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.