Before I go to sleep each night, I like to prop up my pillows and grab a little something to read for a few minutes before I go to sleep. So I keep a couple of devotional style books beside my bed. They give me just enough to think on so that my last thoughts of the day are of the Lord, but they do not fill my head with so many thoughts that I can't sleep. Two of my favorites are "The Valley of vision" (a collection of prayers and prose from the Puritans), and "My Utmost For His Highest" (the classic writing style, not the updated English version). I do not use these as my daily study of the Word though. I am a purist. I just study the Word itself.
If you have a good Pastor, he will sometimes tell you things you should and shouldn't do and often there is a varied response. Some will just take him at his word and make adjustments in their lives and God will abundantly bless them. Others have the attitude that says "well, that's just Pastor's opinion, that doesn't mean I have to do it." Granted, there are ministers who take advantage or who try to force their own personal preferences on people but most people that I know just dismiss what their Pastors say altogether because they really do not view their Pastor in a Biblical way and therefore he is more like someone they hire to give them a nice little talk every Sunday than a shepherd given as a gift by God to help to lead them, care for them and keep them. I always cringe when I hear people dismissing something that was heavy on their Pastor's heart because it will surely lead them in the wrong direction and it separates them from the flock putting them into a vulnerable position for attack by the enemy.
One example that I see over and over again is this very subject of daily study of the Word and prayer. For years and years my husband has warned of the dangers of not taking your spiritual life seriously. Reading a little ditty from a devotional and throwing up some prayers from the car while you're driving to work does not cut it. Allowing yourself to be so busy that you do not have time to sit undistracted and study the Word and converse with God means that you are too busy and you need to make some adjustments in your schedule. Now most of us eat more than one snack a day and if all we could have was one snack a day, we would most likely not purchase it from the McDonald's drive-thru. But to me, this is what we do spiritually when we pick up a 5 minute devotional. It may be alright on a normal day but what about when a crisis comes? Will we be strong enough? Will we have the endurance we need to get through it victoriously? My husband thinks not and so does Oswald Chambers. ( I always love it when someone with some cred backs up my hubby!)
On September 10th he wrote:
"We imaging we would be alright is a big crisis arose; but the big crisis will only reveal the stuff we are made of, it will not put anything into us. We say "if God gives the call, of course we will rise to the occasion." You will not unless you have risen to the occasion in the workshop, unless you have been the real thing before God there. If you are not doing the thing that lies nearest, because God has engineered it; when the crisis comes instead of being revealed as fit, you will be revealed as unfit. Crisis always reveals character.
The private relationship of worshipping God is the great essential of faith. The time comes when there is no more fig-tree life possible (Jn. 1:48), when it is out in the open, out into the glare and out into the work, and you will find yourself of no value there if you have not been worshipping as occasion serves you in your home. Worship aright in your private relationships, then when God sets you free you will be ready, because in the unseen life which no one saw but God you have become perfectly fit, and when the strain comes you can be relied upon by God.
You may say "I can't be expected to live the sanctified life in the circumstances I am in; I have no time for praying just now, no time for Bible reading, my opportunity has not come yet; when it does of course, I shall be all right." No, you will not! If you have not been worshipping as occasion serves, when you get into work you will not only be worthless yourself, but a tremendous hindrance to those who are associated with you.
The worship of missionary munitions is the hidden, personal, worshipping life of the saint."
Although he wrote this in reference to the preparation for crisis in missionary work, the principle applies to our everyday life and experiences as well. Waiting until a crisis happens to be spiritual does not work! Waiting until you are sick to learn healing will not work. Waiting until you are in a life and death situation to learn salvation will not work. Waiting until the devil has you pinned down to learn spiritual authority will not work. The army does not give guns to its soldiers and wait until they are in the midst of a battle to teach them how to aim and shoot. No, those soldiers are equipped BEFORE they ever step on the battlefield. That is why they are more often than not victorious!
This is often the difference between those who experience spiritual victories and those who do not. In 1999 we had a devastating car accident in which 3 of my 4 children were seriously injured. Two of them floated between life and death for several days. For months I thought back to that day and wondered at how my husband and I responded to that situation. I couldn't understand how we had the strength and the courage to make the decision we made and to do the things we did because they often flew in the face of what paramedics and doctors were saying. I wondered at the peace we had through the whole situation. It was surely "peace that passed all understanding". One day, I looked back through my journal at the 6 months prior to that awful day and it hit me. As I read day after day what the Lord had impressed upon my heart, what I had meditated on, what I had prayed and received in prayer, I realized that God had TOTALLY spent that time preparing us for that accident and I know now that if we had not both been seeking God earnestly with all our hearts for those 6 months prior, two of our children would be dead. Instead, they are eating us out of house and home and causing us to suffer through the teenage years with them!
We must be ready for life. Like a big bully on a school playground, life will just sometimes knock you right on your tukus. We must be prepared for the fight that will ensue. We must be strong and ready to fight back so that we can win! And if it isn't us in the battle, but our children or a friend or a fellow believer, we will be of no value or help to them if we are spiritual weenies!
Since our spiritual life here on earth determines our eternal destination and occupation, I have to ask myself, what could be of more importance, what could have higher priority in my everyday life than the preparation of my soul for eternity? There is no higher calling. But while I'm here on earth, there will be battles and crisis I will have to face. The greater the crisis, the greater the faith required to overcome and be victorious in it. And the greater the crisis, the greater the provision that God has laid before it comes but we must go and take that provision from God everyday to insure that we are ready to meet the challenges it presents.