God Wants More Than Your “Quiet Time”

My regular readers and close friends can tell you how dead I beat the “quiet time” horse—and I will continue to beat it until the day I die. I am convinced you cannot live the life of faith and obedience Jesus calls you to without setting aside time daily to draw near to God through the Word and prayer. In early 2013, my walk with Jesus was such a hot mess that I came terrifyingly close to walking away from him. Why? Because I had a lackadaisical approach to seeking him. The apathetic nature of my devotional life left my faith malnourished and no match for the passions of my flesh and the deceptions of Satan.

But by God’s grace, and at the prodding of wise friends, I started taking this quiet time stuff seriously. Every morning I latched onto rocks of Biblical truth with trembling hands, climbing higher and higher out of the pit of spiritual numbness. And every evening I lunged into the fiery furnace of prayer, letting God burn away callouses of unbelief that had grown around my heart. Without a doubt, seeking the Lord daily through the Word and prayer is why I am still here today, following and writing about Jesus. The revolution of my devotional life is something I have written about extensively elsewhere.

But what I don’t think I have emphasized enough is that these spiritual disciplines were not, and are not, the whole sum of my Christian experience. Seeking the Lord in secret is vital, but Jesus didn’t wrap himself in flesh and die on a tree so I could have a nice quiet time in the mornings; he died and rose to redeem the entirety of my life. The reason Bible reading and prayer have been so transformational in my life is because they are the means by which God continually lights a Holy Spirit fire under my butt and catapults me into a more Biblical, and less Bible Belt-ish, way of living out the gospel.

For the first couple years of my walk with the Lord, my faith was pretty compartmentalized. I had God-things, like writing and Bible studies and going to church. And then I had my-things, like my job, social life, and free time—spheres of life the gospel rarely permeated. I mean, I wasn’t running around guzzling tequila or dancing on stage at a club (okay, that did happen once) or sleeping with strangers (or anyone). I wasn’t actively sinning in these areas of my life, but I also wasn’t surrendering them to God’s will and purposes. I was just living for myself and trying to keep things as moral as possible. I had a job to satisfy my financial needs and wants. I had friends to satisfy my social needs and wants. My free time was designated almost solely to entertainment.

But in 2013, as I plunged deeper into the Scriptures and prayer, I realized God proclaimed “MINE!” over the entirety of my life—not just my writing, not just my church time, but all of it.

The relationships I had with my bosses, coworkers, and friends were actually God-ordained means through which I could embody and share the gospel. God wanted to use me to love these people well by showing them Jesus. He wanted me to serve them, intercede for them, and speak the gospel to them. My relationships were not my own.

Even my spare time was God’s. There is nothing wrong with enjoying entertainment in moderation—I’m all about that! But Jesus didn’t redeem me so that I could Netflix binge and mindlessly scroll through Facebook for hours every evening. My life as a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) wasn’t to be lived soaking up all the worldly entertainment I could get my hands on. My time was to be invested into eternally impactful activities: serving my church, ministering to other believers, getting coffee with unbelieving friends, or even just prayer walking the neighborhood I live in. My free time was not my own.

As I started to give myself over to a more comprehensive kind of Christian life—you know, the kind of life Jesus demands of his followers—I began to experience an unprecedented level of happiness and freedom. The self-centeredness and dullness of heart to which I am so prone were subdued by an otherworldly joy I found in living on mission for Jesus. In sharing the gospel with my lost friends, ministering to fellow believers, and serving my church in various capacities, my eyes turned outward from their usual inward gaze. Instead of sitting around focusing on myself and my issues and my temptations, and thereby feeding my flesh, I was focusing on God and other people. It was in escaping myself and living in service to and on mission for Jesus that joy and peace began to fill my life.

I don’t want to insinuate in any way that seeking the Lord through Bible reading and prayer doesn’t bring joy and peace. The Holy Spirit most certainly comforts and strengthens us as we draw near in secret. But what I am getting at is that we shouldn’t tell God, “see ya tomorrow!” as we close our Bibles or rise out of prayer. Confining our faith to our “quiet time” is contrary to the purpose of “quiet time,” and only stifles our joy and hinders our freedom. Rather, “quiet time” should be the fuel on which a life wholly devoted to the worship and service of God runs. Our devotion to the Lord behind closed doors should overflow into every other area of our life.

If you are struggling today with discontentment, wrestling with despair, or failing to put away some pesky sin, believe me when I say there is so much joy-producing, self-escaping, sin-killing power found in living on mission for Jesus. Keep saturating yourself in the Scriptures. Never cease bathing in prayer. But don’t stop there! Give yourself over to the good work of the Kingdom. Let your life be a vessel of gospel grace to those around you, both inside and outside of your local church. I promise you that a life comprehensively surrendered to the Lord Jesus really is the best life.

  • Mark Buzard

    Great post Matt. Well said

  • Lyle Nelson

    There are many, many references in Scripture which indicate that God expects far more from us in following Him than a typical quiet time. Or any other type of partial commitment.

    For example, in Luke 9:23, Jesus says ” If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” “Denying yourself” and ” taking up your cross daily” obviously indicate a degree of commitment of one’s entire life that is far deeper than a few minutes spent in prayer and Scripture reading.

    Romans 12:1 urges us to “present our bodies a living and holy sacrifice”. A few minutes a day doesn’t cut it. When you are presenting your body as a sacrifice, that means all day, every day, with every action we take. Nothing held back. Nothing.

    And Galations 2:20, “….it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…..”. Not part of the time, but all of the time. It doesn’t say ” Christ lives in me during quiet time, or some other portion of the day, but the rest of the day is mine.” But “it is no longer I who live”. Period. No limitations or exceptions.

    Obviously I could go on and on listing Scriptural references which indicate the requirement of a depth of commitment to follow Jesus that is far, far deeper than so-called cultural Christianity would often indicate, You can’t read verses like those listed above and come away with any other logical conclusion. There is no such thing as a part-time Christian. You’re either all in or you’re not!

    • Whitney

      So are u saying that if we are not putting forth all day every day that we aren’t saved?

      • Jim

        I can’t imagine Matt ever saying that. What he’s saying is that we are to work out our salvation, and not just do the basic minimum requirements. God does, indeed, want ALL of us. I used to teach piano, and tried to get the message across that 30 minutes of practice is only a maintenance amount of time. If progress is desired, we have to invest more than the minimum requirement.

      • Lyle Nelson

        Whitney, I think a verse that is applicable here is 1 Corinthians 10:31 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” There are lots of mundane activities that are parts of everyone’s lives; providing for yourself and your family, taking care of your possessions, making meals, rest, recreation, sleeping and a whole lot of other similar things that must be done in living our lives. God doesn’t prescribe that a certain amount of time be spent on any one of them. So “putting forth” includes lots of things, not just “Christian stuff” like evangelism, etc. As long as we have committed our lives to Christ, and do our best to carry out His will for our lives, our salvation is secure. And God is aware that we, as imperfect human beings, will not get it right every time; but as part of the sanctification process, we should be striving to make improvements as we go along.

        • Whitney

          Thanks

  • Brandon Burrell

    Amen Matt. Amen. Well said.

  • Krystle Theriot

    Wow!!! I love this SO much! I shared these exact same thoughts yesterday with a friend, but your words are much more eloquent than mine! Can’t wait to share this!! Thank you!!

  • Rosanne Bowman

    Love this! I was just sharing this with my SS class – the Christian life is not made up solely of attending church and reading my Bible (although, like you, I am a HUGE believer in the life changing power in studying God’s Word and prayer). God has shown me that He uses the small, mundane things in my life for Him if I let Him. He has even used my dog (yes, the four-legged furry kind) as a way to meet my neighbors and form relationships that might not have been possible without a big, furry beast to break the ice. Anyway, thanks for writing this !!

  • Darrell Waters

    Lord, show me how to apply this to my own personal life, in Jesus’ name, amen, especially sense one of my biggest pesky sins is worrying about how parents discipline their children, i.e. what for, i.e. cell phone going off at almost drama practice time, although not started yet, then almost wishing the husbnad of the mom who did that to her daughter, none of them come to our church anymore at least, but I’m tempted to wish the husband would beat his wife’s head into a bloody pulp!

  • M.C.

    Matt, thanks again for writing something that helps. I hit your blog when trying to work thru the pain of conscience for having screwed up with Jesus. I used to take 1 Cor 9 to heart about striking a blow to the body but that pain doesn’t help the conscience long term or change what’s inside. You can’t do that either but you always point to Jesus, and when I’ve tried to follow your advice things are better. I don’t leave a lot of comments but have to thank you cause at 3 this morning your blog made a difference.