Fight for Your Holiness with Daily Devotionals
We all know that having a devotional routine (or quiet time) is vital to our spiritual growth. That’s why we get so frustrated when we don’t do it! Why is it so hard to spend an hour each day with the God who sent His Son to save us from our sins?
This is one of the clearest reminders that we still have to fight against our sinful nature. Yes, we have the Holy Spirit who pushes us towards holiness, but our flesh pushes back.
This is why we are called to kill our sin (Rom 8:13), which is a daily thing. We don’t just sit back and grow in sanctification; we fight for it.
One of the ways we fight is through daily devotionals. They look a little different for each person, but the core is the same.
To succeed in having fruitful, consistent times alone with God, you need at least 3 things: to create the habit, to get the right materials, and to be organized.
1. You Need to Create the Habit of a Daily Devotional Routine
“People do not drift toward Holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord.” – D.A. Carson
I’m sure you’ve had failed habits before. You want to begin a new diet or go to the gym 3x a week. You start off strong, but after just a few days you’re back on the couch eating a burger.
This is common to us all. For example, the U.S. News & World Report says that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail, and most don’t make it past mid-February!
The studies vary, but it’s believed that it takes either 21 or 66 days to develop a habit that will stick long-term. Regardless of which is correct, a habit isn’t something you can just decide to have one day. It takes weeks of discipline and sacrifice to become consistent in something.
Having a consistent quiet time is no different. Just as we don’t naturally drift toward a healthy diet we also don’t drift toward holiness.
Setting aside time each day is a habit that we have to cultivate. It’s not easy and it won’t become second nature for several weeks (if not months), but it’s infinitely worth the effort!
3 Steps to Create the Habit
1. Pick a specific time each day
I doubt that anyone in the history of the church who had solid quiet times ever said, “I’ll do it sometime tomorrow.” That doesn’t work with going to the gym and it doesn’t work with this, either.
Despite your best intentions, if you don’t have a specific, unchangeable (excluding emergencies) time of day already set aside then you won’t have consistent devotional times.
The typical advice is to wake up a little earlier and have your quiet time in the morning before you begin the day. This is wise because the gospel is the first thing on your mind and can help you meditate on the Word throughout the day.
You are also less likely to get interrupted by life if you do it before you have to begin your daily schedule. If your day begins at 7, you can start your devotion at 6. You know that you’ll have exactly one hour.
It’s not more biblical or holy, though, to have your quiet time in the morning. My wife is a night owl and has her quiet time before she goes to bed. The time of day doesn’t matter that much. What matters is sticking to the time.
2. Set a reminder
Humans are forgetful by nature (sin nature, I suppose). How many times did God tell Israel to remember Him, only to soon be forgotten? The amount of “reminder” apps available for your phone proves that we still have this problem. In today’s world of technology, forgetting something is no longer an excuse.
If your quiet time is right after you wake up, then you might not need this. However, if you choose to do it at any other time then it’s a good idea to set a reminder on your phone.
3. Block out distractions
There will always be distractions, even if your quiet time is early in the morning. You’ll be tempted to think about everything you have to do that day and how you want just 15 more minutes of sleep. Thankfully, there are ways to limit these interruptions.
– Don’t be around people
This isn’t necessary but I think it’s good advice. For example, I have friends who do there quiet times sitting at Starbucks in the morning. It’s absolutely possible and they swear by it, but, if you’re like me, you’ll be easily distracted. A better approach for most people is to go somewhere where you can be alone.
– Put your phone away
Unless your phone is part of your study time, leave it in another room. If you’re using it to read or listen to the Bible then block all of your notifications. It’s way too easy to click a notification from Facebook with the intention of coming immediately back to the Bible, only to spend the next 10 minutes watching cat videos.
– Use noise-canceling headphones
This is for the extremely distracted people out there. I didn’t realize how much random noises were affecting my focus until I got a pair of cheap noise-canceling headphones. I started using them without any music or anything. I’m now much more focused, especially in prayer.
2. You Need the Right Materials for Your Daily Devotional Routine
Getting your quiet time materials is the easiest part. You could do it with just a Bible and can have everything you need on your phone. Here are 3 things I would suggest using.
I. Bible or Study Bible
Obviously, the Bible is at the core. There are Bible apps, study Bibles with commentary, journaling Bibles with wide margins, devotional Bibles with devotional pages, etc. Pick one in a translation that you like and use it.
II. Audio Bible
I’ve written a post dedicated to using audio Bibles in your quiet time. Listening to the Word impacts you in a different way than simply reading. Use YouVersion’s free ones, buy one, or sign up with the Dwell app membership.
III. Notebook, journal, & study guide
It’s helpful to take notes as you study. What questions do you have about the text? What is God teaching you? Write it all down so you can refer back to it. You can even create your own private commentary. All of this can be done using a notebook, journal, or both.
There are also study guides that have questions about the text for you to answer, such as, “What are the author’s main points?” or “What does this teach us about God?” These are great at keeping you focused and making you think deeply about what you’re reading.
You can check out the one I created and personally use in the shop that comes in 4 designs.
3. You Need an Organized Plan for Your Daily Devotional Routine
Have you ever decided to watch something on Netflix, only to find yourself spending half an hour browsing all of the options? I’ve been there…several times.
You have a general idea of what you’re looking for, but not having picked out a specific movie beforehand and being faced with hundreds of options causes you to spend a big chunk of you’re movie time just browsing.
It’s the same with quiet times. They are super flexible and there are many ways to do them. So, like with Netflix, you need to decide on some type of organized routine to follow or you’ll spend most of your time trying to figure out what you’re doing.
The following is how I organize my time with the Lord. You can do it this way or change it up however you like. As long as you keep prayer and the Bible at the core then there really isn’t a wrong way.
I always begin with prayer. I pray that the Holy Spirit will open my eyes, mind, and heart to what He wants to teach me. I also ask Him to keep me focused.
2. Read a study Bible’s book intro for context
If I’m beginning a new book, I start with reading the study Bible’s introduction to the book so that I can have more context. This helps me understand the background of what I’m about to read.
3. Listen with an audio Bible
I’ve found it really helpful to listen to the passage either before or after reading it. Combining hearing the Word with reading it will enhance your study and give you a better understanding of the passage’s main ideas.
4. Read the passage
I then read the entire passage, at least the whole chapter. Once I’ve got the context I go back and focus on individual verses or sections, praying through them as I go.
5. Read the study Bible’s commentary
Reading usually leaves me with questions. I try to figure them out on my own first, asking the Lord to make it all clear. I then look at the study Bible’s commentary.
6. Read the passage
After getting insights from the commentary, I read the passage again. I often see things from a different perspective.
7. Meditate & journal
I meditate as I read (praying and applying the text), but many people also add journaling so that they can write out their thoughts.
8. Take notes & use a study guide
I write notes in my Bible as I go. Though it may take more time, using a study guide has been really helpful for me to think through the passage. Even on the days when I don’t feel like reading, using the guide means I’ll walk away having learned something.
9. Pray again
I always end with prayer, in response to what I’ve read. Sometimes the prayer is focused on repentance, sometimes joy, sometimes gratitude, etc.
The prayer is shaped by what the Spirit taught me. There are also times in which I don’t feel like I’ve learned anything and have to pray that I won’t have a cold heart.
Using this guide will get you on your way to having deep, consistent times with the Lord. It still won’t be easy and you’ll have to do it over and over and over to create the habit, but it’ll happen! God will reward your pursuit of Him.
Also, remember to show yourself grace on the days when you fail. Jesus loves you whether you have a quiet time today or not. The point of all of this isn’t to read the Bible every day but to grow deeper in your relationship with Him. Let this both motivate you to stick with it and encourage you when you don’t.
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