Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Doug Fields' new book, Refuel: An Uncomplicated Guide to Connecting with God, (Thomas Nelson, 2008).
You have the best of intentions when it comes to connecting with God, yet somehow, you never seem to do what you hope to do. Maybe you’ve gotten up extra early in the morning planning to have an extended prayer time, only to get distracted by the day’s to-do list. Perhaps you’ve scheduled regular times to read and study Scripture, only to find that you don’t open your Bible nearly as often as you’d thought you would.
When your spiritual expectations fall short of reality, it’s easy to feel guilty. You know that you need to refill your spiritual tank regularly to have the energy you need to live well. But despite your best intentions, you keep missing your connection with the One who wants to fuel your life – God.
No matter how you’ve struggled with devotions in the past, it is possible to fill your spiritual tank every day. Here’s how:
Get rid of unreasonable expectations. Stop trying to fit plans into your life that don't naturally fit. There's no magic formula for connecting with God; just because a certain devotional program worked for someone else doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you. If a certain plan you’ve tried proved unsustainable in your life, accept that reality and move on.
Stop feeling guilty. You’re not a bad Christian just because you don’t have a traditional time for devotions. Remember that Jesus came to set you free, and He wants you to approach God in freedom rather than through obligation and guilt. God is far less interested in religious demands than He is in the state of your heart and your desire to connect with Him.
Don’t compartmentalize your life. Seek to live out your faith in every part of your life – not just in church, but also at work, at home, with friends, etc. Invite God to speak to you about each aspect of your life. Listen to what He tells you, and cooperate with His work transforming every part of your life. Don’t hold anything back from your relationship with God. Aim to live consistently as a Christian at all times and in all situations. When you fill your spiritual tank every day, the pressures of daily life won’t stall your spiritual engine.
Stop. Create pauses in your day where you stop to refuel your soul. Realize that, even though it may sometimes seem like you don’t have enough time to stop for spiritual refueling, you actually do if you rearrange your priorities. Make your relationship with God your top priority, and fit everything else in your life around that. Go ahead and say “no” to activities that don’t fit in well with what you value most. Don’t wear busyness as a badge of honor. Although our culture may give you the message that being busy equals being important, that’s a lie. From God’s perspective, you’re just as important when you’re not doing anything at all than when you’re extremely busy. So stop justifying busyness, saying yes to everything, occupying your life with trivial things, and filling your life with too many good things and living with no margin. Instead, decide to stop at various times each day during your normal schedule to check in with God. Practice stopping during different activities throughout each day – from taking a break at your office to waiting in the line of cars to pick your kids up from school. After you practice enough, stopping throughout each day will become a habit for you.
Be quiet. When you turn down the volume on all the noise in your life that distracts you from thinking well, you’re likely to hear God’s voice speaking to you. Find pockets of silence throughout each day that you can use to connect to God. Turn off your cell phone and Blackberry so you’re not always accessible. Refrain from checking your e-mail when doing so isn’t necessary. Turn off your TV at home, and shut off your radio in the car. Get rid of attitudes that create the noise of unhealthy distractions in your life: worry, constantly wanting more than you have, and procrastinating. When you deliberately focus your thoughts away from the distractions of each day, move them toward God and listen to what He may say to you.
Make a connection. Even if the connections you manage to make with God are brief and messy, that’s fine with Him. God simply wants you to connect with Him however you can. God cares more about your desire to connect with Him than any sort of competence in connecting. God’s grace will cover your weaknesses. Thank God that you can approach Him with the confidence that He cares and will listen to whatever you have to say at any time. Express your gratitude to God for His work in your life. You can always count on Him to meet you wherever you are – even if it’s in the middle of a huge mess – and help you. Trust God in spite of your fears, doubts, questions, failures, inadequacies, pain, loneliness, anger, frustration, and loss. God has begun a good work in you to accomplish good purposes, and you can count on Him to finish what He’s started. Expect God to take your messiness and transform it into holiness if you cooperate with His work in your life. When you make connections with God during each day, those connections can take different forms: thinking about Him (such as pondering what you know about Him and what you’d like to discover about Him), reading about Him in the Bible (especially meditating on one particular verse or passage), and praying to Him (sharing any of your thoughts and feelings and listening for whatever He may want to say to you). Connecting regularly with God will give you the spiritual fuel you need by accessing His love and promises.
Ask key questions to keep growing. Ask yourself these questions from time to time as you connect with God more and more frequently: “What do you need to put down in order to follow Jesus?”, “What are you doing to learn more about Jesus and His ways?”, “How are you experiencing excitement in your life because you follow Jesus?”, “What difficulties in your life might God be using to change you?”, “Where are you personally sacrificing convenience for obedience?”, and “Where do you see God rewarding your obedience?”. Let the answers to these questions motivate you to be more intentional about connecting with God so you can experience the joy of a spiritually full life.
Adapted from Refuel: An Uncomplicated Guide to Connecting with God, copyright 2008 by Doug Fields. Published by Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tn., www.thomasnelson.com.
Doug Fields graduated from SCC in 1984 (now Vanguard), and received his MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1986. Doug has served as a youth pastor for 25 years, and has been teaching pastor at Saddleback Church since 1992. Doug has been a global youth ministry leader through his books, speaking and youth ministry resources. He is the award-winning author of more than 40 books, many of which serve as curriculum in seminaries and Bible colleges. Besides speaking regularly to teenagers and the congregation of Saddleback Church, Doug can also be found speaking to youth workers around the world. Doug would say his greatest accomplishment is marrying way out of his league to his wife Cathy of 23 years. They have three teenage children; Torie, Cody and Cassie.
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Originally published Wednesday, 21 November 2012.