A Daily Devotional Life, Day 2

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: It is impossible for us to be the men and the women that God designed us to be in relationship with Him apart from having a consistent devotional habit. I just don’t think it can happen. You need Him.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. It’s Tuesday, January 3.

Of all the good habits you could form in 2016, none is more important than spending time alone with God in prayer and in His Word. Yesterday, Nancy began showing you the value of a daily personal devotional life. If you missed it, you can hear the audio at ReviveOurHearts.com. Here she is with part 2 in the series “Discovering a Daily Devotional Life.”

Nancy: Well, let me say just a few words here about the practice of a devotional life. I know some of you really want to move forward in this area of your life. The first book I ever wrote, I mentioned, was called A Place of Quiet Rest: Finding Intimacy with God Through a Daily Devotional Life. I had so many women asking over the years how I had a meaningful time with the Lord. There were a lot of devotional books out there, but I couldn’t find one that told you how to have a meaningful quiet time. So I wrote it to minister to and bless those women.

One of the things I really think is neat about this book is at the end of each chapter there’s an essay, a one page essay by somebody else—Joni Eareckson Tada, Kay Arthur, Elisabeth Elliot wrote one, different women, targeted this toward women. These essays tell how they do their personal devotional life. They give some general suggestions, and there’s a few specific elements of your quiet time.

First, it’s important that this time be regular. Jesus often withdrew. Exodus 30 and other passages tell us that in the Old Testament tabernacle the priests had certain things they were supposed to do every morning and every evening. They offered incense on the altar every morning and every evening. They lit the candles every morning. These were things they did every day—day in and day out. As you read it, it sounds a little monotonous. You think, Didn't that become just a routine, a meaningless routine? Yes, in fact it did to the Old Testament Jews.

But here’s what I’ve found. I think it’s a whole lot easier to refresh a routine that has become dry and not so meaningful than it is to start a routine if you don’t have it at all. There are times when I would just say honestly that my quiet time feels like eating cardboard for breakfast, and it’s more often than I would like to admit. I’m not every day having this great big feast in God’s presence. Maybe some of you do. I wish I did. But a lot of times for me, it’s just the routine. But I’ve found that over time God infuses fresh life and grace into that routine. To have it as a regular thing is so important.

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.” Regular.

Number two: I used to apologize or kind of choke when I would say this one because I knew what a lot of people were thinking. But I’m not so apologetic about it anymore because I think there really is strong scriptural basis for it, and you can ask God to lead you in this. But I think there is a lot of value in having this time with the Lord early in the day.

Now, I just lost all my night owls. And some of you are thinking, What time is early? You know what? I can’t tell you what time is early. It may be different for you than it is for me or for somebody else, but before we run into the day. Now, there’s no law about this. Get the time.

And for you it may be when your kids are down for a nap, or maybe you’re really a lot more awake at night. I just find that if I go into my day without having stopped to meet with the Lord that it’s going to be really hard for me to get a quiet heart the rest of the day. Maybe you’re wired differently.

But listen to these verses:

In the morning my prayer comes before you (Ps. 88:13). 

My voice shall you hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up (Ps. 5:3 NKJV). 

[This is a verse that I wish wasn’t in the Bible but it is,] Awake, my soul. I will awaken the dawn (Ps. 57:8). 

I rise before the dawning of the morning, and cry for help; I hope in Your Word (Ps. 119 NKJV).

Many verses about God waking us in the morning to listen to Him.

A successful quiet time in the morning starts the night before. And I think the Devil does such a masterful job of getting us to be distracted and to fritter away nighttime hours with meaningless conversation and activities that strip from us the ability to meet with God in the morning. Again, I’m not going to put you under the law about that because I don’t think the Scripture does, but I think there’s a lot of basis for saying it has value to start your day with God.

A successful quiet time in the morning starts the night before.

Number three: We need time alone with the Lord. Jesus went to a solitary place away from the crowd. Moses went to that tent of meeting outside the camp. God said to Moses, “Come in the morning to Mount Sinai. Present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. No one is to come with you.”

Those of you who are married know that you’re not going to have much of a marriage if you’re always in a crowd. You’re not going to cultivate a level of engagement and conversation and intimacy if you’re never alone together. Some of us are wanting to become spiritual giants, but we’re never spending time alone with the Lord. We need that alone time.

Don Whitney has written a helpful book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Listen to what he says about this.

Think of it. The Lord Jesus Christ is willing to meet with you privately for as long as you want. And He is willing even eager to meet with you every day. Suppose you had been one of the thousand that followed Jesus around for much of the last three years of His earthly life. Can you imagine how excited you would have been if one of his disciples said, "The Master wants us to tell you that He is willing to get alone with you whenever you’re willing and for as much time as you want to spend, and He’ll be expecting you most every day." What a privilege. Who would have complained about this expectation? Well, that marvelous privilege and expectation is always yours.

Think of it. What a privilege.

Number four: And I don't want to overemphasis this. But I do think there’s a lot of value in keeping a journal as it relates to our quiet time. Some of you aren’t into writing your thoughts, that’s fine. But it can be helpful in meditating on God’s Word, expressing your response to God, recording and remembering the works of God, creating and preserving a spiritual heritage you can pass on to the next generation, monitoring your spiritual growth and goals and priorities, just a way of recording the ways of God.

I don’t do that faithfully over the years. But in the years when I have, I’ve found that my quiet time has been much more meaningful. It’s easier to concentrate just on a practical level. I don’t know about you, but I find this whole thing of concentrating is so hard for me. I am like adult ADHD for sure. I get in my quiet time chair or wherever I’m meeting with the Lord, and all of a sudden I have a gazillion thoughts and ideas and prompts and "got to send this email, and got to do this, and gotta do that." I can get a new burden for housecleaning when I get in that place. It’s amazing.

I think the enemy wants to do everything possible to keep me from getting that time with the Lord. I find if I will write things down, what God is saying to me through His Word, if it’s even just copying Scripture, it’s helping me concentrate and helping reign in my thoughts.

Well, as you have your quiet time, you want to make sure it has balanced ingredients. And there’s no right way to do this, but I think you want to remember it’s two-way communication. First, we want to receive from Him, and then we want to respond to Him.

How do we receive from Him? Through His Word. We listen to His Word. We have such a blessing in our generation to have in this culture Christian speakers and books and radio programs and CDs and podcasts. But I want to tell you, listening to others who’ve met with God in His Word is no substitute for you meeting God, for me meeting God in His Word, alone by ourselves.

Listening to others who’ve met with God in His Word is no substitute for you meeting God.

They can encourage you; they can challenge you, but you’ve got to have this time in the Word to let the power of the Word of God cleanse, to renew our minds, to deliver us from sin, to keep us from anxious thoughts, to change us from the inside out. It is so, so powerful. Can you imagine us getting to heaven and God saying, “I gave you My heart, My thoughts, My Word, My mind. I gave it to you so you could know Me. What did you do with it?” We say, “I never even read through it. I kept it on the shelf. I pulled it out at service times.”

I just know that when my life is really growing and fertile and fruitful, usually you can see a connection that I’m getting time reading God’s Word, pondering it, meditating on it, memorizing it, internalizing it, responding to it, obeying it, sharing it with others. There is no more precious treasure other than the life of the living Word in us that we have than this written Word of God. It’s so, so precious. That’s got to be a huge part of our time in the Word.

As you get into the Word, look for Jesus. Get to Jesus. Jesus said to the Pharisees in His day who were experts in the Word, “You don’t even have God in you because you have missed Me while you’ve been filling your heads with this stuff.” So know that you can fill your head with this, but if you miss Jesus, you miss the whole point. The Word of God is so important

And then how do we respond to Him? We respond in worship. We take the Word and pray it back to Him. I was reading in 1 Timothy 6 one day this week, it’s all running together, and thanking God for . . . As Paul praised God for His mercy and His grace in his life putting him into ministry, I was just repeating to the Lord the words, thanking God, worshiping Him for His mercy and His grace in my life.

Turn it to praise, and turn it to prayer. Let God use the Word to direct and to fuel your prayer life, to show you how to pray for yourself, how to pray for others, how to pray for the church where you’re serving. Receive from God, and then respond to Him. Make sure that you’re having two-way communication.

When I was in my twenties traveling with one of the Life Action teams, I pretty much lived in fast food drive-thrus. I was just living this really busy life. It was Wendy’s. I’ll do a little commercial for Wendy’s here—double cheeseburger, ketchup, and pickle. That was like my favorite. I just drive through and head out and consume it on my way to my next whatever.

I did that in my twenties. But when I hit thirty, I realized I wasn’t feeling so hot. It just dawned on me, “Your eating habits are really not . . . so you’re feeling bad.” So I realized I had to change my eating habits. Now, I didn’t get too carried away with this, but I can’t tell you the last time I had a Wendy's burger. It's not because I wouldn’t love to, but just because I know that living in fast food drive-thrus is not good for your health. You don’t feel good.

There have been seasons in my life when I’ve found myself living in spiritual fast food drive-thrus. I know the importance of a devotional life. I grew up in a home where that was such a priority in our family. I know it matters. So I’m going to grab my proverb for the day, my few verses of Psalms for the day just as I’m rushing out the door heading into some other responsibility. I haven’t met with God. I’m not being transformed. I’m not dwelling or lingering in His presence. You start to be spiritually malnourished. I start to feel the effects and other people around be can start to feel the effects of the fact that I’m not healthy spiritually.

I’m so thankful that God in His mercy keeps drawing me back to that quiet place, quiet heart, quiet time to get with Him in His Word. It’s a recurring battle for me. I know some people that never struggle in this area. I do. But I know how important it is. In now fifty years of walking with the Lord, I am convinced that this is a battle worth fighting. It’s something worth fighting for.

You see, it shows where my heart really is. It shows what I think is important and necessary. When I’m in that fast food drive-thru mode, it’s an indicator of my inclination to live my life independent of God. And that’s a dangerous place to be. It exposes the idols in my life when I’m living in those fast food drive-thrus, because anything that crowds God out of my life is an idol. God wants me to be stripped of those. It can be work or study or recreation or relationships or ministry or sleep. Anything that crowds Him out of my life becomes an idol.

Anything that crowds God out of my life is an idol.

I know we feel, “I don’t have time. How will I fit this into the day?” Well, the sad fact is that most of us in the room have time for Facebook, but we don’t have time for His Book. What’s wrong with that picture? I’ve been there so many times. We have time for video games, computer games, and we are in a culture that’s always in search of things that entertain and try to satisfy the empty places of our hearts. But I think those distractions are sometimes Satan’s way of keeping us from the Bread of Life and the Living Water that will truly satisfy us.

We’re busy, and we need to hear God saying to our hearts what Jesus said to Martha, “You are anxious and troubled and involved in and distracted by so many things. But only one thing is necessary—only one.” “One thing have I asked of the Lord. That will I seek after.”

I really believe, I’m going to go so far as to say this, that it is impossible for us to be the men and the women that God designed us to be in relationship with Him apart from having a consistent devotional habit. I just don’t think it can happen. We need Him. We need Him.

There’s a couple who served in this ministry for many years. Most of you don’t know them, but they were dear friends of mine. They left this ministry, and they went to serve in another church on the west coast. Early one morning the pastor of that church called me. It was three hours earlier, California time. (He’s also a friend.)

He said, “I’m calling to tell you that you’re probably going to get a call from . . .” and he named this wife “. . . today because her husband is going to be telling her today that for the last six months he’s been in an immoral relationship with a girl in the youth group here at the church.” He’s a staff member at the church.

I knew this couple well. I’d served with them in this ministry for I think maybe ten years. I was so heartbroken. I could not believe it, but it was true. It was just devastating news. I knew it would be to my friend. His wife didn’t know about it yet. The elders had given him twenty-four hours to tell his wife. 

But I said to that pastor as we were emotionally upset over this whole thing, “This is going to be obviously hugely devastating.” But I said, “I also know something about her that tells me she is going to make it through.” I knew that when she was a teenager some years earlier, somebody challenged her to give the first part of every day to the Lord in the Word and in prayer. And she had as consistent a habit of this as my dad did—maybe more than anybody else I’d ever known, this friend and my dad.

I knew that her devotions were not just devotions, it was devotion. I knew it was a bedrock in her life. Jesus said, “Build your life, your house, on the rock so when the storms come, which they will, your house will stay standing.”

I said, “She has built her life on the rock of Christ and His Word, and I know her house is going to stand.” She did call me that day. It was excruciatingly painful because he wasn’t yet repentant. It was actually some months maybe even up to two years before he really made a turn and repented for what he had put all this behind him. We spent many, many, many hours over those next couple of years on the phone together.

I remember visiting them out there, visiting her out there, and he was still messing around with this girl and under church discipline. Nothing seemed to be working. I remember just holding her in my arms as she craters on the floor and is just sobbing and sobbing. It was horribly painful. But that woman also knew where to get God’s grace, and she did. She kept running to the Rock that is higher than we.

She got wisdom from God about how to love that man well through that season. She knew how to encourage him by God’s grace. There were days when she had to say, “No, this can’t happen.” There were hard conversations, but God allowed her to do that without bitterness, without being consumed by the rage that a lot of other people felt toward this man.

And the time came when God, over a period of time, restored that man’s heart, and partially because there was a wife who went to battle for his soul. She could not have done that without the grace of God that she was receiving into her life every single day for years leading up to it.

You see, when the power goes out at night, if you’re staying in a place you’ve not been before, you’re going to stub your toe on something trying to find your way around. But if the power goes out in my house, if I’m awake, I’m not going to stub my toe because I know where things are. I’ve been that way before. The power’s going out in our lives. God willing, it won’t be what I just described. It may be.

But there will be storms, there will be winds, there will be tornadoes, spiritually speaking, emotionally, relationally. I’ve been through one in the past year-and-a-half myself. The only way to survive, much less thrive, in those difficult times is that you’ve been over a course of time seeking the Lord while He’s near, so that in a time of trouble you’ll know where He is.

One more illustration. I know a pastor’s wife. I ran into her, and I had not seen her in some time. This is a woman who always looked put together, always looked amazing and seemed like she had it all together. I ran into her having not seen her in a few years, and I said, “Linda, how are you doing?”

Well, she looked great, but she wasn’t great. She started unloading to me what was going on in her life. Her marriage was under pressure; their kids were walking away from the Lord; their church was having major issues. Her life was a mess. She was a mess by her own admission.

I was just trying to minister grace to her. What do you say? It’s just a short encounter. “So, Linda, what do you do when you get up in the morning?”

“Well, I get a cup of coffee and get my newspaper.” This was back when we had newspapers.

And I said, “I want to give you a thirty-day challenge.” The same challenge I’m giving each of us tonight.

I said, “I want to challenge you every day for the next thirty days. Get your coffee if you need that to get some caffeine flowing in your veins. But before you pick up the newspaper or do anything else, would you pick up this Book, and would you get some time in God’s presence. Let Him speak to you. Meet with Him.”

It actually took her, as I recall, about a week to take the challenge. She just had habits and habits die hard. That wasn’t one of her habits at that point. She had that habit years earlier but not at that point.

But she finally took the challenge. Some thirty days later I was in touch with her. I said, “Linda, how you doing?”

She said, “Oh, Nancy, my heart has been revived. You know when I first started this challenge, fifteen minutes was too long. Now, two hours isn’t long enough. If I didn’t have to clean the house and do some other things, I would just stay there.”

Now, I’ll tell you this. In that thirty-day period, nothing else around her had changed. Still challenges in her marriage, still challenges with her kids, still challenges in their church. But here’s what had changed. She had changed. She had been meeting with the Lord.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been showing you how important it is to get alone with the Lord every day. If you’re not spending time alone with Him, I hope you’ll start this year. To help you develop this habit, we’re offering you the 30-Day Bible Reading Challenge.

To take the challenge, visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Click on “challenges” and then the “30-Day Bible Reading Challenge.” Here’s how it works. Once you sign up, we’ll send you an email each day reminding you why this commitment is so important, and we’ll encourage you to keep up the commitment. Again, look for that challenge at ReviveOurHearts.com.

That’s also where you can get Nancy’s book, A Place of Quiet Rest. She describes the value of spending time with the Lord each day. She gives you several practical ways to develop a daily devotional life. When you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount, we’ll send you A Place of Quiet Rest. Ask for it when you call with your donation. The number is 1–800–569–5959 or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Okay, listen to this. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Do you know who said that quote? He did give up his very life living out this quote. We’ll mark the sixtieth anniversary of his martyrdom this week, and hear his story starting tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.

Join the Discussion