The Discipline of Daily Retreating

The Discipline of Daily Retreating

Are you aware the Scripture seems to indicate that Christ ‘retreated’ daily to be with His father?

If the God of the universe not only wanted but needed time away with His Father, how much more do we as imperfect, limited beings need it? In Luke 6:12 we read that the Lord spent the entire night in retreat, praying to His Father. In Mark 1:35 we read, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

For us daily retreating should take on the shape of time with the Lord in the Word and prayer. Do you have a regular time, place and pattern for daily refreshment with your Lord?

We know that there is a commitment to faithful preaching and teaching of the Word of God here at Bethel church but in addition to this there must also be a commitment of each individual member to pursuing the Lord through his/her own study of the Word. This may be where it becomes a little more difficult. We all can commit ourselves to coming on a Sunday morning to hear the Word preached and taught but are we as aggressive when it comes to feeding ourselves each and every day from the Word?

What do your personal times in the Word of God look like? Are they regular or irregular? Are they rich and meaningful times of fellowship with the Lover of our souls or are they duty bound, dry and formal? If we are honest, we must all confess to having had those times when our quiet times or personal devotions have been dry and perfunctory. Perhaps we made a New Year’s resolution back in January and started the year with a renewed zeal and commitment to spending time with the Lord in His Word each and every day. As the year progresses, we find we move along pretty well until something else comes along that takes the place of this time or we grow bored with our plan. How can we remain in God’s Word such that it becomes a rich and vibrant part of our lives?

 The place where we need to start is with need. Are we needy people or have we reached a point where we believe that we can do this life on our own? Do we think that Christ is something for Sundays or have we come to the place where we recognize that we are desperately in need of the Lord’s intervention in our lives each and every day? If we do not see the need for the Lord each day (and this perhaps can be determined by how often you are running to Him in prayer and in His Word), then we need to confess our own sense of independence and our attitude of self-sufficiency and ask Him to fill us with a deepening desire to know Him and to know His Word.

Perhaps take Psalm 51 and work through it as a prayer of confession over your neglect of the Lord and His Word.

If you have a growing desire to know Him and to be in His Word (stop and thank Him for this), then begin to develop a plan for how you can stay connected to Him each day. Here are some tips on beginning and maintaining a devotional life.

Start realistically. Do not try and bite off more than you can chew. If you are not spending any time in the Word right now, then prayerfully commit to starting with 10 minutes each day. To try and go from zero time to one hour is unrealistic and mostly doomed to failure. Start small and add a little bit each week. Move from five minutes a day to ten minutes the second week and then 15 minutes the third week, etc.

Do you have a dedicated time? Choose a time that is going to work and make it easier for you to succeed. If you are a morning person, then that can be a good way to start your day. If you are an evening person, then that can be a good way to end the day. Perhaps you can carve out some time over your lunch break and this can help you to refocus mid -way through your day. Choose a time that will be regular and dedicated only to this. Do you have a long commute to work? Listen to the Bible on CD or stream from your phone.  (Crossway has a free app with the entire ESV Bible available , both written and audio!) If you are a mom with infants and up in the middle of the night, put headphones near the rocking chair and listen to Scripture as you rock your child back to sleep.

Do you have a dedicated place? Make a place that is not filled with distractions, away from the TV or radio. Place your cell phone far away and commit to not checking it during your time. Make your quiet time place one that is not directly in the path of a lot of traffic if you live in a crowded house. It is called a “quiet” time for a reason. Make it a dedicated place that is isolated and quiet so that you might be able to limit the distractions. Perhaps the time of the day will help as well to keep this free from distractions.  Again, for those of you with young children, this might be the rocking chair; keep your headphones and phone close by to listen to the ESV Bible as you feed or rock little ones back to sleep.

Do you have a dedicated plan? Picking a time and place are important but too often we derail our progress by simply opening the Bible and playing a kind of roulette with our finger, letting “chance” dictate what we will read. Have a plan. Are you going to read through the Bible in a year or three years? Are you going to read through a book of the Bible? Are you going to use a devotional guide or reading plan? There are so many different options, but you need to have a plan of how you are going to structure your time.

Do you have some diversity built in to your plan? They say that variety is the spice of life. Keeping diversity as part of your quiet times can help you to commit and to stay committed. Perhaps you can have a rotation for what you do for your devotions. For our family devotions we move through two or three different things throughout the week. One night we might read through a Bible storybook, a family devotional (in the past we have used Exploring Grace Together: Forty Devotionals for the Family ) while the next night we might recite and review the Children’s Catechism. Another night we will work through a World and Life View book called    Who Am I? And What Am I Doing Here?  . This rotation allows the kids variety and keeps the devotion leader (me) interested as well. We all get bored over time with the same routine, so know this about yourself and build in some variety.

Personally, I like to dedicate a year of devotions to reading through a particular book of the Bible. Last year I was working through Acts and Ephesisans and this year I am working through the Psalms. Pick a readable and devotional commentary and work through a book of the Bible verse by verse. Jim Boice has a great set of commentaries on many of the books of the Bible. They are wonderfully detailed while being personal with great illustrations and wonderful application. Sometimes I have in the past taken a devotional guide dedicated to great hymns or missionaries and sprinkled these in from time to time. In addition to this I will find a book on a topic that I am wanting to grow in my understanding of and work these into my rotation. Currently, I am reading through R.C. Sproul’s The Invisible Hand which is about God’s providence.

If you have never read the Bible through all the way, there are many different reading plans available that will allow you to read through the Bible in a year, two years or three years.  The Ligonier website has a great list of different reading plans that you can print off.    Tabletalk Magazine is also a great resource for devotions.    Another resource that gives daily commentary for reading through the Bible is D.A. Carson’s two volume set, For the Love of God which follows M’Cheyne’s Bible Reading Plan. 

We all have the need to “retreat” some times. I hope that you will begin or continue in the habit of daily “retreating” into the arms of the Lord.