Is your daily time with God marked more be desire or duty? Is it something you love to do or something you have to do?
Of course, there’s a huge assumption behind those questions – that you do, in fact, have a daily time with God! I’m not naive enough to think that’s the case for everyone reading this blog or for everyone at Restoration City Church. Honestly, I know we have committed members of the church who struggle with finding consistent time with God in His Word and in prayer.
The last thing I want to do is guilt you into creating this kind of time in your day. One, I don’t think it’s likely to work. Two, even if it does, it’ll never lead you to enjoy your time with God. Many of us slug through a daily time of spiritual disciplines out of a sense of obligation or just to be able to give a good answer when someone in your life group asks you if you’re reading your Bible and praying. It’s kind of like going to the dentist for a cleaning – we know we aren’t going to enjoy it but the alternative is even worse, so we suck it up and get it done.
In contrast, the Scripture gives us a picture of young Joshua, well before he was the leader of Israel. At this point, Joshua was working as Moses’ assistant. You DC political types might refer to him as Moses’ body man. As the leader of Israel, Moses would go to meet with God in the tent of meeting outside the camp. When this happened, it was a huge deal – God would descend in a pillar of cloud and all of Israel would stand by their tents worshipping. Joshua didn’t observe all of this from afar; he got to be in the tent with Moses and the Lord. What’s so interesting, convicting and inspiring to me is what Scripture records in Exodus 33:11, “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.” Joshua hangs out and soaks up as much as he possibly can. He isn’t there out of duty. He’s there out of delight.
If we felt that way, we would never miss another quiet time again.
So, how does delight get perverted into duty in our hearts?
Well, there are a lot of answers to that. Some of it has to do with our preaching – we’re great at telling people they need to spend time with God. We just often forget to mention the real issue is desiring time with God! Some of it has to do with the accountability questions we ask in a life group. We shouldn’t settle for “are you reading the Bible?” We should press towards, “Are you enjoying God?” But there’s something more subtle in our hearts that leads us astray.
Many of us spend time with God to earn, not to receive. We fall into the trap of legalism – I need to invest this time in my relationship with God so that He’ll bless me throughout the rest of my day. It’s kind of a “I read some Bible, God protects me from evil” exchange. We see time with God as the price of admission for blessing. Imagine how different it would be if we simply came to receive from Him. We’re not coming to prove our love; we’re coming for our love to be strengthened. We’re coming because we’re weak, confused, powerless, broken, lonely, afraid and burdened by the cares of the world. We’re coming that God can speak into us, give us strength, lead us, heal us, restore us and prepare us for His mission.
Joshua didn’t stay in the tent to earn. He stayed in the tent to receive. He knew God was the fountain of life (Ps. 36:9). He knew the fullness of joy was found in the presence of God. (Ps. 16:11) He knew the longings of His soul could only be met by the God who created him. (Ps. 63:1) So, he stayed. He wasn’t trying to impress the village or polish his resume as the one day leader of the nation. He just wanted more.
Time with God will always become duty if it’s about earning. It will become a delight when it’s about receiving. Allow your motives to shift and see if you don’t end up loving time with God more than you ever thought possible.