My phone alarm-clock starts ringing at 4:05am. I have it sitting in the living room, so I’m forced to get out of bed to turn it off. Once there, my coffee is ready for me (because I preset it the night before to brew at 4:00am). Instead of going back to bed, I’m already up and my coffee is sitting there filling my nostrils with the aroma of Heaven. The day has begun.
I love my routines. They are means of grace (or little blessings from God) that are a vehicle for closeness with the Lord. I enjoy getting up early before anyone else in my house. I get a cup of coffee, pray, and begin reading the Bible in the place I left off the day before. After I read the Bible, I pick up the current book I’m working through and keep striving for spiritual and theological growth. Once I’ve spent this time with God, I go to the gym and exercise. While there I listen to podcasts and music to continue my focus on God.
Only after I’ve done these things do I take a shower and get ready to go to work. But that routine changes the entire trajectory of my day. I thrive on routine. When I miss my quiet time or have my normal routine with the Lord disrupted, it messes with my entire day. Not only does it lead to a nagging disappointment and general irritation, I tend to think God’s pleasure and approval of me lessens for the day.
I know theologically that my standing with God doesn’t change based on whether or not I spent time in prayer and Bible-reading that morning. But my inner lawyer loves to tell me otherwise. The culture we live in conditions us to think that God’s love and pleasure rises and falls with how well we are performing that day. We treat others like that, so why wouldn’t God treat us like that?
This kind of thinking is debilitating. It’s deceiving. It wrongly makes us overconfident when we start our day with intentional time with God. And it leads us to disappointment when we don’t.
One of the things I’ve come to learn over the years as I’ve wrestled with these feelings of being “off” on days I don’t keep my routine, is that God is teaching me to rest in His finished work, not my feelings. In times when I travel or something disrupts my normal pattern, I struggle with the change, but I lean into those times as reminders that God’s pleasure and approval of me doesn’t rise and fall on my routine. God’s love doesn’t fluctuate.
This, in itself, is formative for me. I need these reminders. Routines are good, and godly. We should discipline ourselves for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7-8), but we must never make the discipline a god. We are not slaves to our disciplines and routines. They are in service to us. They exist to point us to God and to help us draw nearer to Him (James 4:8). But the truth is that God’s love for us doesn’t change if we don’t have a quiet time in the morning. God’s approval and pleasure doesn’t depend on whether my routine is kept.
This is vital for Christians to understand. Every follower of Jesus should try to have a dedicated time with the Lord to start the day. But we must stay focused on the truth that God doesn’t love us because of our quiet time. He isn’t pleased with us because we read so many chapters of Scripture. His pleasure for us is solely wrapped up in the finished work of Jesus on our behalf.
Does this lead us to neglect time with God? By no means! One of the evidences that we belong to Him and have been saved is that we desire to spend time with God. We want to grow. But it is equally important that we don’t let our quiet time become our source of comfort and strength. God is. So, if we miss that time for one reason or another, we preach the truth to ourselves as a reminder: Because of Jesus’ finished work, God is pleased with me, and that’s all I need.
Then get up the next day and pursue time with God.