Expectations play a key role in our motivation and our success. This is true also in regard to an effective devotional life.
This is a short list, but it should help you set your expectations appropriate.
1. Don’t expect to immediately be logging 1-2 hours of devotional time each day. Start with some simple goals. Seek to spend 10 minutes in Bible reading and prayer (try 5 of each). Think of it like running. The first day you may only be able to run a half of a mile. But the next day you do it again. Then the next day you go a little farther. The next week you are running over a mile, and so on. Start with 10 minutes and then within a couple of months, don’t be surprised that you now need 20-30 minutes. Jesus would spend an entire night in prayer sometimes. If you try to start like that, you will probably burn out fast.
2. Do expect to encounter God. God will meet you in your devotional times. Sometimes His loving presence will be so real you will not want it to end. These times are sweet. They are powerful, meaningful, and can revolutionize your life in a moment. Moses came off his mountaintop experience with God and his face was glowing. Jonathan Edwards described an amazing encounter with God. It started as just a routine walk through the woods talking with the Lord…
This grace that appeared so calm and sweet, appeared also great above the heavens. The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent, with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conception–which continued, as near as I can judge, about an hour; which kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears, and weeping aloud.”
3. Don’t expect that kind of dramatic experience every time you meet with God. If you do, you will be radically disappointed. We long for the mountain top experiences, but the truth is most of our lives our lived in the trenches, in the daily grind of life. You may go weeks on end without having any significant emotional encounters with the Lord. But that does not mean you have not met with Him. Oftentimes he is speaking just as much to you in the “still, small” voice. Sometimes He is teaching you more in the times in which you are not “feeling” His presence. You will make a tremendous leap forward in your spiritual journey when you accept by faith that your time in His Word and in prayer has been important and significant even when you don’t “feel” it.
4. Do expect to experience gradual growth as a result of your consistent devotional habits. God works daily in your life. Eugene Peterson is credited with the quote that the spiritual walk with Christ is a “long obedience in the same direction.” Remember that the Christian life is a marathon not a sprint. Stay consistent in keeping your time with God and over the course of time you will be surprised by how much you have grown. It is kind of like watching children grow. You cannot actually see them growing, but in a year’s time it’s amazing how many inches and pounds they’ve added.
What would you add to this list? Do you find that expectations play an important role in impacting your devotional time?