Life Balance Check, Part 1: Time with the Lord

August 20, 2019

by Peter Amsterdam

We all know that time spent with the Lord is of paramount importance, but because we are so familiar with the concepts of “Word time,” “devotions,” and “prayer time,” they can sadly become cliché. Because of this familiarity, it is all the more important to perform a self-check or evaluation on how you are nurturing your spiritual health. If achieving holistic life balance sounds good to you, time with the Lord is critical.

You’re invited

The Bible says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”—James 4:8 ESV

God is available. He’s waiting on us to take the step to draw near to Him. He offers us an open invitation, but the question is: Will we accept it? Consider this story:

Spinning a yarn about a phone call from [the] president to have breakfast in the White House, Jean Fleming described her disbelief and awe at being extended such an honor. She then drew a parallel between how she would react if such an invitation were extended and what could happen if individuals consider the scriptural mandate to spend time alone with God daily.

All of us have been offered an invitation by the King of the universe to meet him every morning before breakfast,” she said. “The Lord said, ‘I want to meet with you and tell you what I’m thinking about, what my plans are and intentions. I want to hear your concerns that I might bring the resources of heaven. Then let’s have breakfast together.’”

People who do not avail themselves of communication with God miss out on the “whole package” of what God intended, Fleming said.1

I don’t want to miss out on the “whole package” of what God intended, and I’m sure you don’t either. That’s why it’s important that we go to the Lord to evaluate our time with Him. We may need a specific focus at different times, whether it’s in our prayer life, spiritual feeding, or times of meditation. This can change from month to month. The Lord knows what is coming into our lives and we need to be regularly checking in with Him. In fact, the same applies in all these points of life balance. Because we experience change throughout our lives, we can’t expect to figure out what we need in terms of our spiritual life and time with the Lord once and then keep that plan indefinitely. Life is so fluid, things are always changing; different issues come up in our lives, and we have to adjust to be able to manage in the best possible way.

Something that can change over time for each of us is the way that we receive the spiritual feeding we need. Sometimes our needs are met in community, while attending a church or spending time with a body of believers or a prayer group. Other times it could be through personal fellowship with the Lord in the quiet prayer closet, communing with Him and hearing from Him in prophecy. It could be that we’re following a certain podcast or a pastor, reading a particular devotional book, or listening to an audio reading of the Bible. The point is that our needs change; it helps to understand that and make adjustments accordingly.

Some questions that are good to ask ourselves are:

  • Am I seeking to walk with the Lord throughout my life?
  • Am I seeking God’s presence in my life?
  • Am I acknowledging Him and His role in my life and letting the Holy Spirit speak to me, comfort me, and give me joy and peace?
  • Am I conferring with Jesus about my everyday decisions and not just the “big things”?
  • Do I care enough about what God thinks about what I am doing, what I’m thinking, and who I’m spending time with?

If you think deeply about these things, I believe the result will be that you will want to draw near to the Lord and take time to pray and read the Word or devotional writings, because you know that without Him, you can do nothing. You’ll also take time to take stock of your life and evaluate your obedience levels and make sure you’re not letting sin in your life go unrecognized or unconfessed.

Perception of time

We often talk about time. It can be a struggle to find the time needed to do all that there is to do. However, it may be that we need to radically alter our perception of time and our relationship with time. The following excerpt was convicting for me and caused me to reflect on my notion of time, as I often feel like I just don’t have enough time.

In Jonathan Swift’s classic book Gulliver’s Travels, when Gulliver arrives in Lilliput, the Lilliputians see his pocket watch and conclude that it must be Gulliver’s god. After all, Gulliver told them that he never did anything without consulting it first.

Is the clock your god? I believe that there is probably no other part of our lives so thoroughly co-opted by a secular worldview as our notion of time. We say time is a gift from God, but most of the time we treat time as a club rather than a gift—something that we chase, and once we catch it, it beats us up. It’s a notion of time that is contrary to a Christian worldview.

Because we believe in the providence of God, we can affirm that we have enough time, and we can then receive [each] day as a gift.

Prayer and meditation on God’s Word must be built into our schedules. Keeping God and His Word at the forefront of our minds helps us develop the biblical notion of time.

The next time you look at your watch, take a moment to remember who your God is and how He has providentially given you all the time you need.2

Life is not easy

Sometimes I sense the Lord’s presence in my life and I feel at peace. That is wonderful. But it’s not always like that. At times we all experience negative emotions—fear, remorse, regret, anger, or bitterness. When that happens, it’s easy to feel down and condemned, which is such a miserable feeling. Of course, that could be a sign that we need more time with the Lord in deeper meditation and communion. It may also be time to take a deeper spiritual check, to realize that these symptoms can indicate that something is not going well in our lives.

But on the other hand, life is hard. Period. We live in a fallen world and we struggle. The following counsel was comforting for me, as it helped remind me that it’s inevitable that we’ll have battles and difficulties and that sometimes life is just tough, and rather than feeling discouraged and condemned, we can see it for what it is, shake it off, and dive into some quality fellowship with the Lord.

Nothing prepares you for how ministry can drain you emotionally, leaving you in pain or, even worse, feeling numb or in despair or seething with anger. This is why so many good men and women in ministry have careened into moral ditches or still soldier on with plastic smiles and burned-out souls. In ministry so many things can sap your emotions and strength, your very soul and spirit, almost daily. So what can you do?

There’s not a quick fix. Instead, my emotional survival has depended upon a way of life that protects, strengthens, and replenishes me emotionally. The most strategic investment is time with God. But not just any time with God—I must have time with God that touches me at a heart and soul level. Every day, I seek to spend some time pouring out my heart, and in turn, receiving his. Few people had the emotional ups and downs of David, and if you read the Psalms carefully, you see that he poured out his emotions to God in a disarmingly candid way. Learning to pray like David has been healthy for me.3

Do not lose heart

One thing that is important to evaluate in our spiritual lives and walk with the Lord is how we’re doing with worship and praise, how much we’re living in thanksgiving. Whether our life is going well or whether we’re in a time of struggle or hardship, that shouldn’t change our attitude of gratefulness to God for our salvation and the hope that we have within us for the future and the wonderful life that is to come.

We all have times when things are not going well, and it’s easy to let that dictate our level of praise or gratitude. But the blessings of life, heaven, and salvation endure just the same, whether we are in illness or good health, whether we are in poverty or wealth, whether our children are doing poorly or well. We know that, like the saying goes, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end,” because we have that hope of our salvation in Christ.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.—2 Corinthians 4:16–18 NIV

I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love.—Romans 8:38 NLT

A sense of wonder

If we focus our thoughts on God and all that He is and all that He does, and His master plan, we’ll gain a sense of wonder about the Lord and His presence in our life. As Mark Batterson wrote in his book Primal:

When we lose our sense of wonder, what we really lose is our soul. Our lack of wonder is really a lack of love. … Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.4

Mark makes a point about how in getting back to the “primal roots” of Christianity, one of those roots is having a “sense of wonder” all the time. That stood out to me, as it’s not something that we think about every day, since we often get bogged down in the minutiae of life’s problems. But when you rise above that which is here today and gone tomorrow, then you can live in awe and wonder at God and all the beauty He has created around you, the miracle of life, and the beautiful people He has placed in your life, and His ultimate plan for your future.

If we have that sense of wonder, then everything takes on a brighter hue of hopefulness. If we’re focusing on the right things, living and walking closely with God, we can live in wonder and full of gratitude. We will make room for the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, and it will be manifested through the fruits of the Spirit and in fullness of joy and peace.

1 Joni B. Hannigan, “NavPress author tells seminary women of honor to spend time alone with God,” Baptist Press, March 1, 2001.

2 Mark Earley, “Worldview and the Clock,” BreakPoint, August 3, 2003.

3 James Emery White, “Survival Skills: What you need to minister with your spirit intact,” Leadership Journal, July 27, 2009.

4 Mark Batterson, Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2009).