Rev. Dr. John Fullerton
Growing and maturing Christians have quiet time with God. It’s part of what makes them growing and maturing Christians. But not everyone values or has a quiet time, and I want to explore that in this post.
What is Quiet Time?
Quiet time is when we take a portion of our day to step back from the activities and busyness of life in order to meet with God. I realize in our culture slowing down and getting quiet is not a virtue for many. I know people who can’t stand being quiet for any purpose. We have gotten used to the noise and pace of life. The absence of noise and activity is unsettling for many. And yet, there is something rich about quiet time.
We have begun defining quiet time this way at this church: “Just as Jesus went to a ‘solitary place’ to meet with his Father (Mark 1:35), so a disciple should daily pull away from the busyness of life for a quiet time, a personal rendezvous with our Lord and Savior.”
Why It Matters
Quiet time matters because there is substance to it. God meets us in quiet moments and acts. One of the key factors of the greatest spiritual growth is the practice of keeping a quiet time.
This is real in my life. Some of my best moments of clarity have come while I was in quiet time with God. My call to ministry, the moment the Lord spoke clearly to me to leave corporate America and begin the journey to become a pastor, came when I was having quiet time. I have had prayers prayed and answered during the same quiet time. I have looked back on previous prayers, and not until a moment in quiet time did I realize that the Lord had answered those prayers. I have learned about Christ and his truths in Scripture during quiet time. God has provided answers to difficult decisions or challenging relationship problems during quiet time.
Perhaps the most important reason of all that quiet time matters is that it was the pattern of Jesus. This is what Jesus did. Several times, Scripture tells how Jesus would go away on his own in order to have time with the Father. It mattered to him. Jesus, God the Son, reconnected to God the Father in quiet times. The eternal bonds that were life-giving and overflowing with mutual love were experienced in quiet times. Surely that practice should inspire us to quiet times.
What Makes it “Quiet Time?”
Quiet time may be a daily time to “pull away from the busyness of life for a quiet time, a personal rendezvous with our Lord and Savior,” but what exactly happens? What makes it quiet time?
By definition, quiet happens. Stillness. Silence. This is the “pulling away” part. This is when a person gets up early, gets a cup of coffee and the Bible, finds a comfortable place, and seeks as much silence as possible. For others, it is at the end of the day with a similar pattern. Turning off as many things that ding with notifications and sounds as possible is the key. Parents with children at home find this even more challenging. I remember a time when our girls were young that I wanted to have time to myself before the girls awoke. I woke up at 5:30 am, but they heard me and woke up also. I tried for earlier and got up at 5 am. The same thing happened. I tried for even earlier and got up at 4:30 am. It happened again. This time, I finally said, “Girls, I know you are excited to spend time with me, but I need to spend time with God,” and I put them back in bed.
As for what to do in the silence, most fill it with at least three things: Bible reading, meditating on what is read, and prayer. If you didn’t already know, our church has a whole Bible reading plan in which each person reads two chapters of the Bible per day, usually done in under ten minutes. At the end of three years, those who participate will read the Bible cover-to-cover. For more information about that, click here. This plan also asks us to take time to reflect on what is read and perhaps even discuss it in person, by email, or by text with others. After meditating on the words read, it is time to pray. Talk to God. I’ll say more about prayer and studying the Bible in upcoming posts.
Discipleship Essentials, an important book at our church for growing mature disciples, outlines some practical steps on how to begin a quiet time. They are:
- Make the decision. Choose to have a daily quiet time.
- Set aside time in advance. It is too easy for other things of life to take over our calendars. Decide what time will be quiet time and mark it on your calendar.
- Plan ahead. If getting up early for quiet time is your goal, go to bed earlier. If having it in the evening is your goal, arrange to be finished with your day’s activities sooner.
- Make your quiet time truly quiet. This may take work but seek to “be still and know” that God is God (Psalm 46:10).
- Start with prayer. Ask God to allow you to discern well his presence.
- Keep a notebook handy. You will want to capture thoughts as well as responses from God. Your phone or tablet computer has good note-taking apps.
- Share your plans and goals with a friend. This is good motivation to keep at it.
Dealing with the Problems
If you struggle with consistency or focus or motivation or other problems with quiet time, you are not alone. Again, some practical counsel from the book, Discipleship Essentials:
- “I know I ought to have a daily quiet time, but I don’t want to.” The solution to this is to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to replace the hesitancy with motivation and inspiration. This is a matter of the heart and only you and God can make this happen.
- “My mind wanders.” This was my issue and still is at times. Sometimes, more in the past and less today, it feels like my thoughts are chattering monkeys in the trees. Every time I try to focus on something deep, the monkeys would start chattering and my mind wanders. I have found two ways to deal with this. First, by having something in my prayer space like a cross. Others use candles or other objects with sacred meaning. When my mind starts to wander, I look at the cross and let it be a reminder of the presence of God. The second and most frequent way I deal with a wandering mind is letting those thoughts and distractions drift in and then drift back out of my mind. I treat it like watching a piece of driftwood on the river by my grandmother’s house. It comes into view, floats by, and then drifts out of sight.
- “I miss too many quiet times.” Some people miss too many, throw up their hands in defeat, and give up. This is like the person who breaks the diet by eating Oreos, has a mental throwing up of the hands in defeat, and then eats the whole bag. Instead, ask the Lord to strengthen your desire and resolve to have quiet time. Turn it over to God. Confess any failures or shortcomings.
- “My daily quiet time is a drag.” Routine, lackluster reading or prayer life can and does happen for many. Again, go to the Lord with this very issue. Ask God to help you find energy and joy in reading the Word of God, meditation, and prayer.
Make the Commitment
If you have gotten out of the habit of daily quiet time or never had it, start it now. Don’t wait. These quiet times have substance and God meets us in them. Perhaps best of all is that when we have personal experiences of God during quiet times, our faith deepens. Don’t wait. Get started or, for some, get restarted right away.
Rev. Dr. John H. Fullerton, Jr.
Dr. Fullerton has served as our senior pastor since September 2019. Prior to Lakeland, he served churches in Scotland, Ohio, Tennessee, and, most recently, in Dunedin, Florida. While serving local churches, he has also taken leave to teach in theological seminaries in Madagascar and Russia. After earning his Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Florida, he worked in business for nine years. God then had other plans for his life that led him to Princeton Theological Seminary for a Master of Divinity and then ordination as a pastor. In 2010, he received his Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. He grew up in a military home that took him all over the United States but considers Palatka, Florida, his hometown. He and his wife, Cile, have been married since 1983 and are proud parents of three daughters who have given them five grandchildren. His hobbies include reading, running, golf, and spending time with family.