In my last post, I offered "Five Suggestions for Effective Daily Devotions." Despite the fact that most believers recognize the benefits, many still struggle to actually succeed at spending time with the Lord on a daily basis. The obstacles faced in prioritizing personal devotional time are widespread among the saints. Thankfully, there are examples of believers overcoming these common stumbling blocks, as evidenced by the following inspiring overcomers:
The Obstacle of DISCOMFORT
The Bible seems less inviting when we have to leave behind a warm bed on a chilly morning. In early 1917, Bertha Smith was called to northern China as a missionary. As told in her autobiography, Go Home and Tell, it was so cold that she had to wear 30 pounds of clothing each day! To get through the frigid nights, she slept under many covers with a hot water bottle. Bertha’s understanding of the necessity for a devotional life caused her to push through this discomfort in remarkable ways. She got up before sunrise, dressed in her 30 pounds of clothing, broke through ice to wash her face and even brushed off the frost from the hay, so she could bow down before the Lord to seek Him. What a heart of perseverance!
The Obstacle of COMMUNITY
If you find yourself in an environment of communal living, it can be hard to find a private place to seek the Lord. Another missionary to China, Isobel Kuhn, demonstrated that hard does not mean impossible. While she was a student at Moody Bible Institute, she found that the demands of school began replacing her personal quiet time with God. After committing to prioritize time with the Lord, the main problem became where to find a private place to seek Him. She wrote in her book, In the Arena, “The only place I could find where I would disturb no one was the cleaning closet! So each morning I stole down the hall, entered the closet, turned the scrubbing pail upside down, sat on it, and with mops and dust rags hanging around my head, I spent a precious half-hour with the Master. The other half-hour had to be found at the end of the day.” While many today would open that closet and laugh at a girl reading her Bible in such an odd place, she had found joy in her secret place because God was there!
The Obstacle of INCONSISTENCY
The slightest change to our routine can impede our devotional time. The conservative Lord Chancellor of England from 1874-1880, Lord Earl Cairns, knew the importance of keeping his time with God consistent for his own sake. R.A. Torrey describes his commitment in his book, Your Life in God, when he writes of Lord Cairns, “…Was one of the busiest men of his day. Lady Cairns told me that no matter how late at night he reached home, he always woke up at the same early hour for prayer and Bible study. She said, ‘We would sometimes get home from Parliament at two o’clock in the morning, but Lord Cairns would always arise at the same early hour’…he is reported as saying, ‘If I have had any success in life, I attribute it to the habit of giving the first two hours of each day to Bible study and prayer.’” His consistency is a reminder that while excuses will abound for why we can skip our devotional time, we are given the grace to persist if we ask for it.
The Obstacle of BUSYNESS
The excuse of being too busy for daily devotions is actually just an illusion when compared to people that are truly busy and still find time in the Word each day. In 1829, George Mueller began reading through the entire Bible systematically, eventually leading him to read the Bible over 100 times in his life. The 1899 edition of the Bible Society Record records him stating, “I look upon it as a lost day when I have not had a good time over the word of God. Friends often say to me, ‘Oh, I have so much to do, so many people to see, I cannot find time for Scripture study.’ There are not many who have had more to do than I have had. For more than half a century, I have never known one day when I had not more business than I could get through. For forty years, I have had, annually, about 30,000 letters, and most of them have passed through my own hand…As pastor of a church with 1,200 believers, great has been my care; and, besides these, the charge of five immense orphanages, a vast work, and also my publishing depot, the printing and circulating of millions of tracts and books; but I have always made it a rule never to begin work till I have had a good season with God, and then I throw myself with all my heart into His work for the day.” We are never so busy that time with God becomes less of a priority.
The Obstacle of DANGER
Many suffer persecution if they are discovered reading a Bible. Not only should we pray for those persecuted, but we can give thanks to God for the freedom we have by taking advantage of our unhindered access to the Word. Missionary to Burma William Carey had to be strategic in his devotional time to avoid danger. In Young Man in a Hurry: The Story of William Carey, one of his biographers wrote, “He found God especially near among the flowers and shrubs of a garden…at sunrise, before tea, and at the time of the full moon when there was the least danger from snakes, he meditated and prayed, and the Book, which he ceaselessly translated for others, was his own source of strength and refreshment.” Have you ever had to worry about a snake interrupting your devotional time? Let’s thank the Lord for that.
Don’t Let Your Enemy Discourage and Distract You
I’m convinced one of Satan’s most successful schemes against God’s people is in blinding us to the importance and relevance of spending time studying the Scriptures. God’s Word is invaluable. It is a far greater treasure than anything this world has to offer, yet many treat it as though it has no worth. Satan’s primary objective is to prevent Christians from appropriating all that is rightfully ours as God’s children. He wants us to live spiritually bankrupt and destitute lives, and he accomplishes this by keeping us from studying God’s Word. However, when we make time to study the Bible, our lives are enriched and established upon the sure foundation of His truth and promises. When we understand this, we will begin to rightly esteem its value and importance in our daily lives. As we discipline ourselves to set time aside to study God’s Word, we will realize that the regular intrusions of life are better handled after time spent with the Lord.