Next to receiving Christ as Savior, and claiming the filling of the Holy Spirit, we know of no act attended with larger good to ourselves or others than the formation of an undiscourageable resolution to keep the morning watch and spend the first half hour of the day alone with God.
~ John Mott
I read these words during my devotion time this morning and was struck by their truthfulness. I can testify that the greatest blessing or hindrance to my spiritual well being rests on how and with whom I spend the first moments of each day.
I can also testify that this truth is the easiest for the enemy of our soul to minimize, distort and steal. If you are like me you have probably had that internal dialogue that says things like this:
I just don’t have time.
I’m not a morning person.
I will make up for the time I missed today, tomorrow.
I don’t feel like it. I’ll do it when I feel like it.
I don’t know how to spend time alone with God. It feels forced or fake.
All of these are excuses manufactured not from the Spirit of God but by the enemy who knows that if he can distract us from the first part of the day, he can have the whole day.
One of the things I have to guard against is the lie that I can bank up grace and spiritual fortitude. I have thought at various times in my Christian walk that since I spent an hour with Jesus yesterday morning, and since I’m too busy this morning, I can coast.
But trying to stockpile grace when it’s convenient for me to do so, and expecting it to sustain me for the days ahead while I’m too busy works as well as collecting multiple days worth of manna worked for the Hebrew people seeking the Promised Land (see Exodus 16).
Why? I am convinced it is because the One who created me and you knows better than we that with each setting and rising of the sun we must acknowledge our desperate need to abide in Christ today. Apart from me, Jesus said, we can do nothing (John 15:5). When I think that yesterday’s grace is sufficient for me today I presume upon the gracious gift of God, using it in vain (2 Cor. 6:1).
When I wake up and tend to a thousand other perceived needs besides spending time alone with God I am saying I have the power to manipulate yesterday’s manna to be good for today. I am taking control of a gift that was never mine to begin with.
The quote above from John Mott reminded me of a few key things. First, keeping a morning watch is an act of will, not emotion. There must be an “undiscourageable resolution” to make the first part of our day the Lord’s part. There will be plenty of times where we will not feel like it. There will be plenty of times where other things, even good things, lobby for our time. But if it is true that apart from Christ I can do nothing, than even these good things must wait until I have spent sufficient time alone with God today.
Second, this undiscourageable resolution is formed, not innate. It will go against our nature to lay aside a morning watch with God. It doesn’t come naturally to any of us. Hopefully you can receive this as good news! You aren’t a terrible person because you don’t feel like spending time with God this morning. What is true, however, is that you are human and acting and feeling precisely the way God’s word says you will. The will to spend time alone with God is something that must be formed in each and every one of us. No human since sin entered the world has desired this naturally but every great man and woman of God who experiences the fullness and richness of God’s grace each day have been formed into such people over time. You can be, too.
Finally, it’s of the greatest good to ourselves and others. Our Father in Heaven who created the days, who proclaims that His mercies are new every morning, knows His children can’t experience the abundant life nor have the capacity to love others well if we don’t first rest in Him. The greatest gift I can give to those I love, who may be demanding of my time and resources, is to rise early enough to spend time with my Creator and soak in His mercy.
During my time at Pure Life Ministries the first task I was given was to spend the first 20 minutes of each morning with God. Ten minutes reading scripture and 10 minutes in prayer. Over time that was increased bit by bit. A year later those 20 minutes blossomed into 90 minutes of the most precious time of my day. It is without question the habit formed which is most essential to my well being and my ability to love others well. When I neglect this, I, and those I love, suffer. Leaders at Pure Life tell me that the number one cause of relapse is when people minimize this morning time with God and begin to think yesterday’s grace will carry over today. Setting a time aside to be with God each morning is as essential to our recovery as breathing is essential to life.
I want to encourage you today to determine to begin being formed in new ways. Resolve to set a morning watch and then taste and see how God honors this with not only a greater capacity to love and be loved, but also changes your desires. Please feel free to share with me how God shows up in your life over the upcoming weeks and months!