by Cavin Miller
And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
The Bible study that I help lead on campus ran late. I’d been on campus since morning, and when I got home my wife wanted to hear about my day. I finished doing the dishes and finally got to bed around 11:00. At 2:00 am, my 18-month-old son was suddenly wide awake and wanted to play. We pleaded with him (and with God) to go back to bed and he finally dozed off at 3:30. My alarm went off at 6. My first meeting of the day was at 8:00, and I knew if I was going to spend any time reading my Bible and praying it would have to be now. But I was tired. I hit the snooze button once. Twice. Three times… My son woke me up at 7 and my day started.
Now consider Jesus. After teaching and healing in the Synagogue (v. 21-28) he goes to Simon’s house and heals Simon’s mother-in-law (v. 29-31). Word of his miracles spreads, and at sundown it says that “the whole city was gathered together at the door” (v. 33). He proceeds to heal “many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons” (v. 34). It doesn’t say how long he was at it, but I imagine at some point they started lighting lamps and Jesus continued to heal well into the night. This was a long day for Jesus. Now look at verse 35.
“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” After a long day of teaching and healing that probably went well into the night, Jesus wakes up early to spend time in prayer. Even though everyone was looking for him (v. 37) he takes the time to be with his Father and pray. And this wasn’t an isolated incident! Luke 5:15-16 says, “But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” Withdrawing from the public eye to pray and be with his Father was a normal part of Jesus’s life. And if we hope to follow him and thrive in the work he’s called us to do, we’ll have to learn the habit of getting away to be with the Father, too.
This habit of daily time with the Father is often referred to as a “devotional life” and consists of worship, prayer, and reading your Bible. Your devotional life is arguably the most important part of your life as a Christian. I don’t say that lightly. If you are going to thrive as a Christian and as a man, you must prioritize your daily time with God. To get you started, let me share with you two verses that motivate me to spend time with God, and a few practical applications.
The first motivating verse is John 15:4-5, which says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” I want to make spending time with God a daily priority because apart from him, I can do nothing. Like a branch that isn’t connected to the vine, if I’m not connected to God through his son Jesus, then I won’t bear fruit. If Jesus himself needed to spend time with God to do his job on earth, what hope do I have if I don’t do it? If you want your life to count, to leave a legacy, to see lasting fruit from your life then you don’t have a choice. You must be connected to the vine!
The second motivating verse is 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” This verse makes a bold statement about the power of the Bible to change our lives. The Bible, properly used, can train us to become men of God who are equipped for every good work. As one who has always wondered, “Am I enough?” the prospect of being fully equipped for the work God has for me is incredibly appealing! I want to spend daily time in God’s word because I want to be a complete man of God who isn’t swayed and distracted by the culture of this world.
There are many other verses that highlight the value and importance of God’s word (Psalm 119) and the power of prayer (John 15:7). One of my favorite questions to ask Godly older men is, “What verses motivate you to spend time with God?” And as you spend time discovering the treasures in the Bible and begin to see God answer prayers, you too will become more motivated to spend time with him. But if you’re new to this idea, it can be daunting just knowing where to start. Let me give you a few practical ideas:
- Schedule a 30-minute block into your morning routine to meet with God. Do whatever it takes to protect this time. For some, this means going to bed earlier so they can wake up before class. For others, this might mean investing in a small coffee pot to help get you going in the morning. 30 minutes is a good starting place, but don’t stop there. Give him as much time as you can afford. I know guys that spend 2 hours with God every morning!
- Pick a book of the Bible to read and commit to reading one chapter a day. If you have a Bible reading plan, or a group devotional, this works too. The goal is not to get through the Bible as fast as you can, but to meet with God every day and listen to what he wants to say to you through his word.
- Spend at least 10 minutes in prayer. Spend time thanking God for everything he’s done for you, praising him for who he is, confessing sin, and asking him to do things for you and others. Prayer doesn’t have to be polished. Come to him as a child and know that he is a loving father. Keep a list of prayers for yourself and others, and take note of when God answers them.
- No matter what happens, keep at it! If you miss a day, keep at it. If you miss a week, keep at it! Keep fighting to make it a daily part of your life. Over time, you’ll be amazed at how much you cherish your daily time with God, and how much it affects you when you miss it.
A short word to college students. I know life feels busy right now, but trust me, it gets busier. Soon, a full-time job, a wife, and kids will demand more and more of your time. Cherish the time you have in college. If you don’t make meeting with God a part of your life now, it will only be harder to do later. Lay a solid foundation for yourself now. Build good habits, and set yourself up well for the future. I look back with great joy on the time I spent with God in college. Countless verse that he impressed on me have shaped who I am today. I can recall countless prayers he answered.
Application: If you haven’t already developed this habit, set aside time tomorrow morning to meet with God. If you already have good habits in place, is there something God is impressing on you from this reading? Maybe he wants you to spend more time with him? Maybe he wants you to pray for bigger things? Talk to him about this.