My grandfather gave me some council years ago, “If you want power in your preaching, live right.” One may assume you need personality, degree, articulation, or the power of persuasion to be an effective preacher. I have discovered that I have very little of those things. The one thing I do have, however, is the opportunity each and every day to live holy before God. It’s not what you do behind the pulpit that affords power; it is what you do beyond the pulpit that affords power.
The power of the preacher is manufactured every single day through the efforts of personal and intimate devotion. To be completely transparent, there was a time in my early years of the pastorate when personal devotion took a back seat to the other responsibilities of the ministry. I equated my “study time,” which was allotted to my sermons, for my personal devotional time. Such a practice may develop a good message, but it doesn’t guarantee the development of a good messenger.
Over the past few years I have tried to live by a daily philosophy…to live each day as though it is the only day to be examined at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Once the magnitude of that statement settled into my heart, I realized the significance and responsibility of serving God every day. Every day will be examined. Every decision, motive, intent, word, expression, and attitude will fall under the righteous assessment of God. So to set each day into its proper motion, the preacher must intend to start the day with God. As George Lorimar said, “You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you are going to go to bed with satisfaction.”
Nothing substitutes our time of devotion. Nothing. It is from our personal time with God that life flows. Ministry, service, worship, and power are all nurtured through those early morning hours of solitude, study and supplication. Only that which is conceived in private can be made alive and brought to fruition in public. Although everyone’s personal time with God is uniquely different, there are some necessary components that need to be in place.
1. The Appointment of Our Devotion
You’ll never have a strong devotional life if you do not intend to meet with the Lord at a scheduled time. Your schedule may not allow for morning devotions, but I have discovered the only way I can properly meet the conflicts of the day is if I have already met with the Creator of the Day. When I begin the day reading, meditating, and pondering the promises of God, it affords me the ability to meet the particular challenges with those promises in my heart and mind. My rule of thumb is: rise early, and rise often until it becomes your routine.
2. The Aim of Our Devotion
Personal time with God is just that- time with God. God can give you a message through your devotion time (He often does during mine), but the intent is not to look for something to preach, it is to look for Someone to praise. If the goal is not God, we have missed the purpose of devotion. Tozer points out, “Our religious activities should be ordered in such a way as to leave plenty of time for the cultivation of the fruits of solitude and silence. It should be remembered, however, that it is possible to waste such quiet periods as we may be able to snatch for ourselves out of the clamorous day. Our meditation must be directed toward God; otherwise, we may spend our time of retinal in quiet converse with ourselves.” Be careful that your devotion time is not just you spending time by yourself.
3. The Absolutes of Our Devotion
There are some necessary components that must be in place during your devotion time. An open Bible, with an open heart, leads to the open windows of heaven.
Ask God to reveal personal sins
Honor the Lord with worship and praise
Pray for others in supplication and prayer
Match your life up to the truth of Scripture
Cultivate a hunger for God, and seek His face through a holy and devoted life
Again, this is not necessarily a time to “get a message” it is time to “become a message.”
4. The Application of Our Devotion
“In Christ we have life, hence we live unto God;” said F.E. Marsh, “and Christ as our Life, lives in us, hence we live for Him before men.” The purpose of devotion is to live before men as we live unto God for His glory. Our devotions are of no value if we do not demonstrate what God reveals to us in them through the power of a changed life. We will never rightly affect this world if God has not rightly affected us. His power in our lives is not confined to a thirty-minute time slot on Sunday. His life in us is developed every day until we finally meet Him face to face. Our ultimate devotion will be manifested when we stand before His eternal throne. Daily devotions give us a little glimpse of our ultimate devotion- being with Him, and being like Him.
I met God in the morning when the day was at its best
And His presence came like sunrise, Like a glory in my breast
All day long the Presence lingered, All day long He stayed with me
And we sailed in perfect calmness, O’er a very troubled sea
Other ships were blown and battered, Other ships were sore distressed
But the winds that seemed to drive them, brought to me a peace and rest
Then I thought of other mornings, when a keen remorse of mind
When I too had loosed the moorings, with the Presence left behind
So, I think I know the secret, Learned from many a troubled way
You must seek Him in the morning If you want Him through the day