O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; Psalm 63:1 KJV

 

When we study God’s Word it is often beneficial to compare different translations.  The differences will frequently indicate that there are some interpretive issues lying under the surface of the translation.  Psalm 63:1 reveals just such a difference.  In the KJV we read, “Early will I seek thee.”  but in the ESV we read, “earnestly I seek you.”  There is a substantial difference between seeking God early and seeking God earnestly.

Seeking God earnestly reflects upon our desire to pursue God with sincerity.  If we stop and examine our walk with Jesus, we might very well be convicted of our lack of sincerity.  But seeking God early changes the way we read this verse and how it applies to us.  The primitive Hebrew word means, “dawn, or to be up early at any task.”  Instead of sincerity being the issue, priority becomes the issue.

David is reflecting upon his priority to seek God.  Before anything else takes place, “early will I seek thee.”  Is this the way we approach God?  Just as finding water is the highest necessity for surviving in a dry and weary land, seeking God first, must be the highest priority in our spiritual well-being.

When our dog gets sick, do we seek God first or the vet?  When our boss tells us we’ve been let go, do we run to God first, or the employee agency?  When our child comes home from school with the proverbial note from the principle, do we run to God first or to the school office?

This is the shape that true devotion to God assumes.  The more devoted to God you are, the higher your priority to run to Him.  So how do we increase our devotion to God?  How do we learn to run to Him first?

Aside from regular corporate worship, the next greatest benefit in our devotion to God comes from our daily devotionals.  Daily time with Jesus Christ is a necessity for increasing the affections of our heart towards Him.  But, a warning needs to be made here.  It is possible to have daily quiet times (ritual times) without growing in your devotion.  However, it is not possible to grow in your devotion to Jesus without a daily devotional life.

If you love someone, you desire to spend time with them, and you make the most of your time with them.  If you love Christ, you will look forward to spending time with Him.  Young fathers can sometimes be an excellent illustration of this truth.  A father that is forced to work late and is unable to spend much time with his children, will have an increasing desire to be with them if he loves them – even to the point of taking vacation days.

When it comes to our time with Christ, does our desire for “Bible time” increase when we are providentially hindered?  Or are we just content to start up again later?  David’s soul thirsted for God.  His devotion to God was not merely formal or ritualistic, but it was intrinsic to his regenerated soul.  He couldn’t imagine not seeking God first or early in every situation.

Daily devotions aren’t just a good idea.  For the heart thirsty for God, they are the refreshing waters drawn from the fountain of life. If it is our regular choice to sleep in rather than wake 30 minutes earlier, which do we love more, our bed or our Beloved?

Quiet times water our souls in three ways:  1) They increase our love for Jesus.  2) They increase our knowledge and understanding of our Beloved, thus enabling us to love Him more.  3) They increase our rate of change (sanctification) in the affections of our heart.

There is no shortcut because the goal is Christ!  It really is this simple.  If my heart longs to be with Jesus, I will spend time in His word.

Everyone agrees that daily devotionals are a good thing.  Yet the vast majority of people who call themselves Christians almost never open their Bibles.  And then, when people do begin to have devotions, the pressures of the fast-paced life, the ugly desires of the sinful flesh, and the brokenness of a fallen world, all conspire to end those quiet times.

So how do we go about having our quiet times with Jesus in a way that will mitigate the forces working against us?  Here are 5 tips to encourage you.

1) Opening Prayer – “Lord, Let me see Jesus in your Word today.” If you love someone, you will have a desire to be with them.  Therefore, if we wish our quiet times to be enjoyable, we must focus on being with the Christ whom we love.

2) Don’t be legalistic –  False guilt can quench good intentions quickly.  If you miss a day, it is not the end of the world.  The key is to be graciously habitual.  Start again.  Persistence is a necessary thing.  Jesus rewards those who diligently seek him!

3) Pick good material – Good material is that which focuses on addressing God’s Word to the issues of your heart.  This means that Scripture is an absolute necessity.  If the Bible is not being planted in your heart, then you are actually being drawn away from Jesus, regardless of how much christianese is being used.  Is the character of God being displayed?  Is your sin being exposed?  Is Jesus being lifted up?  If the answer is not ‘yes’ to all three of these questions, you should probably find other material.

Here are three highly recommended resources for beginning your daily devotions:  Voices from the Past, Tabletalk Magazine, Morning and Evening by Spurgeon.

4) Talk about your quiet times – Find a partner to whom you can explain your delight in Jesus to.  Expressing your daily encounters with the Jesus of the Bible will encourage.  For this purpose, I have started a near-daily texting to the readers of Voices from the Past, where I make comments about the day’s reading and encourage others to respond to the reading themselves.

5) Keep a record – By keeping a daily record, you will be able to see your successes and failures.  You will be able to evaluate patterns to either build upon, or work against.  For instance, if Saturday is the one day of the week you sleep in and therefore you find yourself forgetting your devotions, make special plans to get up on Saturday to study.