spoke of her frazzled, frenzied state. I thought, just looking in the mirror sometimes, and that’s what I see looking back at me, this frazzled, frenzied state.
  • And then one more, and I think all of us can relate to this at different times. This lady said, “My busyness has robbed me of my joy.”

As I think about those, I think about my own life. I think about a lot of the women I meet. The thing you hear more often today than anything else when you ask somebody, “How are you doing?” What do they say? Well, they say, “Fine,” or they say, “I’m so busy.”

There’s so much going on. There’s kind of this breathless aspect to life, and that’s why I think it’s so good to take a weekend like this away from the normal routine to just stop and take stock and pause and consider what’s going on in our lives. Is everything that is on our to-do list something that God put there? Or are there some things that we put there that maybe shouldn’t be there in that season?

Well, I want to talk to you today about, as you know from reading the description, the whole matter of our daily devotional life. I’ve often said over the years that if I could only share one message with women, it would be this message. I’ve shared it many times before, but I need to hear this over again and again and again. I know that if you get what I’m going to talk about in these next moments and make it or keep it a part of your daily routine and life, it will sooner or later be the place where you find answers to whatever the issues are you’re dealing with in your life.

Now, I’m not saying it’s magic and it will make your problems go away. But I’m saying it will, if you’re in this Book on a consistent basis and in the presence of the Lord, He will meet you. And what you need for your life issues, whether in this season or the next season or the next, what you need is Christ and His wisdom and His presence and Him showing you how to walk through that new challenge, that new season, that new thing you’re going to be facing when . . . you know, life that is just around the corner that you’re not anticipating, but it’s going to be there. How to get ready for that? How do you prepare for life’s different seasons? I think this matter of the daily devotional life is so, so vital.

So let me ask you, if you have your Bible, which I hope you do, to open to the gospel of Mark chapter 1. I want us to take a look at one day in the life of Jesus. One of the things I love about Christ—I love everything about Him, but one thing that I really admire is how He was able to have such an enormous work load, if you will, responsibilities that He faced with His calling here on this earth, and how He was able to fulfill God’s calling in His life without ever seeming frazzled and frenzied, hassled and hurried.

I want us to look at one day what it was like, and we will relate to some aspects of His day, and then see what was, I think, the key to the fact that He was able to walk through that kind of schedule and not come out looking like some of us do when we’ve been through a day like that.

So, beginning in verse 21 of Mark chapter 1: “They went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath . . .” So it’s a Sabbath day. It’s supposed to be a day of rest, but for Jesus this was going to be a day of service and ministry—although He did know how to rest in God’s presence even while He was serving. But, “on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.”

Now, some of you have taught a Sunday school class or a Bible class, or you’ve been involved in a mentoring relationship, you’ve led a small group, something like that, or maybe you’re home schooling your children. So many of you know what it is to have to give out teaching ministry to others. You know that it’s not just a matter of getting up there and doing it. There’s the preparation, the time in advance.

For me, coming up with new content, new messages, is extremely difficult. It just takes me forever to do it. Working on messages for this weekend, it’s just labor and travail. I don’t know why you moms do that. It’s hard. Well, I do know why you do it, because you love God’s calling, and you love the children God gives you. I love what He gives after the labor and travail, but I don’t like the labor and travail part of it. Do you love the labor and travail part of it? (Laughter) Okay, it’s not just me.

But you know that going into those teaching times, there’s the, “What am I supposed to speak on?” I knew that Pastor Voddie was going to be speaking on Titus 1 and 2. For months I’ve been asking, “Is that the right thing for me to speak on Thursday night?” I didn’t feel like God was putting anything else on my heart, so we’re going through this back and forth, “Should I or shouldn’t I? How do I explain the passage in a way that . . .” You’re giving out even before you get up to give out. Then you get up, and you pour out, and you spend yourself in order to give into the lives of others. Then afterwards, there are people to talk to, questions to answer, books to sign, and people want more of you. And it’s not done when you just sit down.

Then there’s the “battle after the battle.” You know what I’m talking about? I find some of my most difficult testing times in my own walk with the Lord come in the 48 hours after a conference like this. Satan starts to intimidate you about things that you’ve said that you fail in, and you’re feeling hypercritical because your life isn’t measuring up to the things you just told everybody else they’re supposed to be living. Or you’re just exhausted, and you don’t feel like you have any desire and passion to go on.

Again, I’m just being honest here. You got me after lunch—the real me.

So as you’re giving out to others, there’s that spending and being spent. Jesus knows what that is like. He had this day, it was not ordinary teaching. It was with authority, with power, and there was virtue that went out of Him as He was teaching, and an unusual situation arose that particular day. Verse 23,

And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him” (verses 23-27).

Now that is admittedly an unusual scene, something that you have probably not experienced. I certainly haven’t in quite that way. You say, “Well, I’m glad I don’t have to go through exorcisms and the kind of things Jesus did. I’m glad I don’t have to do battle with unclean spirits.” Aw, but you do!

The Scripture tells us that we are in a battle. Ephesians chapter 6, Fern pointed us to that this morning. It’s not a battle against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers and wickedness and darkness in high places (see verse 12). If you are a Christian, you are in a battle. And if you are a Christian who is serving the Lord, as you ought to be in some capacity, then the battle intensifies. There are times, even though we can’t see these forces, we can’t always hear them, we are doing battle against those forces of darkness.

Now, God’s the one doing the battle, but we get caught in the crossfire sometimes. Satan hates God, and he’s trying always to dethrone God. We get caught in the middle. You may feel, “Yes, I know. I’ve got some of this going on in the four walls of my own home!” It may not be overtly as in demons, but you say, “There’s spiritual warfare going on for the heart of that teenage kid or the heart of that husband who’s trapped in pornography or that situation with those in-laws.”  You say, “There’s spiritual battle going on here.” It can wear you out. It can make you frazzled and frenzied if you let it.

This wasn’t the end. Look at verse 28—we’re still in the same day—“And at once His fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.”

All of a sudden, Jesus is headline news, front-page Capernaum Chronicle, and now everybody is wanting Jesus to speak at their events. They’re wanting Him to sign their books. They’re wanting Him to do seminars. They’re wanting Him to do interviews. He’s the big name in town. People realize that He has power, so they come to Him wanting help, wanting answers, wanting what He can provide for them.

So look at this, verse 32: “That evening—same day; He’s taught; He’s cast out this demon, now everybody wants a piece of Him—“at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew Him” (verses 32-34).

Just picture this scene. Jesus is now having to deal with throngs of people, masses, multitudes. I don’t know about you (I was sharing with some women the other day), I am basically, naturally an introvert. Now, you see a speaker, you hear them in public, you don’t think of public people as being introverts. But I really am. I am not energized by crowds. I get drained by crowds.

My idea of what energizes me is to sit in my room with a book. (Laughter) So doing conferences like this takes a lot out of me, a lot of demands of people. I do it, I try to do it with joy, because I want to serve the Lord. I want to serve those God has called me to minister to, but naturally, it is challenging to me. Maybe some of you can relate to that.

Maybe you’re not just a natural extrovert and the whole concept of people crowding in and around you . . . We have a gal on our team. She’s just an incredible, faithful servant of the Lord. She is a great person with computers, with Excel spreadsheets, with documents and charts and reports and graphs. She loves sitting in her cubicle and working on all that stuff, which we really need in our ministry. She’s a great gift to our ministry. Do you know what she’s doing at this conference? The information booth. She has willingly taken this assignment, but it is so stretching for her because she says, “It’s not easy for me to have all that people interaction.” But she volunteered for that task this time because she said, “I know I need God’s grace in that place, and I want God’s grace.”

Well, Jesus . . . He was human. He was a man. And here He is.  Look at that phrase: “And the whole city was gathered together at the door.”

Now, I don’t know how many people were in that city, but that sounds like a lot of people to me. And you’re thinking, “Yes, that’s what it’s like in my house some times. People hear that I have the gift of hospitality or that I’ve got . . .” Some of you have some creative gifts, and you can make just really beautiful things out of nothing. People in your church hear that and all of a sudden there are people everywhere wanting you to make things and host things and cook things and bake things.

Or maybe they hear that you’ve got a good listening ear or you’re good at giving wise biblical counsel, so your phone’s ringing off the hook, your email is like non-stop, people wanting you to help them. The whole city is gathered at your door.

Now, it doesn’t have to be even people from outside your home. Sometimes it’s just your own family. Some of you moms with a lot of little kids . . . I just want to cheer you on in that season of life and tell you that you will get through it, by God’s grace. Enjoy the moment. But there are moments when you think, “I cannot handle one more little people question. Like, I have to go somewhere so I can just have three minutes of privacy.” So where do you go? In the bathroom, lock the door. But you know they can find you there. These little fingers come under the door. “Mommy!” And you go, “My name’s not Mommy anymore. Go find another mommy.” Right? (Laughter)

You just can’t get away from it. It’s 24/7 in some of those seasons of life, some of you caring for older parents or a mate or a parent who is terminally ill. It’s constant. There’s no relief. There’s no down time. There are no breaks.

Jesus understands. In the midst of all that, He loved people. He reached out to them. He welcomed them. He healed them. He met their needs.

You know what? I skipped a paragraph. Sorry about that. Verse 29, let me just go back to that. “Immediately Jesus left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.”

Let’s just back up to when Jesus gets home at that moment. It’s not His house. He’s staying with some friends, but He gets home. He’s had this day of ministry, and you think, (sigh) “I can put my feet up, turn on the news, go check my email, put on some nice music, just have a nice evening of fellowship with my friends.”

Is that what Jesus got to do? Not a chance. Verse 30: “Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came [as you would expect] and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them” (verses 30-31).

Now we can relax, right? Everybody’s well. No. That’s when we get to that next paragraph about the whole city gathered at the door. You exhausted yet? Thinking about it?

I will confess to you because, one, I just want you to know the truth, but also I think there are a lot of you who can relate to this: There are times when, as a result of getting out and doing the things God has called me to do—whatever those may be. It’s not always speaking. Sometimes it’s other things. There are times when I just really do not want to meet one more human being. It’s like, “God, could You call me to the uninhabited regions of the world somewhere?” I would love ministry if it weren’t for people. (Laughter)

I can honestly—and it’s kind of like those moments when you’re really vulnerable, really tired, your shoes are killing your feet (like mine are right now), and you think, “I cannot . . .” Sometimes after a conference you’ve been talking to women in a line for two hours or more. You love it, but you’re exhausted, and you think, “I can’t talk to one more person.” And then there’s one more woman, and you hear the first words out of her mouth and you know this is not going to be a quick conversation. There’s so much need, so much pain, so much hurt, so much pent up.

I will tell you truthfully, I have been at the place sometimes where in my heart (you all are going to think I’m thinking this every time I see you . . . please don’t get a complex), but I can be nodding, smiling, doing my best, but sometimes in my heart I’m just, “Lord, let me out of here!” I’m resenting the very people the Lord has called me to.

Are you ever there? Do you ever feel that way about your children? Do you ever feel that way about your older parents who are in a place where they really need you right now? Do you ever feel that way about some people at church—especially those high-maintenance ones? “Why do they pick me?” Because God knows we need it. Right? (Laughter)

So I look at Jesus, and I think of how often I find myself chafing against those points of just being weary and feeling like I need a break. There are times when we do need a break, and we need to know how to find that quiet place and how to wisely break away from the crowd as Jesus sometimes did. But I want you to see what I think is the greatest key in the life of Jesus, to being able to live that kind of demanding life and still love the Lord, still love people, still be fresh and joyful and thankful and still be a whole person.

Look at verse 35: “Rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark . . .”  Jesus got up. Now, there’s more to that verse. I’m going to come to that in a moment. I just wanted to take that much first.

I can just tell you that after a weekend like this, the next morning, very early the next morning, there’s only one thing I want to do, and that is sleep. It is not get up. Now, I want to tell you . . . I just want to take you, especially you moms who are real sleep deprived, just take you off the guilt trip. When you get a chance to sleep, sleep. Okay?

And after a conference like this, I need sleep. But I’ll tell you, there’s something we need even more than sleep. If we can only get one thing, we need what Jesus got when He got up.

“Very early the next morning, while it was still dark, he [got up, left the house and] went off to a solitary place where he prayed.”

Before the rest of the world is up, before the kids are up. Is there a time before the kids are up? Sometimes there’s not. But at any moment He could, He found that place of quiet rest where He connected to His Father from whom He never got disconnected. But, as a man, getting replenished, filled back up, communication, alone with His Father, a solitary place where He prayed.

Luke 5 tells us that Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

I’m not telling you anything today that we don’t all know. In fact, I think the reason people come to a workshop like this—they’re always well attended—and I think the reason is that we all know this is important, and we want it. But we struggle to get it. Am I right? To make this the priority of our day is hard, but Jesus . . . what an example. I just come back to asking myself, if He knew that as a man He needed this time, how in the world do I think that I can survive without it? Just keep going, keep giving, keep serving, keep pouring out and not getting replenished in that solitary place with my Heavenly Father?

I’ve been memorizing Psalm 27 recently, meditating on that passage. There you have David who was a king, a general, military strategist, poet, songwriter, administrator—so many talents and abilities and so many huge responsibilities as the head of state and commander-in-chief of the army. If you were to ask David, “David, what is the one thing in your life—if you could only have one thing from God, what would you ask Him for? What would you want? What’s the number one priority in your life?”

David answers that question for us in Psalm 27, verse 4. He says, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after.” If I can’t have anything else from God, here’s what I would like. This is what I will pursue. This is what I will make my priority. Are you ready? “That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.”

David says, “That’s the one thing that matters to me more than anything else, that I can live in God’s presence, that I can look upon His beauty, and that I can learn from Him. That’s what I want.” That’s the priority of his life.

I’m so thankful to have grown up in a home with parents who loved the Lord and who sought the Lord but who demonstrated this priority of this matter of a devotional life. Neither of my parents were raised in Christian homes. They both came to know the Lord as young adults. Early in my dad’s Christian life—he had been a rebel, a gambler, just really very far from the Lord—Friday, October 13, 1950, God sovereignly, graciously penetrated his world, brought the gospel to him, opened his heart, opened his eyes.

He believed; he repented; he received Christ, and his life was never the same again. He dramatically transformed there in his mid-20s. Early in his Christian life, that first year, someone challenged him to start giving to God the first hour of every day in the Word and in prayer. He took that challenge. From that day until the day he went home to be with the Lord 28 years later, he never missed one single day of giving to God the first hour of every day in the Word and in prayer.

Now, I wish I could say that I have that same record. I don’t—by far. There are many days when the first thing in my day is not what I really want it to be and what it needs to be. But I had an incredible example of that in my dad and in my parents as they prioritized the Lord at the beginning of the day.

You can’t imagine, moms, what an incredible legacy for your kids to grow up in a home where—sure you make mistakes. My parents would have been the first to say that there are a lot of things they would have done differently if they could do it again, in terms of their parenting. But the grace of God that came into our home, I think, was huge because we saw our parents acknowledging their need for God, and to know, as a daughter, that at the start of every day, before you’re up, your dad is up, on his knees, in the Word, seeking the Lord.

He had these little kneeling pads that they used. I think they were probably made for weddings. You know, like little kneeling pads. I don’t know how many of those he wore out over the years. He kept it under his bed, would pull it out and kneel there to pray. He had a routine—he was a man of routine. He would read five Psalms, one Proverb, two chapters from the Old, one chapter from the New Testament. That way he worked through Psalms and Proverbs every month, and the Old Testament once a year and the New Testament twice a year. I think that’s the way it works out. That was his routine, and he was seeking the Lord.

He had a prayer list, a long list of people he prayed for faithfully over the years. He prayed for us children. He prayed for wisdom in his business. My dad was a businessman, extremely busy. He traveled a great deal, but for him it did not matter what he had going on that day, what other appointments he had. It didn’t matter what time he got to bed the night before. But I will tell you this little secret: He was religiously disciplined about getting to bed the night before because he had an appointment with the Lord in the morning. So at 10 o’clock at night, he was out of there. It did not matter what was going on.

We laughed about how—my mom had such an incredible gift of hospitality, and we always had a lot of people in our home. At 10 o’clock at night, we would tease about Dad leaving whatever was going on there, and say, “Goodnight you all. Turn out the lights and lock the door when you leave.” Now, of course, my mom was the one who had to do all the clean up afterwards, and she wasn’t able to quite keep those hours. But it was so hugely important to him to have that morning meeting with the Lord that he paid the price the night before.

Another thing that was a decision my parents made when they started their family, for which I am incredibly grateful, was that the whole time we were growing up, we did not have a TV in our home. We didn’t take a newspaper. Now, today, nobody takes a newspaper because they get that information . . . But it’s not such a big thing. But in those days, everybody took the newspaper. But my dad was concerned that so many people at night would just fritter away hours mindlessly watching TV, trivial, and then they would miss the most important thing in life which is hearing from God. Or in the morning, they got their paper open, but they’re not in the Word.

So he wanted to protect himself and us. He didn’t make us have a quiet time, but the atmosphere in our home was, “Why would you not?” His rule of life for himself—not legalistically, it was a delight to him—“No Bible reading, no breakfast. No other reading before reading the Word.” That was just the habit. It was like breathing to him, and to see God give him such wisdom and grace and enabling in every area of his life. God promises that if you meditate on His Word, you will be successful in all you do. I saw this priority of a devotional life illustrated in my home, even as I’ve seen it, we’ve seen it in the life of Jesus.

Now, I want to just take some moments here and talk through: What is the purpose of a devotional life? I think that will help motivate and encourage you. By the way, did everyone get one of the handouts? This will give you a chance to jot down some notes.

I want to just mention eight purposes of a devotional life, and then I’m going to give you an invitation before we wrap up here today and give you a 30-day challenge about making this practical and personal in your own life. So be sure to be preparing your heart for that.

I think number one, the most important reason is communion with God—fellowship, relationship with the Lord. We were created to know Him, to be friends with Him. It’s having devotion, not devotions. I’ve had a lot of days when I’ve had my devotions—you know, something to check off my to-do list—but I’ve not really had devotion.

The thing is not just another to-do on your list, because you don’t need one more thing to do. We’re not talking about another task. We’re talking about cultivating an intimate, love relationship with the Lord—devotion, relating to Him, fellowship with Him.

When God told the Children of Israel to build the tabernacle, He said, “That’s the place where I will meet with you.” God wants to meet with us. We are His tabernacle today, His temple, and God says, “I want to speak with you. I want to meet with you.”

Moses prayed to God, and he said, “Teach me Your ways so that I may know You.” You want to know God? You’ve got to spend time with Him. The goal is the building of a relationship, fellowship, communion with God, enjoying God.

Then the second purpose is purification—purification of my heart and my life. As we walk in this world, we live in flesh. We live in a sinful world. We get defiled, and we get messed up. We sin. This is the place where we come to the Lord, and we say, “Search me; cleanse me; wash me.”

As I open God’s Word in the morning, I will often pray, “Lord, just wash me with Your Word. My heart needs to be washed. I’ve said things; I’ve done things; I’ve thought things—some of them I wasn’t sensitive to or alert to at the moment, or I didn’t respond to the conviction of Your Spirit. Show me, Lord, what I have not seen but You see in my heart. Cleanse me, purify me.” That happens in this time.

Number three: Restoration of my soul—“He restores my soul.” As you’re out serving the Lord, as you’re doing what God has called you to do through the day, you’re spending resources, you’re giving out. You need to get replenished. You need to get filled back up, and this is where God fills us back up. This is where, after days like this, where He calms my spirit; He settles my soul; He restores me. This is where I get renewed strength and power to go out and do it again.

And moms, ladies in the work world, whatever you’re doing in this season of life—we have some students in here. You need God’s grace to get up and do the next day what God has called you to do. Some of you are single moms. Man, you’re just struggling to keep it all together. You need your soul to be restored for whatever you’re doing.

I find so many times in ministry, I think, “I just don’t know if I can keep doing this.” That’s because I’ve gotten depleted, but I haven’t taken the opportunity to go back and get my soul restored. That’s a purpose of this quiet time—devotions, quiet time, holy hour—you can call it different things. I don’t really care what you call it. What I care is that you get it. That’s what really matters.

Number four: This is the time and place where we get instruction in the ways of God, where we ask the Lord for direction, for wisdom, to teach us His ways. I want to know how God thinks. I want to know what He loves. I want to know what He hates. I want to know what is pleasing to Him. This is where I get instruction.

Moses prayed, “Lord, show me Your ways.” The Scripture says the Children of Israel saw the acts of God, but Moses saw the ways of God. I don’t want to just know God’s deeds. I want to know what God is like. I want to know Him. We get that instruction in this time.

Number five: Submission to God and His will. This is where our will gets aligned with God’s will. Do any of you ever go to the chiropractor? Do you know what I’m talking about? I sit hunched over a laptop most of my life—hours and hours and hours and hours and hours, day after day after day. My shoulders just get really sore.

I have discovered in recent years that sometimes a chiropractic adjustment . . . this is not a commercial. If you’re not into that, that’s fine. But for me, I’ve found that sometimes just getting those adjustments,  it provides some relief for my tense shoulders.

Well, my spirit needs regular alignment, adjustment because God’s going this way, and sometimes I find myself veering off course. God’s will and my will sometimes run opposite of each other. That’s when I have to go to the cross and get alone with the Lord and say, “Oh God, I’ve been going my own way. ‘Not my will, but Your will be done.’”

There are so many times that I’m just chafing at something in my life, some circumstance, some decision that an authority has made, something that I’m not liking, and I find myself resenting, resisting the very thing that Jennifer [Rothschild] talked to us about this morning. If I get in this time with the Lord, I get in the Word, this is where I bow the knee; I bow my will. I get my will aligned with His, and I say, “Lord, not my will, but Yours be done.” That happens in this time with the Lord.

Number six: Direction for my life, my relationships, and my responsibilities. This is where I get my direction for the day, my agenda, my to-do list, my assignments, my schedule. This is where I find out, because of what God puts on my heart—not what I think I’m supposed to do that day, but what’s on God’s heart for that day.

Have you ever had this happen in your quiet time? I know you do. I know it’s not just me. I have a quiet time chair that I sometimes have used in different places in my home where I have had my quiet time. I’ll get to that time and that place, and all of a sudden I find my mind is racing every different direction, a hundred miles an hour. It’s one thing to get a quiet place or to get a quiet time, but to get a quiet heart—that can be another matter.

All of a sudden I’m just thinking of things I’ve forgotten—a birthday card I need to send to somebody, an email I need to send to somebody, I get this new burden for house cleaning when I start my quiet time. I’m telling you, I think the enemy knows if we get this time, it’s going to transform our lives, and he doesn’t want that, so he works overtime getting us distracted.

I am the queen of distractibility. I make my own distractions. It’s just unbelievable how easily I get distracted. Sometimes I just need to say, “Body, you are going to sit here. You are not going anywhere. You are not moving.”

Here’s the way I’ve found that I can outwit the enemy: I keep a paper and pencil there, and I just jot down things as they come to mind because I can’t keep it all in my head. I just jot it down, or sometimes even take the time to sit there and write that thank-you note, but I make it a part of my praise time that I’m thanking the Lord for this person’s role in my life, or I stop to pray for that person or that situation that God brings to mind. By the time you’re done jotting those things down that have come to mind, you may have your to-do list for the day.

So many of us are stressed out because we’re trying to live an agenda that we have made for ourselves. We’re trying to everything, be everything to everybody all the time, and it is not possible. A lot of us have things on our to-do list at this season of life that are not necessarily on God’s to-do list for our lives. That’s why we need to be taking our lists before the Lord and saying, “Lord, what do You want me doing in this season of my life or in this day?”

Here’s this little secret, it’s one of the lies women believe. I wrote a book on the subject. One of the lies women believe is that there’s not time in my day to do everything I need to do. And how many times have I believed that lie. That will leave you stressed.

Here’s the truth that will set you free: There is time in every 24-hour day to do everything that is on God’s to-do list for my day. Now there’s not time to do everything that is on my list; there is definitely not time to do everything that is on everybody else’s list for my life that day. But there is time to do everything that is on God’s list for my life that day.

So in this quiet time, say, “Lord, would You direct my steps? Would You order my day? Would You show me what Your priorities are for me today?”

Pray about the interruptions that will come into my day—the calls, the emails, the distractions. If I’ll take time to stop and pray those things through, I will find that I am more sensitive through the course of the day to what’s coming from the Lord that I need to receive and what’s not coming from Him that I need to say, “Not today.”

We get direction—direction for dealing with our relationships, our responsibilities, how to parent that child for whom no textbook was ever written. “Lord, I can’t do it. I can’t love that child. I can’t like that child. I can’t parent that child. Lord, I cannot respond to that husband when he is that way. Lord, that person at work, that boss, they’re making my life miserable. I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to understand this person. I don’t know how to help this person that I’m mentoring.” Ask the Lord. He gives wisdom. Ask Him for direction. This comes in that time.

Then number seven: Intercession on behalf of the needs of others. This is where we take the people and the situations we care about, the things that are burdening our hearts, and we lift them up to the Lord to His throne of grace. We say, “Lord, I can’t change this person. I can’t meet their need. I wish I could. I would if I could. I can’t do it, but I lift them up to You, and I pray that You will minister Your grace to them right now.”

I see my friend Fran here. Within just the last several weeks, she’s become a widow after a long, difficult illness that her husband went through. There were so many times—separated by so many miles—but Fran would be on my heart. Knowing this was such a tough season for her and Bob during that time, as they knew that he was terminal, I couldn’t do anything, but I could pray.

How thankful I am for the people who intercede for me. I wouldn’t be up here right here today. I would not be walking with the Lord. I would not be serving the Lord if there weren’t people who intercede for me, praying friends who lift me up before the Lord. You need that. I need that. We need it for each other. This time of intercession, we can do this in that quiet time.

Then number eight—and this is one of the ones I think is the most exciting: One of the purposes of the devotional life, this is where we experience transformation into the likeness of Christ—transformation into His image.

The word transformation is only used two or three times in the Scripture. It’s a word that means to be transfigured from the inside out. It’s not just outward change. It’s inward change that then gets reflected outwardly.

You say, “I want to be like Jesus.” There were so many times in the past week when I was so unlike Jesus, and I was, within the last week, thinking, “There is no way I can do this conference. I just cannot do this. I am a witch.” There’s stuff coming out of my mouth that was ungrateful, unkind, whining, complaining. Oh, my. Horrible. I’m just seeing my own heart spewing out of weariness.

I can give you all the excuses, but I’m just telling you, when you get squeezed, what’s inside comes out. I’ve been asking the Lord during this Lent season to show me why I need a Savior and why I need the cross. God’s been answering that prayer. (Laughter) I see myself, and I think, “I hate being this way. I don’t want to be like this. I want to be gentle and sweet and kind and loving and patient and looooooooong-suffering.”

How do you get to be like that? It doesn’t happen by trying. That effort will kill you. It happens as we’re in His presence. He transforms us. You become like the people you spend time with. They say that really is true. They say that couples who have been married a long time start to look like each other. Some of you are a little worried about that. (Laughter) You become like the people you spend time with.

I want to tell you, if you spend your time with the world’s movies and romance novels and magazines and music, you’re going to become like the philosophy that you’re imbibing.

You want to become like Jesus? You get with Him. Spend time in His presence, and He will transform you into His likeness. It’s not going to happen by just sitting in conferences, by listening to Christian radio. You’ve got to get time alone with the Lord and in His Word.

That leads me to what I want to talk about for a few minutes, and that’s the practice of a daily devotional life. Because I’m not going to have time to say all the things I would like to say here that could be practical and helpful for you, I want to recommend two books. The first book I ever wrote called A Place of Quiet Rest.

I don’t know if you’re close enough to see this picture, but this is like the place I want to live. It’s just so peaceful looking. I want to be there . . . this place of quiet rest.

This is the first book I wrote. The subtitle is, Finding Intimacy with God through a Daily Devotional Life. I never aspired to be an author. I would do this workshop in different places at conferences, and women were so responsive. I kept trying to find a book to recommend to women to help them know how to have a personal devotional life.

I found a lot of devotional books—many of which have been a blessing to me—but I couldn’t find a book on how to actually have your own quiet time. So I sat down and, over a period of time, wrote that, published it with Moody Publishers.

One of the things I think is really just so valuable about this book is that I asked ten or twelve women— Elisabeth Elliot, Kay Arthur, Vonette Bright, Joni Tada, others, to just write a brief essay about how they do their quiet time. At the end of each chapter is one of those essays from one of those women.

Just that part is worth this book, but there are chapters on how to get into the Word, get the Word into you, how to pray, how to just deal with interruptions. There’s a whole chapter on just questions women asked as I was working on this—how to deal with this or this about having little children. I asked some moms how they deal with that. It’s a real practical book.

If you need a track to run on in your quiet time, because before we leave here in just a few minutes, I’m going to give you a 30-day devotional challenge. If you don’t already have something in place that is working for you in your devotional life, here’s something that you might find helpful. It’s called A 30-Day Walk with God in the Psalms.

Now, I’ll just tell you right away, you can’t do this in 30 days, so don’t try. Make it 60 days, 90 days—we should have called it something else—or a “30-Day Jog with God in the Psalms.” (Laughter) It takes 30 Psalms. Take as long as you need. There are a lot of blank lines in there, and it walks you through getting into the Word and getting the Word into you with 30 of my favorite Psalms.

So those two resources are available in the Resource Center if they would be of help to you in your devotional life. But let me just make a few suggestions—a few general ones and then a few specific ones, and then I want to extend an invitation to you about your devotional life.

Four things I recommend to you about a devotional life. First of all, it needs to be regular. It needs to be regular. I want to say daily, but I don’t want by that . . . Some of you are Type A first-borns, and if I say daily, which is what I really mean, you all are going to like lose your sanctification if you miss a day. That’s not the point. The point is that you’re regularly meeting with the Lord.

I love what D.L. Moody said, “A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough for the next six months or take sufficient air into his lungs at one time to sustain life for a week. We must draw upon God’s boundless store of grace from day to day as we need it.” Day after day, regular.

Now, here’s a second one. I used to apologize for saying this because I knew half the women in the audience were about to choke when I did, but I’m going to say it. I think it’s important, where possible, to have this time early in the day. You say, “How early is early?” I can’t tell you how early, early is for you because I don’t know what the rest of your day looks like.

I know for me, ideal—I work out of my home, so my day starts when I wake up. For me, if I don’t get this time with the Lord before I jump into email, it’s very much more difficult through the day to get that quiet heart. If I start my day running out—and many times I do—then I have to fight, once my day is already off and running, to really get that quiet time with the Lord. The pattern of Scripture is that men of God, including our Savior Jesus Christ, started their day with the Lord.

How many of you would say, “I’m a night person. I’m not a morning person”? Let me see those hands. Okay. I’ll grant that I’m not one who just bounds up early in the morning myself, but I will tell you this: Some of that can change if you change what you do at night. I guarantee if you start going to bed at 9 at night, you’re going to be a morning person. (Laughter)

Now, I’m not saying you need to go bed at 9 at night. I’m not telling you what time to go to bed or to get up. I’m just saying if it’s a priority to you to meet the Lord in the morning, I bet there are some adjustments you could make that would make that more doable. Maybe not. Then you find the time when you can do it.

Some of you, it’s when you’re nursing that little one in the middle of the night. Some of you, it’s when your little ones are napping. It may be that your more extended time with the Lord you take later in the day or at night, if that’s when you’re really alert. But let me just encourage you to start the day with some time seeking the Lord, putting your life before Him, asking Him to meet with you through that day. Lots of Scriptures through the Psalms, morning, morning, morning; it really is emphasized there.

Number three: It’s important that this time be alone. A solitary place Jesus went to and prayed. Those of you who are married know that it’s great for you and your husband to have friends you spend time with as couples or as individuals, but there are certain aspects of your relationship that just require that you be alone. You need time alone with each other to connect and reconnect and touch base and talk.

It doesn’t have to be eight hours every day, but you need some time consistently or you’re going to grow apart. Right? You need it with the Lord. Turning on Christian radio, listening to conference messages like this one is not a substitute for you having your own time, where you learn to feed yourself.

By the way, if you’re looking for a workshop to go to in the next hour, and you’re not convinced, go hear Kay Arthur, who I assume is here. She’s had some life circumstances this week, but as far as I know, she’s made it. She’s talking about how to get into the Word and study it for yourself. If you have not learned how to do that, she’s going to do it on the subject of faith. That would be a great encouragement to you, but taking that time alone with the Lord.

And then number four here: Let me just suggest the benefit of journaling. I’m now doing this on my laptop. For years I did it longhand in actual journals. I don’t do it every day. I don’t do it as regularly as I wish, but I find that if I would just write down . . . This is not a diary. I’m talking about writing down what God is saying to me through His Word and how the Lord is applying this to my life. I find that is so helpful.

It helps my concentration for one thing, but it is also helpful for when I go back and I want to remember. When I’m low or I’m wondering if God is really going to come through, I can go back to those journals and just see such evidence of God’s faithfulness, His dealings with me. It would be a great legacy to leave for your children—journaling.

Specific ingredients: You want to make sure you include these three aspects in your time with the Lord. First is the Word—getting washed in the Word. There is no substitute for this Book in your life. The biggest reason people don’t get a lot out of the Word—you know what it is, the number one reason? They don’t read it.

You’ve got to read it. Meditate on it. Memorize it. Sing it. Pray it. Share it with others. Make this Word the lifeblood of your system. You say you don’t have time for it? Take a look at the things you’re giving time to and say, “Is there anything that can go?”

There are a lot of magazines I don’t have time to read. Not because they’re bad, but just because I need the Word more than I need those. Now, I do read magazines, but if I’m getting more of those than I’m getting of the Word, something is wrong with that picture. You’ve got to have time in the Word.

As you’re receiving God’s Truth to you, God’s speaking to you, then we need time to respond to Him, and we do that through prayer and through praise. “Lord, I heard what You said, and I turn that into prayer. I turn that into a request, or intercession or petitions, or I turn it into praise and worship.” So it’s a two-way communication, two-way relationship: receiving from God and responding back to Him.

The product of a devotional life, the impact that will be seen in your life and in your spiritual growth—not only by you but by others around you—is huge.

I was in my quiet time, as I recall, a number of years ago, when I got a phone call from a pastor, much earlier—California time—a friend who was calling to tell me that some very close friends of mine who happened to serve on the staff of his church, that the wife was going to probably be calling me that day because she was about to find out that her husband who was on the staff of this church had been unfaithful and for six months had been having an affair with a young woman in that church.

He had been given that day to tell his wife, and the pastor knew that the wife and I were very dear friends, and he said, “I expect she’ll be calling you, and I wanted you to know that this is coming down.”

I was just blown away. I was present at the birth of both of their two children. We’ve been very close friends for many years. They were a couple that had for years really walked with God, served the Lord. It was just unbelievable.

I said to this pastor, who was just broken, devastated. I knew it was going to be . . . his wife had no idea. Well, it turned out she had a little idea, but she really had very little clue. I said to him, “I knew this was going to be such a huge blow to her, but at the same time I knew that this was something she was going to weather by God’s grace.”

I knew that this woman had come to know the Lord as a teenager, and during her teenage years, she had developed this habit of a daily devotional life where she really was meeting with the Lord every day. I mean, next to my dad, I don’t know anybody who had more of a habit than this particular woman of not just the task of devotions but really meeting God.

I knew that she knew God and that when the storms came up, as Jesus talked about in Matthew 7: “The winds blow and the storms come and beat up against your house,” that her house had been founded upon a rock, and no matter what that storm did, her house was going to stand.

She did call me that day, and we walked for months, 2 years probably, before the real breakthrough came in that situation. It was horrible. I was with that couple, by the way, two weeks ago in Dallas, with their children, together, not in vocational ministry, but serving the Lord, united as a family.

Five years ago, it wasn’t clear what was going to happen. But I watched that woman go to battle for the soul of her husband, broken, wounded, hurting like crazy, but I watched her stand by God’s grace, and her house did not fall. By her house, I don’t mean her marriage. That could have fallen, and in some cases, it does, but I watched her inner house. Even as she was brokenhearted, God had prepared her.

You see, if you haven’t been learning the way to walk through your house and where things are when it’s light, then when the lights go out, you’re going to be tripping because you don’t know the way. You’ve got to seek the Lord while He may be found, and then in a time of great distress and trouble, you will know Him.

There is trouble coming, and God forbid it should be something like what I just described, but you don’t know. There’s cancer, there’s divorce, there are affairs, there’s death, there’s hard things in this life. James MacDonald is going to preach tonight on when life is tough. Life is tough. It’s a fallen world. But you can prepare your heart for come what may by knowing God and having had that time with Him on a consistent basis.

I have another friend that I had not seen for a number of years. She was a pastor’s wife. I ran into her at one point. It had been several years since we’d seen each other, and I said to her, “Linda, how are you doing?” Now, here’s a woman who was really always very put together. She just always looked great, and she still did. But when I asked her that day how she was doing, the look on her face told me all was not well inside.

She began to tick off that her marriage was in trouble, her kids were in trouble, their church was in trouble, she was in trouble. Everything in her life was falling apart. She was depressed. There were just so many things going on.

We had just this one chance to talk with each other—she didn’t live near me. I said to her at one point in the conversation, “Linda, what do you do when you get up in the morning?” She said, “Well, I get the newspaper, and I get a cup of coffee, and . . .”

I said, “Okay, hold on just a minute. I want to give you a 30-day challenge.” And the challenge I gave her I’m going to give you in just a minute. I said, “I’m going to challenge you every day for the next 30 days, before you get your newspaper—get your coffee if you need it—I want you to open this Book, and I want you to get some time alone with the Lord in the Word and in prayer, then get into your day.”

It doesn’t sound like anything all that. I mean, what great counseling wisdom. Right? It took her a while to be able to make that commitment, by the way. She didn’t make it right away. I think she knew her life was really going to change. She finally did make that 30-day commitment, and I talked to her at the end of those 30 days. I said, “Linda, how are you doing?” She said, “Oh Nancy, my heart has been revived.”

Now, I’ll tell you this: Nothing in her circumstances had changed in those 30 days. There were still issues with her husband, with their children, with the church, but she had changed. She said, “When I first started, I thought 15 minutes was too long.” She said, “Now, two hours isn’t long enough. I want to spend time with the Lord.” She said, “If I didn’t need to get up and do some things in my house, I’d just stay there.”

I want to give you that challenge. Some of you are already having a consistent devotional life, and I want to just challenge you to continue and just ask God to enrich it, make it deeper and fuller and sweeter. The rest of you, I’m going to ask you: “Would you take a challenge that every day for the next 30 days you would spend some time alone with the Lord in His Word and in prayer?” I’m not telling you what time of day it has to be, you decide when. I hope it will be starting at the beginning of the day, but do it when it works for you.

Let’s bow our hearts for just a moment. I want to ask two questions: One, how many of you would be honest enough to say that at this season of your life you are not currently having a consistent devotional time with the Lord? Maybe you did in the past, but in this season of your life, you haven’t been. Would you just be honest enough to raise your hand and say, “I’ve not been having a consistent devotional life”?

Thank you for your honesty. Put your hands down. Let me just tell you, as our hearts are bowed before the Lord. I’ve asked that question of thousands of women, pastors’ wives, Bible study leaders, lay women, all kinds of groups of women all across the country. This group was true of what I’ve experienced virtually everywhere else, and that is, 80 to 90 percent of the hands in the room just went up. I’m not counting, but that’s what it looked like to me.

Is it any wonder that we’re spiritually anemic, frazzled, frenzied, that our busyness is robbing us of our joy?

Okay, I don’t want to leave you there. I want to encourage you for the next 30 days to take that challenge. Say, “Lord, I want to meet with You.” My guess is, if you’ll do this for the next 30 days, you won’t want to stop on day 31. You will want to make it a lifetime habit.

How many of you would say by God’s grace—either: “I’m already having a consistent quiet time, and I want to continue that.” Or, “I want to start, starting tomorrow.” Now, tomorrow is going to be a long day, it’s an early day, so it might not be all that you want every day to be, but why wait? Because when you get home, there’s going to be other things challenging your schedule. “Starting tomorrow I want to get some time every day alone with the Lord in the Word and in prayer for the next 30 days.”

If that’s your heart’s desire, could I just ask you to stand to your feet? Just right now as a witness to the Lord and to one another. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Let me ask all of us to stand together now if we could.

Lord, I thank You for these women who have said, “I want to take that challenge.” I know the enemy is going to try and trip them up, get them to forget, get them too busy, but I just pray that they’d be like that righteous person in Proverbs who falls down seven times but gets up again each time.

Remind us, Lord. Pursue us. You’re the lover of our souls, the hound of heaven. Come after us and say that You want to have that time with us and give us that desire that David had. “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” Make that, Lord, a part of our day, that we may glorify You with our lives.

I got up early one morning, and I rushed right into the day.
I had so much to accomplish that I didn’t have time to pray.

The problems just tumbled about me and heavier became each task.
“Why doesn’t God help me, I wondered?” And He answered, “You didn’t ask.”

I woke up early this morning, and I paused before entering the day.
I had so much to accomplish that I just had to take time to pray.

I met God in the morning when the day was at its best,
And His presence was like the sunrise, like a glory in my breast.

All day long His presence lingered. All day long He stayed with me,
And we sailed in perfect calmness over every troubled sea.

Other lives are blown and battered. Other lives are sore distressed.
But the winds that seemed to drive them bring me to peace and rest.

Then I thought of other mornings with a keen remorse of mind
When I, too, had loosed the moorings with His presence left behind.

So I think I know the secret learned from many-a-troubled day:
You must seek God in the morning if you want Him throughout the day.

Oh, Lord, would You find us to be seekers of Your heart, for Jesus’ sake I pray it, amen.

Thank you, ladies.

Leslie: The message you just heard was presented at Revive Our Hearts’ True Woman ’10 conference in Chattanooga. You can hear any of the messages delivered there and more by visiting www.truewoman.com. There you’ll find even more ways to connect from books and resources for yourself, your friends, or your life group to on-demand multi-media to ongoing conversations you can be a part of.

True Woman ‘10 is a ministry of Revive Our Hearts, helping you become God’s true woman.