South Africa

God Rewards Obedience Part 1: How much time do you have?

God, the ever conscious and diligent teacher, is always watching us. He is also always giving us instructions on how to live, what to do, and what not to do. The question is do we always obey His instructions? For me I know I can’t with confidence and honesty say “Yes! I always obey God’s instructions!” But my answer is more like a “most of the time” response. Or if I was really being real and honest and transparent, my answer would be more like:

“Most of the time when conditions are favorable, I am in a good mood, things went my way today, and God’s instructions don’t require me to sacrifice too much or stop doing something I enjoy doing (whether in my mind it’s not something I consider wrong). If all the stars align then yes I obey God’s call.”

I hope that I am not alone in this feeling. I know it’s hard to admit, but when you do some self-reflection on your own obedience and behavior chart would you see all gold stars or would there be some lack somewhere?

I believe at times we don’t even realize God is giving us an instruction until after the fact. Maybe because we are so distracted by the world or so busy we forget to pencil ‘time with God’ on our schedule. I mean REAL time with God. Not just those few minutes you get in each morning reading the Bible App devotional scripture…hey I am just as guilty and for a long time that was my “time with God” moment each day. If I was really being a good Christian then I would read a “Before you go to bed scripture” at night, but that was after watching craziness on T.V. and reading everything else that didn’t promote good Christian values. But wait, if I was really feeling low and discouraged then I would add some extra time of studying the Bible and journaling, but after that feeling lifted it was business as usual and I was back to my two minute devotional each morning. Wow crazy how self-reflection can reveal so much.

Now because my God loves me so much and His grace is crazy amazing He didn’t allow horrible things to happen to me because of my lack of time I spent with Him. Maybe that’s why I became so comfortable with my mediocre one-on-one time with God? God was still so good, so subconsciously I felt my few minutes each day of quiet one-on-one time with God was sufficient. The Bible tells us that God wants 10% of our TIME, talent, and tenth. Now I felt I was doing well in the talent and tenth department. I was tithing more than 10% each month of my paycheck, and I was volunteering a lot of time in ministry in my church. But sadly I was lacking in the time department. God demands 10% of my time. If we think about that mathematically there are 24 hours in each day. So if we are to give God 10% of our time each day that is a total of 2 hours and 40 minutes each day! (If we want to get technical) Wow that seems like a lot of time! But do you know how many TV shows I could watch and how many social media sites I could visit in that amount of time. I could get so much work done in 2 hours and 40 minutes of uninterrupted time! Just imagine how much closer we could be to God if we spent a total of 2 hours and 40 minutes each day of uninterrupted time! That means no TV, no radio, no internet, no cell phone, no people, no nothing but single-minded focused time of praying, studying, and praising God.

Another revealing moment during my self-reflection: I have tried many times to be consistent in my one-on-one time with God, but many times my follow through wasn’t good. Maybe it was because God started requiring things from me. In order to have that time God required that I woke up a little earlier each day to spend that quiet time with Him. Or He required I made some sacrifices and turn off the noise of the world to spend that time. Or in that time He started revealing Himself to me and in turn revealed some not so pretty habits and qualities that I possessed. He started showing me some areas I didn’t know I needed to improve on. He started showing me some friendships and relationships I needed to let go of. God began to make me deal with my past mistakes and pain instead of sweeping them under the rug. So slowly but surely my two minute devotional each morning and sometimes at night started looking better and better. More manageable. More convenient…for me.

And so in this self-reflection time I’ve realized that my relationship with God started to become one sided. It started to become more about me and what suited me then about complete abandonment to God’s will.  Yes I was still doing what I thought a ‘good Christian’ was supposed to do. I still attended church regularly. I still gave over the 10% of tithe and talent to the church. I still prayed before every meal and before going to bed and read my Bible during that quick, convenient morning devotional on my phone. I didn’t drink excessively, didn’t use foul language, kept my reality TV to a minimum, and I wasn’t out in the street every weekend being loose. I was a good Christian and I was proud of that. But slowly and surely I started to put God in a box, because I was unwilling or unavailable to give Him any real time or even the real me.

Why does God demand 10% of our time each day? I’ve learned during my short time here in South Africa that God is a real talker! He has A LOT to say to us. Plus He just likes to spend one-on-one time with His children. And of course God has the opportunity to hold a mirror up to our lives and show us who we really are. Now this may be the deterring factor for why we shy away from this real time with God each day. We are afraid of what that mirror might reveal about us. We are afraid that our faults may outweigh the good qualities and the mistakes might be a lot bigger than we meant for them to be. But I am learning that isolation brings revelation. God calls for us to isolate ourselves from the world and worldly things each day so He can reveal Himself to us and in turn reveal ourselves to ourselves. Reveal who we truly are whether it be favorable or not. But the blessing about this time with God each day is that not only will God show us who we are, but He will show us who we are meant to be!

God will show us and teach us who He created us to be. He will show us how to become the men and women He has destined us all to be. Yes that can be a painful, uncomfortable, and even a long process, but if we truly want to have a life of abundance in Christ we must first surrender and abandon ourselves to Him. We must surrender our pasts, our mistakes, our shortcomings, our sins to God every day. We are not perfect beings and God knows that! He is not ashamed of what we’ve done. He already knows about it! So He is just waiting for us to give it all to Him. My God is a forgiving God, but we can’t expect God to forgive us if we continue to sweep our mistakes under a rug and try to hide them from Him.

How are we ever going to be truly obedient to God and His will for our lives if we never know what His will is? One-on-one time is God’s opportunity to unpack bags and bags of issues we have been carrying around with us all our lives. Many times we don’t even realize we are so loaded down, because after a while we get accustomed to the extra weight. But in that still, quiet place God can show you that baggage and then let you know He will carry it for you! Sometimes I wonder why can’t God just take away all of the not so pretty habits and qualities I have and in turn make me the women He has destined me to be! That would be so much easier, quicker, and comfortable! Ha, I wish! Unfortunately God doesn’t operate like that. He must first show us our faults for our benefit! I bet you’re thinking, “How is it my benefit to see all of the wrong I’ve done in my life? I know it exists! I did it!”

It is a benefit to us because we must learn to face the truth of our pasts if we want to have access to the truth of our futures. We must reflect on our pasts so we can be free from them. Many times our pasts hold us hostage and we don’t even realize until a situation forces us to examine them. God wants us to learn from pasts mistakes so we don’t keep repeating them. If we never reflect on them, then many times they will keep showing up in unexpected places. God doesn’t want that for us. He wants us to live free, so we must do the hard work in order to not live a life of always looking over our shoulders.

The second reason self-reflection is a benefit to us is because it gives God another opportunity to transform our lives and promote growth. I am learning that God loves to transform things and people. If we just look at nature and how it works it’s just one big transformation after another. For example how can a tiny seed deep in a hole mixed with some dirt, water, and sunshine grow into a huge, massive tree? Or how can a slow, ugly caterpillar climb into a shell and spend a few days of basically dying and then bust out of that shell a beautiful butterfly basically a completely different creature? Through God’s transformation power! The same is true with us. How can God take a man that was killing and persecuting Christians for years and years and turn Him into one of the greatest prophets and in turn write the majority of the New Testament of the Bible? Or how can God take a little girl who cried at the drop of a hat, never let anyone (not even family members) hold her, never said a word in school, a girl who loved to be around family and friends and thrived because of it. Then take that same shy, introverted girl and cause her to give all of the comforts of home up for a life of isolation and uncertainty in a foreign country thousands and thousands of miles from home? ONLY God’s transforming power can do that! (And that was with my two minutes a day…at times a little longer one-on-one time with God)

Imagine what God could do and would do if we gave Him ALL of us. (If I gave Him all of me.) If we surrendered daily to His will and spent that real time with Him each day what could we accomplish in His name? How many people could we help? How could God transform our lives and turn us into the men and women He destined us to be? This is where we learn to be obedient. This is where it starts. If we can’t be obedient during our one-on-one time with God then how do we expect to be obedient to Him when we are out in the world? When we are faced with temptations everywhere we go? God is always speaking. How often do we tune into His voice and tune out the world? How much time do we give Him to actually hear what He has to say to us? Sometimes people say it’s not about the quantity but about the quality. Well when it comes to spending time with God, I believe it’s about both. So let’s all stop making excuses and stop settling for mediocre relationships with God. It’s not enough anymore for God and it shouldn’t be enough for you anymore. God demands and requires ALL of us. So if we want to live abundant lives and have access to ALL of God’s blessings, then we must surrender and abandon all of ourselves to Him. How much time do YOU have?

 

Practical Ways to Give God 10% of Your TIME Each Day:

  1. Be Purposeful: We must wake up each day with the purpose of spending time with God. If that means to set a reminder on our phones, computers, calendars, make something beep, post a note on our mirrors whatever then do it! Whatever helps us to be conscious about spending REAL time with God we must do it. Set up a place in your home/room where it’s comfortable and quiet that way you will want to be there each day. Maybe have soft music playing in the background (as long as it doesn’t become a distraction). Make sure it’s away from noise like TV, computers, cell phones, etc. We must make spending time with God each day a real priority.
  2. Be Consistent: One of my biggest problems with spending REAL time with God was starting off good then I reach a bump in the road and throws me off my focus. So try to schedule your time with God around the same time of the day. Make it a habit that way if you miss it you will notice the void. I know that the 2 hours and 40 minutes is a big commitment so start small. Maybe wake up an extra 10 or 15 minutes early and spend your time with God. But don’t stay settled in this time area. Eventually and over time work up to the full 2 hours and 40 minutes. Soon you will hunger for more and more time, so it won’t seem like a chore. Make sure if you live with anyone they know that at this time of the day you are off limits. Unless it is a true emergency you are not to be bothered. If you have children schedule it around their nap time. Whatever you must do make those that are close to you see and know the importance of this one-on-one time with Jesus. Keep in mind Satan likes to find ways to take us off our focus so plan ahead and don’t let him win!
  3. Be Prepared: Wherever you choose for your special place with God make sure it is stocked with all of the materials you will need. You will want to include a Bible (or several in different versions). Go out and buy a nice journal where you can write all God has to say! (Make sure it is big because once He gets talking you want to make sure you have room enough to receive!) Make sure your space is stocked with pens/pencils that work! Don’t let a search for a writing utensil cause you to become distracted. You may want to find some other reference books that help break down the Bible into similar terms as well. Be sure to place anything else you may need in your space (reading glasses, proper lighting, highlighters, etc.), so all you have to do is come their each day and feed on God’s word.
  4. Be Patient: Often times when we are just starting out with REAL time with God we expect Him to give us all these big, powerful, life changing revelations but many times it’s not like that. Many times God just wants us to sit quietly in His presence. So don’t be discouraged if you feel God isn’t speaking. A lot of times God reveals so much more in silence. These times I like to just praise Him. I don’t ask for anything or even tell Him what’s bothering me, I just praise Him. You can turn on your favorite praise and worship music to help or just sing a song that’s on your heart. But God likes to receive our praise, so this is a great time to just think about how good He is and thank Him for it. God can speak in our praise too.
  5. Be Creative: Many times it’s hard to know where to start studying God’s word. The Bible has 66 books so I can understand it can be intimidating! But many times I like studying scriptures that deal with whatever I am struggling with at the time (that’s why it’s nice to have either a study Bible or other reference books). Or I even like to take the devotional I received during my morning time (my two minutes) and study that a little deeper. I can reflect deeper on what I read during that time. Remember there is not a right or a wrong way to study God’s word. He just wants us to do it!
  6. Be Open: God uses this REAL time with Him to reveal Himself and ourselves to us. So many times God shows us things we may not like. But it is important to remain open to Him. We must try and start each session with surrendering ourselves to Him. Surrendering our agendas, our pasts, and preconceived notions about things in our lives all to Him. How do you surrender…just say it and do it! I actually say/pray/sing to God what I surrender to Him. Remember He only wants to make us better, so our time may be hard and even cause us to cry but God is always purging and pruning things in us that shouldn’t be in us. So we must be open to this process and know that transformation is not always easy but it is always worth it.
  7. Be Ready: REAL, single-minded, uninterrupted, quiet, one-on-one, consistent time with God will not only reveal our shortcomings but it also prompts action! Remember God is speaking to us and giving us instructions. So we must be ready (and willing) to act. We may struggle with that but that is why this is a perfect time to ask God for help in that area. We must know that God has placed a calling on all of our lives, so He is always preparing us for that calling (whether we realize it or not). So when we start taking an active role in this preparation, God starts to require certain things of us. It could be sacrifices we must make (most times it is) or things we must do to be prepared for this great calling. So be ready for whatever God shows you or requires you to do. But know God rewards our diligence and of course our obedience, all of this is meant for our benefit and His glory!
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