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4 Ways To Tell Others What You Are Learning In Your Quiet Times

As followers of Christ, God’s Word should flow through our lives like a stream of fresh water. As it refreshes us, we should then refresh others.

We can elevate this to a job description for the pastor or Bible study leader, or we can embrace it as a way of life for all Christians. Between the gaps of consistent formal instruction, we each have many opportunities to tell others what we are learning in our daily quiet times.

In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, God paints a picture of how His Word should permeate the heart and home of the believer.

You shall, therefore, lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 11:18-20)

In these verses, we see a public identification and a private intimacy with God’s Word. One gets the sense that it should flow naturally, even in our most casual moments.

We’re not called to relegate our walk with God to one day a week, or to outsource it to the Sunday School teacher. Nor are we given a caricature of an annoying “Bible thumper” who lives to make others uncomfortable. God’s Word is presented as the key to a victorious life. And as such, it should naturally overflow as we interact with others.

But how and when do we “stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24) without a pulpit?

One simple way to do this is to regularly tell others what we are learning in our daily devotions.

Here are 4 tips for sharing God’s Word with others:

1. Pray for spontaneous opportunities

This first suggestion is simple. Ask God to give you spontaneous opportunities to share what you are learning. You may be surprised to see how naturally it makes its way into your daily conversations. And even more encouraging is how often others will benefit from what God is teaching you.

There are very few truly unique struggles in life. Just as we can be certain that we are not the first to go through a particular trial, we can be sure that we won’t be the last. Others need our testimonies of victory and the insights that help us to move forward.

Ask God for a humble heart and a sense of timing as you share. Take care to not make your quiet time a spiritual medicine chest for others. Always strive to apply God’s Word to your own life before attempting to enlighten others. Follow Ezra’s example in that he:

  1. set his heart to study the Law of the Lord,
  2. and to do it
  3. and to teach his statutes and rules…(Ezra 7:10)

Keep that order in mind (learn, do, teach), and be sensitive to others. This will increase your credibility as you seek to encourage your family and friends.

2. Establish a sharing time during small group meetings and Bible studies

If you lead a Bible study or home group, provide a brief time for group members to talk about their daily devotions. If you’re not the leader, ask if it would be okay to take a few minutes before the study to allow each person about 2 minutes to share what they have been learning in their quiet times. Keep the following tips in mind as you structure a sharing time:

  1. Very tactfully hold each other to the pre-agreed time limit. This will guard against impromptu sermons and will ensure that the bulk of the time is reserved for the purpose of your meeting.
  2. Make sharing a voluntary activity. At first, some may be shy. In time they will loosen up. As this becomes a routine, people will come prepared to share.
  3. Emphasize the Scriptures. To do this, ask anyone sharing to (a) cite a verse reference, (b) read it out loud, and then (c) briefly give an insight or personal application.

At the start of the sharing time each week (or however often you meet), it is helpful to remind everyone that the focus is on what they have been learning from God’s Word during their quiet times. While sermons and book reviews are often inspirational, the point here is to share from our time alone with God.

3. Become a quiet time correspondent

Nobody writes letters anymore. So if you’d really like to emphasize something that God has put on your heart, send a letter or card to a friend.

Write the verse out and tell how it challenged or encouraged you.

I keep a box of stationery in my desk for this purpose. But I’ve also been known to write notes to my friends on napkins and on the backs of placemats at fast food restaurants. An interesting stamp adds a nice touch, too.

If handwritten letters or cards are too much trouble, send an email or a text message. Paper or digital, God’s Word will accomplish its purpose.

In some cases, you will already know of a person who needs encouragement. At other times, the Holy Spirit may put someone on your heart for reasons you do not know. In either case, consider writing a short note to that person with a personally meaningful verse of Scripture. Adding a simple line, like, “God put you on my heart today,” may transform the day for that person. I love doing this and I encourage you to give it a try.

4. Use social media to the glory of Christ

A lot of spiritual talk takes place on social media. Most of it is a mixture of politics, opinion, and wishful thinking on the part of people who don’t actually believe the Bible. And yet they are vocal and adamant about their beliefs.

I believe this presents a great opportunity to speak into the lives of our non-believing family and friends.

Of course, no one wants a sermon. And I’ve discovered that nothing can kill a comment thread quicker than a well-placed verse of Scripture. But as social media becomes a bigger part of our lives, it would be a mistake to conclude that we should not use it to share what we are learning from God’s Word.

To keep from losing all your friends overnight, consider the following guidelines:

  1. Prayerfully examine your motives. “Speaking the truth in love” applies as much online as it does in any other area of our life. Don’t use Scripture to bludgeon your enemies or impress your friends. Share it because you believe the Holy Spirit is leading you to comment.
  2. Keep it simple. It’s okay to simply write a Bible verse without any explanation.
  3. Be prepared to respond in more detail to those who wish to engage you.

In most cases, your friends will be somewhere between indifferent and inspired by what you are learning in your quiet times. But that’s really in God’s hands. The important thing is to share as you feel led by the Holy Spirit. And as you do, remember that social media is a good way to touch others with God’s truth.

Practical Applications

A simple insight from your quiet time may be a life-changer for someone else.

Over the next week, pray that God will give you spontaneous opportunities to tell others what you have been learning from Him. Consider writing a simple note to a friend, sharing during a Bible study, or even posting a verse on your social media of choice.

You can also share a verse or insight from a recent quiet time in the comments section below.

Do you regularly tell others what you have been learning during your daily devotions? If so, what practical suggestions could you add to the list given? Please leave your comments below.

Dealing With Discouragement In Your Daily Devotions

Sketch of discouraged person
Photo by Jeffrey Hsu

Sometimes the pressure to be perfect at a task works against us. Our daily devotions are no different. We want to please God in the way that we spend time with Him. And since our efforts often fall short of our expectations, we can easily get discouraged. But take heart. It’s okay if your daily devotions are less than perfect. God still loves you. He still extends His grace and mercy to you. And the desire you feel in your heart to spend time with God is a reminder that His Spirit is at work within you.

If you’re feeling distant from God to the extent that you struggle to read the Bible or pray, here are 3 suggestions:

1. Stop condemning yourself

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

When we’re not spending time with God, we can be sure that beating ourselves up is not the answer. In Quiet Time: Legalistic Rule or Helpful Tool, I discuss how legalism in our daily devotions can lead to unnecessary feelings of guilt. Those feelings might motivate us for a few days. But grasping His love toward us will capture us forever.

That’s not to say that all feelings of guilt are bad.

When we have truly sinned we experience proper feelings of guilt. We feel distant from God because, in a sense, we are distant from God. But even then, the remedy is not self-condemnation. It is confession . When we agree with God that we have sinned, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Our brokenness over our sin may lead us to confession. But self-condemnation doesn’t make our confession more acceptable to God. It is the blood of Christ, alone, that cleanses us of all unrighteousness.

So if feelings of guilt or condemnation are negatively affecting your time with God, it’s time to get practical.

  • If unconfessed sin is the issue, confess it, turn from it, and move on.
  • If you feel guilty because you haven’t been setting aside time to meet with God, just start doing it today.

In other words, never allow feelings of guilt to keep you from growing in your relationship with God.

2. Be motivated by God’s grace

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5)

When God’s grace is properly understood, our love for Him increases. It creates a desire in us to draw near to God, not to run the other way.

If we believe that the Gospel was simply a decision we made at some point in the past so that we might celebrate at some point in the future, we miss the joy of the relationship in the present. Think about our relationship with God in light of Jeremiah’s proclamation. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

There is so much to be gained by growing in our understanding and appreciation of God’s love toward us. And when we fail, it should comfort us to know that His love never ceases; His mercies never end; He always remains faithful. Who wouldn’t want to know that God?

Our tendency to abandon the daily relationship is a failure to immerse ourselves in the grace that He offers us every day. Our relationship with God, just like our salvation, is a product of His never-ending love and mercy. His love doesn’t come and go based on the depth of our devotional life. If our failure to maintain certain disciplines were to keep us from a relationship with God, we would all be without hope. In all instances of broken fellowship with God, His grace is the remedy. How can we say we believe in God’s grace and not run toward it daily?

As you come to God, avoid the natural urge to create a catalog of requirements. The God who saved you by His grace does not sanctify you by a list of man-made rules. Abide in Him and let His words abide in you (John 15:7). Share your heart with Him through simple prayers. Start there. Then see where His Spirit leads you.

3. Experience the joy and pleasure of being in God’s presence today

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)

Joy and pleasure are powerful incentives. So much of what we do in life is related to the pursuit of these rewards. Yet God has already told us that they are found in His presence. In light of this revelation, we often respond by filling our lives with priorities that, at best, can only lead to temporary satisfaction. Instead, the answer is to simply draw near to God. In How To Have A Quiet Time in 2 Easy Steps, I describe a simple way to get started.

Discouragement is certain when we attempt to micro-manage our world at the expense of our devotional life. When we leave God out of our daily routines and decisions, we always lose. The solution is to rearrange our priorities around our relationship with Him.

Assuming you have trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, your sins are forgiven. Now let His grace inspire you to know Him in a deeper way every day. As you do, you can expect that He will fill you with the joy and pleasure He gives to those who walk in His presence.

How about you? Are you struggling to maintain a daily time with God? If so, what obstacles get in your way? How might the suggestions in this article help you to move forward in your devotional life? Please leave your comments below.

Planning for Flexibility in Your Daily Devotions

Kyrenia Northern Cyprus
Photo by greenacre8

If you want consistency in your daily devotions, it’s helpful to have a plan. And to keep from becoming discouraged, you should plan on being flexible.

You don’t have to script out every detail. But if you wake up in a different world every day, you’re increasing the likelihood that distractions will throw you off course. And if you’re too rigid, you’ll miss the pleasant surprises that often accompany the unexpected.

I learned the value of both many years ago during an impromptu weekend getaway.

No reservations required… usually

I was living in the Middle East at the time and I needed a break. So I decided to fly to Northern Cyprus. I bought a ticket, and a few hours later I was on my way. I had been there a couple of times before, and I thought I could just work out the details as I traveled. There was one problem. I hadn’t made a hotel reservation.

It was late when I arrived. I took a taxi to the coastal town of Girne (Kyrenia) and, to my surprise, every hotel was packed. Though the tour groups were scheduled to depart the next morning, I was in a bit of a jam for the night.

Pulling my carry-on behind me, I walked to a small restaurant that catered to the locals. The place was empty and the waiter was stacking chairs. But he invited me in anyway and I ordered a bowl of lentil soup. I told him my story, and he was nice enough to allow me to stay for a while as he continued to clean up.

The disruption in my “schedule” took my mind off of autopilot for a while. Though I was “homeless” for the evening, I remember being filled with a sense of thanksgiving, knowing that God was watching over me.

It was about midnight when I left the restaurant and made my way to the harbor. I found a secluded spot near the ruins of an ancient Roman castle and, with no other options, settled in for the evening. I fell asleep in the cool night breeze, illuminated by the moonlight reflecting across the Mediterranean Sea.

It wasn’t a very well-thought-out travel itinerary. But as a memory, it remains one of my favorites. I couldn’t have planned it that way. And looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Making the proper application

Over twenty years have passed since that night and I’m married now. I’m thankful that I have an adventurous wife. Knowing her, she would have enjoyed that experience too.

But what if the memory of that special moment persuaded me to never make another travel reservation? What if I always showed up at my destination, wife in tow, and started looking for a place to stay? I have a feeling that the frustrations might soon exceed the rewards. The memories might cease to be so pleasant.

I think it’s common to approach our devotional life in this way. We just show up, if we show up at all. We certainly don’t need reservations. And that may tempt us to assume that no preparations are needed either.

We might tell ourselves that God deserves more than a routine. And He does.

And we might long for spontaneity in our daily walk. And we should.

And after all, God is everywhere. He already knows our thoughts. And He, more than anyone, understands the reasons why we couldn’t quite get alone with Him today. And once again, these are all true.

But what is the real reason we avoid a plan when it comes to our daily devotions? Is it because we want to keep it pure and unstained by the sweat of legalism? Or are we afraid that we’ll disappoint ourselves and God?

5 “Prep Steps” for a consistent quiet time

As long as we don’t go overboard, a simple plan can help us to be more consistent in our daily devotions. The following 5 steps can eliminate most of the distractions that throw us off course:

  1. Decide that you will spend at least a few minutes alone with God today.
  2. Decide where you will have your quiet time. (Choose a quiet place, free from distractions.)
  3. Decide when you will do it. (Choose the time of day when you will have the fewest distractions.)
  4. Decide in advance what section of the Bible you will read. (This is better than just opening the Bible to the first verse you see.)
  5. Gather what you will need beforehand (e.g. Bible, prayer list, journal, pen, etc…).

This is simple stuff. But thinking through these issues in advance will give you an edge in the battle for consistency.

Time alone with God deserves a plan

I’d like to think that it was my adventurous spirit that saved the day in Cyprus. But it wasn’t. The truth is I was disorganized and a bit lazy when it came to the details. It was God, and not my failure to plan, that made the difference.

Spending time alone with God is worth a little advance work on our part. So I encourage you to have a plan. And then be flexible on the days when it all seems to fall apart. Meet with Him anyway. He’s still there. And He’s still God. At the very least, you will have taken one more step toward consistency in your devotional life. And even better still, you may end up with a breakthrough, or an insight, or a memory that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

How to Have a Quiet Time in 2 Easy Steps

External Staircase with Many Steps
Photo by Darwin Bell

If you’ve been inconsistent in meeting with God, could it be that you’ve added some unnecessary “requirements” to your daily quiet time? While a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, it’s even easier to not begin at all.

I find it helpful to break a quiet time into two steps. First, listen to God. Second, respond to God.

God speaks to us in a general sense through the wonders of His creation. And He speaks to us explicitly through what He has revealed in the Bible.

We respond to God in prayer and by living out what we have learned.

We can add any number of steps or expectations to our daily devotions. But at the core, it comes down to listening to God and responding to God. We should only add practices to our quiet time that help us to accomplish these two goals.

Don’t over-analyze your quiet time

Sometimes we approach our devotional life in the way that I learned to bowl as a kid. In my very first game, I threw the ball straight up into the air and it bounced into another lane before going into the gutter. I was mortified.

But in a bowling alley, everyone quickly becomes your coach. In no time I had more advice than I could handle. Among other things, I learned that the ball was too light. The holes were too small. My posture was wrong. I was aiming at the wrong spot. I was releasing the ball improperly. I lacked follow-through. And with each frame, I was given another list of well-intended advice.

But it was too much. I couldn’t apply it all. Each time I threw the ball, I was trying to remember ten things at once. I became so frustrated that I didn’t want to bowl anymore.

Have you ever felt that way when it comes to your daily quiet time? Do you approach each day with a long list of deficiencies? Maybe you have an idea of what your spiritual life is supposed to look like. And maybe you’ve concluded that it’s out of reach.

Advice abounds in the Christian life. And it’s easy to become overwhelmed. In learning to bowl, I finally realized that I had to focus on one step at a time. And as each step became natural, I would add another one. With your quiet time, avoid the urge to fix everything today.

Optional quiet time practices

In the future, I will address many of the optional practices that can enhance our daily devotions. I rely on several of these myself. But as helpful as they are, they can also keep us from God if we become legalistic about them. Here are 7 examples of what I’m talking about:

  • Following a Bible reading plan
  • Establishing a certain amount of time to spend with God every day
  • Believing a quiet time should be in the morning or evening or at some other set time
  • Going through a prayer list every day
  • Needing a certain place to meet with God
  • Needing to be completely alone or free from distractions
  • Expecting to discover a life-changing insight or application every day

All of these can be good for us. But none are requirements for getting started today.

How to get started

If you would like to begin, I’ll offer two suggestions:

  1. Read from the Bible.
  2. Respond to God in prayer and obedience.

We’ll talk more about these in the future. But for now, keep it simple.

Quiet time exercise

As a practical exercise for today, read Psalm 19.

The first 6 verses reveal how God speaks to us through His creation.

In verses 7 to 11 we are told of the blessings of God’s Word.

Verses 12 to 14 conclude with a prayerful response to God in light of His revelation.

What comes to mind as you read this psalm? Do you want to worship God? Are you thankful? Do you have questions about some of the verses? All of these, and more, are fair game as you respond to God in prayer.

What do you think about this simple approach to a quiet time? Which is easier for you: listening to God or responding to God? Please share your comments below.