I am so glad you are reading this, because it means you desire (like me) to have a successful devotional life! Not successful in the eyes of our peers, but successful in the eyes of God. To be honest, I don’t have “the secret”, but I have learned some things in my personal life, as well as in my time in ministry that I believe will be helpful. Here are five keys to having a successful devotional life.
1. Have a Plan
“If you fail to plan, you are planning for failure.” - Benjamin Franklin.
One of the major reasons Christians fizzle out on their devotional life is because they have no structure or plan to their Bible reading/study. Although it is great to be in the Bible every day, just flinging your Bible open and reading where you finger falls is not a sustainable plan. Fortunately, there are great Bible reading Plans and devotional booklets available.
Personally, I have found plans that take me through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation are the most beneficial. Maybe the plan is reading your Bible through in a year or 90 days. There are also other great plans which take you through a single book of the Bible, a topic, or a character study. The key here is to find a plan, and plan to stick to it.
The daily devotional on this blog will take us through the entire Bible in a year. I encourage you to start here, especially if you have never read your Bible from cover to cover. This is a great place to receive encouragement to keep going and stick to your plan!
You can take a look at some of the other Bible Plans I have found helpful here.
2. Schedule a Specific Time
“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
Our days get busy, I mean really busy. If your days look like mine, it seems there is more on the to-do list than hours in the day. If we are not careful, our days can get consumed by the urgent and we miss out on the important. We can pillow our heads at night only to realize we neglected time with God’s Word. If this happens enough, acts can become habits, and habits become lifestyles. The path to apathy in the Christian life is paved with good intentions. Satan doesn’t want you to say “no” to God as much as he wants you to say “tomorrow”. Procrastination and good intention can kill your devotional life before it even starts! How do you remedy this… have a specific, sacred time which belongs to God.
Etch out a block of time each day that is protected from all else. A special time that belongs to God, and Him alone. Distractions will try to come, but purpose that unless something major (and I am talking MAJOR, not you want to sleep in) happens, you will keep that time for God. For me, the mornings work best. When I designated time in the morning and am faithful to that time, I have a successful devotional life. What time works best for you? There really is no right or wrong answer; if you are at your sharpest at 5:00AM than do your devotions then. If you are alert and ready to meet with God in the evening than do it before bed. Just have a time dedicated and protected to meet with God in His Word.
3. Designate a Specific Place
“My first thought this morning was of my great riches. What substance, such treasure the morning did bring! There was joy beyond telling, and hope beyond failing! I’m familiar with all these things.” – Song, “No Stranger to Grace”
When I consider my devotional time, alone with God, I get excited. It is not just the dedicated time I meet with God that makes it special, it is also the place. It may sound cheesy, but I simply love getting a cup of hot chocolate and sitting down at our kitchen table to spend time in the Word. While in Bible College, I enjoyed meeting with God’s Word at my little cubby desk. During my teen years, I loved having my own closet that I had cleaned out for the express purpose of meeting with God every morning. I have always had a special place where I meet with God, and when I think about that place it makes me excited and full of joy.
One thing that will help you be faithful in your Bible reading is to create a great environment where you can meet with God every day. I want to encourage you to make this place quiet and private (at least while you are meeting with God). Satan loves to put distractions in our way, so leave the distractions out. I love my kids to death, but when I meet with God they are still in bed because otherwise I wouldn’t get what I need as their dad to face another day. I enjoy technology, but my phone is left out of the equation when I meet with God. I do read my Bible on my iPad, but I have it setup so no distractions will come through. My point is this, have a place that you can meet with God, and dig into His Word without distraction or interruptions. Picture that place in your mind… got it; okay that is where you can meet with God every day!
4. Have Accountability
“Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to the result.” – Bob Proctor
No matter how good our intentions are, we can sometimes drop the ball on our commitments. The best way to remedy this is with accountability. Someone is cringing at the idea of being accountable, but hear me out before you skip this step completely… it might not be what you think it is.
By accountability I am talking about putting safe guards in place that make you think twice before missing your quite time with God. Accountability can take many different forms and can be as aggressive or passive as you need it to be, but I believe everyone needs some accountability.
Here are some ideas on how to stay accountable:
5. Record What God is Showing You in a Journal
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For it any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” – James 1:22-24
Journaling is a wonderful practice, and I encourage you to do it on a daily basis. One of the most powerful things you can do in your devotional life is keep a journal cataloging how God spoke to you through His Word. There is just something powerful and concrete about putting pen to paper and allowing our thoughts to transfer from our mind to paper.
Every day when you have your devotions, take time to record how God spoke to you, and what action you feel God wants you to take. Pray about what God has shown you, and then visit your journal often. It is very powerful to read commitments and plans from days past. Reminders that we need to engage in doing God’s Word, not simply reading it and studying it.
There is probably more that could be said about a successful devotional life, but if you implement these five keys you will be on your way to a deeper, more meaningful spiritual walk with God.