By David Harlen Brooks
My friends and I shared an inside joke when I was growing up.
“David, how far behind are you in your Bible reading?”
“A few weeks . . . a few months . . . a few years . . . don’t ask!”
Every year I resolved to read through the Bible, but skidded to a halt when I hit Leviticus in February. No one ever told me how to read the Bible, let alone how to have a quiet time. Like brushing my teeth, spending time in God’s Word became one more activity to check off my daily list. So I walked the Christian journey alone.
I started taking my devotional time seriously in college but merely outlined the day’s passage. I was mastering the book but missing the person behind it. Thankfully Larry, a local ministry representative on campus, explained how to have a quiet time and why. After our talk, I started enjoying and reaping the benefits.
Why Am I Doing This?
Philippians 3:10 was one of the first verses Larry and I considered together. The apostle Paul said, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”
I wasn’t particularly excited about suffering and death, but I wanted to know Christ.
Larry asked how friendships develop. I said spending time together, talking, and listening. He said it was the same with getting to know God.
If ever a man knew God, it must have been Enoch. The Bible says little about him, but what it does say is powerful. “After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:22-24).
Enoch spent time with God. Obviously there was more to their relationship than walking. It seems God and Enoch shared such an intimate relationship that one day God simply “took him away.” No one saw him again. Some people mistakenly view the God of the Old Testament as angry and even distant, but Enoch reminds us that God is as close as we want him to be.
As I spent time with God, I experienced the blessings of having a personal relationship with him. Here are five benefits I discovered.
Growth. A popular soft drink commercial encouraged viewers to “obey your thirst.” We have a similar obligation in the spiritual realm. The apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 2:2, 3, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” We need a regular intake of God’s Word in order to grow spiritually.
A friend for life. Proverbs 18:24 says, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” My best friend in junior high school traded our friendship for another. Later, he exchanged that friendship too. He was social climbing.
God doesn’t climb ladders or impress others by hanging with the right crowd. He is the crowd and wants me with him.
Help with life’s pressures. After college I worked five years in a rubber glove factory. Even in winter, I felt like my own skin melted whenever I entered the dipping rooms. Someone told me I was in a “Joseph” situation. I resented my circumstances but finally surrendered my bitterness to God. I meditated on Isaiah 43. Words like, “You are mine,” “You are precious and honored in my sight,” and “I love you” helped me understand that God hadn’t forgotten me. My attitude improved, and God gave me the privilege to share the gospel and lead my supervisor to Christ.
Sensitivity to sin. I marked and memorized Proverbs 10:19 the first time I read it during my quiet time. “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.”
As a college student I often prided myself for not talking behind my dorm buddies’ backs. One day I was enjoying the guys’ camaraderie while we sat in the cafeteria. Comments swirled around the table about a reclusive guy on our floor. It was cold-blooded character assassination. Then I opened my mouth and plunged my verbal sword into the victim. A guy I once witnessed to turned and said, “I can’t believe that came out of your mouth!”
His words struck like those of Nathan the prophet correcting King David. Proverbs 10:19 flashed on and off in my head like a signal at a railroad crossing. As soon as I was alone I confessed my sin to God, who nudged me to take further action. I couldn’t remember who else was at the table, but I found the student who uttered the godly rebuke. I apologized and said my words were not consistent with those of a follower of Christ. Although he was surprised by my apology, he thanked me.
Guidance. Proverbs 3:5, 6 challenges us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.”
I went to the Philippines as a missionary journalist in 1992. I was single, and there was a lady in the ministry whom I wanted to get to know. During my time alone with God, he impressed upon me the importance of waiting. I was new in the country and was asked to set up a communications department from scratch. I needed time to adjust to the culture and my new responsibilities. The young woman also needed time to recover from an illness and resolve some lingering questions.
Two years later I read Psalm 127:1: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” Since I never felt as if God were saying “no” to my earlier desire, I sensed he was giving me a green light through this and other verses. I talked to leaders in the ministry and they supported my desire to pursue this relationship.
Two years earlier would have been wrong for both of us. We gave God time to build our house and married a year and a half later. God’s timing was better, allowing us to support each other’s call to serve the Lord.
The Bible is punctuated with verses about God’s relationship with his people. Believe it or not, my favorite is from Leviticus: “I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people” (Leviticus 26:11, 12). I was born on the wrong side of eternity’s tracks, but God Almighty, maker of Heaven and earth, covets time with me.
My devotional times have faltered over the years, but when I recall the benefits, I am drawn back to spending time with God so I don’t walk the journey alone.
David Harlen Brooks is a freelance writer in Quezon City, Philippines.
Time with God: A Treat, Not a Burden
I ate my first Rice Krispies bar in fourth grade when a classmate’s mother brought it for a special treat. But time with God is far more satisfying than those sugar laced squares. After choosing a time and place to meet with God, you can use the word TREAT to help you savor your time with him.
Talk to God. Welcome God into your day and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you.
Read God’s Word. Select an easier book of the Bible to read—perhaps the Gospels, Psalms, or Proverbs. Read short sections initially until the habit is established. Your time will grow naturally as you gain experience and confidence. Read the passage several times to grasp the message.
Examine God’s Word. Ask who, what, when, where, why, and how. Ask what it meant for the original reader and what it means in your situation. Imagine yourself living out what you are reading. Most importantly, ask what it teaches you about God.
Apply it. Think of practical steps you can take today to put God’s Word into practice before the conviction cools. Obedience will warm your relationship with God.
Talk to God. Praise him for a new truth you learned about him. Confess your failings. Bring your needs and others’ needs before him. Speak honestly without holding back and listen to what he wants to say. Ask him to help you follow through with what you are learning.
Finally, write things down. Recording your highlights with God is a great memory aid. Later you can identify trends in what God is saying to you—something to change, something to affirm, or even a new direction to take. Reviewing what God has taught you will whet your appetite for more treats.