Never before have we had such universal access to the Bible - paper, audio, phone, tablet, computer, television, even on your watch! And yet according to the Bible Society, only 2 out of 10 Australians are engaging with God’s Word on a daily basis. This isn't 2 out of 10 Australians. This is 20% of Australian Christians! [Tweet "Only 2 out of 10 Australian Christians are engaging with God's word each day."] It’s a staggering statistic that highlights an awkward contradiction that many Christians know far too well:
I confess that this too often describes me. And the more I speak with my brothers and sisters, the more I realise that I am far from alone. And I'm trying to understand why. Why do we spend so little time with the Lord?
John Piper made a blunt assessment of why we don’t read the Bible. Last year he observed:
“The reason we don’t read the Bible is because we don’t want to read the Bible.”
According to Piper, if we wanted to do it, we would. And there’s truth in that, isn’t there? We are driven by desire, and we often don’t desire God. Tip: Ask God to give you a hunger for Him. Ask God to help you to want Him. Isn't that a prayer that God would love to answer! Fasting may help you with this, and John Piper's new (free) book, 'A Hunger for God' is an excellent read.
G.K. Chesterton once declared:
“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”
This could be adjusted slightly to read:
“Regular time with God has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”
Tip: Running 5kms is difficult when you don't usually run. This is why plans like 'Couch to 5k' are so helpful. They provide a slow but steady increase in difficulty, where the pain increases ever so slightly until you realise one day you've just run 5kms! The moral of the story is: start small. Just spend 5 minutes a day. Just read one chapter. Just pray about one thing.
Don Carson said:
"Much praying is not done because we do not plan to pray."
If you don't have a plan to spend time with God, it's probably not going to happen. This was definitely true for me. Tip: Schedule event in your calendar for "time with God." It could be during breakfast, on the train, before bed - whatever works for you (just don't make it an early morning timeslot if you aren't a morning person!).
I asked a friend of mine why we don't spend time with God and this was his blunt response:
"We don't think it makes any difference."
If the benefits (and detriments) were clearer, we might feel and act differently. Tip: Ask God to show you how much you need Him. And read Psalm 1 - it's a beautiful picture of what it looks like to constantly meditate on God's word.
In a survey of more than 300 Christians last year, I asked:
“What’s the biggest obstacle preventing you from spending (more) time with God?”
44% of survey respondents said “I’m easily distracted.” This was the biggest reason cited - more than busyness (the next biggest obstacle at 32%). The presence of social media is no doubt a significant factor:
Tip: Turn off and remove all distractions (especially electronic ones).
Too easily we forget that the war has been won, but the battle still rages. And this struggle:
“...is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Without the full armour of God, we cannot stand. Tip: Read Ephesians 6 and be reminded of what we're up against, and the resources at our disposal. And "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests."
In my experience, time alone with the Lord isn't a big emphasis in church life. It's never discouraged - every pastor agrees that it's important. It's just that it's not emphasised. It's not the 'main thing' or even one of the 'main things.' It's assumed, but not actively encouraged. Tip: If you're a pastor, why not get your whole church reading the Bible together? The daily Bible reading plan at Church at the Cross is a good example of this. And perhaps start a culture where you share what you do (model what matters), and where people ask one another how their time with the Lord is going.
I believe there is often confusion about the purpose of spending time with the Lord. If someone were to ask you "Why do you spend time with the Lord?", what would you say? When I surveyed Christians, some indicated duty as the reason. One answer really stood out. This person simply answered:
"Because He is wonderful."
This quote from George Mueller has helped me - remembering that it is about relationship and the good of my soul:
"the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was...how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished...”
Tip: The next time you spend time with the Lord, tell yourself why you're doing it - be clear on the purpose, and let that purpose guide you.
I have tried and failed new devotional habits more times than I care to remember. Each time I try to start again, there's a part of me that thinks "You failed last time, what makes you think this time will be any better?". It's hard to get going again. Tip: Praise God for His unfailing faithfulness. "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
I believe that many Christians struggle to know what to do in this time. This might sound strange, but I think these are the kinds of questions many wrestle with:
There is an assumption that Christians know how to spend this time with the Lord, but I'm not convinced that this is true. Tip: I'm working on a new resource to help Christians to better spend this time. If you want to stay updated, subscribe here: