The word ritual is full of negativity. But routine and ritual are similar, and they play an important role in day to day life. You and I can leverage purpose and routine to boost your growth in Christ.
Purpose and routine
Often we think of routine as purposeless, but that isn’t always the case. Many of our routines have a purpose. For example, we often get into a routine at the end of the day that ensures that we follow a pre-determined pattern that will ensure we do all the things that we need to do before bed. The same applies to our spiritual growth. We should establish routines to help our spiritual growth.
Our quiet times. One of the biggest obstacles facing many Christian is that they don’t know why they should be having a quiet time at all. Without a purpose, there is no reason to establish routine, and in such cases, few will continue having a quiet time at all. But if we have a purpose for our quiet time, even when we don’t feel like having a quiet time, we can ensure we are consistent, and as a result, we will experience long term growth.
Your purpose drives your consistency
There are many times when we don’t feel like having a quiet time. Normally we’re aware that we don’t want to have a quiet time because we’ve had to think about spending time reading or praying. This thinking tends to arouse our flesh which, of course, desires to hide from the Lord (John 3:20).Routines should serve our larger goals, and our larger goals should be determined primarily by the word of God Click To Tweet
Routine helps us defeat this by reducing the thinking we do in order to follow a pre-determined course of action without requiring the same level of thinking or desire to make it happen. In this sense, a routine can function in the same way railway tracks do for trains – they guide us on pre-determined paths.
This pre-determination is not purposelessness. In fact, the best routines are driven by purpose – the purpose that the Lord has for us as exposed in His word (e.g. 1 These 4:3). Our routines should serve our larger goals, and our larger goals should be determined primarily by the word of God, in conjunction with the person, abilities, and purpose that the Lord has assigned to us.
When we choose to set up routines and rituals for ourselves, and we align these with biblical goals, those routines become a useful tool to help shape our character. Our character, shaped by the word of God then determines our effectiveness. So properly constructed routines are a blessing to us, but also serve to make us a blessing to others. Properly constructed routines are a blessing to us, but also serve to make us a blessing to others. Click To Tweet
Routines and your quiet time
Since routines take the thinking out of having a quiet time, you can (and should) build a routine to help you become consistent in your quiet time. In this case, your routine will take time to set up and become consistent. Given the flesh wants to avoid exposure of sin, we should expect it to take some time and effort for a morning routine to become automatic. But once it is in place that routine will drive a degree of consistency that you didn’t realize was possible.
If having a quiet time two or three days in a row is the sort of exception in your life that stands out, imagine what it would be like if it felt equally weird to miss one or two days each week. That is what a well-ingrained routine will do.
Use routine to overcome the flesh
A routine will also provide you with the ability to override fleshly desires. If you’re like me, the main thing that keeps you from reading the Word is “I don’t feel like it.” When we translate this what we really mean is that we don’t desire God and we’d rather be left alone with our flesh and sin and the way we are. As the word of God says, the flesh would rather hide our sin than have it come into the light.
Having a routine is not a magic cure that will make these desires go away. However, a routine makes it easy to go through a series of steps that culminate in the very activity the flesh is resisting. For example a little while ago, I found myself at my desk where I do my daily quiet time, and as I opened my journal and Bible, I realized I hadn’t even thought about my quiet time that morning. Because I hadn’t had to think about my Bible reading and all that it entailed, there was no resistance to it. My routine had overcome the reluctance of my flesh.
How often do I need to do a quiet time?
Over the years, I’ve often asked myself how often I need to do a quiet time. Here is the answer that I’ve come to: It depends. The number of times I need to do a quiet time each week is determined by how much I need to grow in holiness. More precisely, it is our desire for holiness that determines the number of times we do our quiet time each week. Your desire to be holy and set apart for the Lord and His use will cause you to work diligently to overcome the flesh so that you can become useful to Him. If we don’t desire to set ourselves apart for the Lord’s use, then our quiet time will reflect that. It is our desire for holiness that determines the number of times we do our quiet time each week Click To Tweet
But what about when I want to become holy, but just not at the moment when I come to do a quiet time. Unfortunately, our desires often fail us when we need them most. Here again, is where a routine comes in handy. If a particular series of activities is a something I regularly do, then I just need to ensure that I follow my routine and I will complete this series of steps even if my desires at that moment are lacking.
Let desire drive your routine
Another way to think about this is to ensure I follow my routine a pre-determined number of days per week so that my quiet time happens. If I do this, the outcome over time will amount to more than the individual quiet times do. This way, my quiet time isn’t a slave driver – my desire for holiness drives my quiet time. But if my desire fails me, my routine keeps me on track, and my routine is set up by a desire, so it becomes a tool to keep me on track.
Routine within your quiet time
Of course, this might sound a little simplistic, and in a way it is. In reality, the routine is not merely about getting to having a quiet time but making sure that quiet time is meaningful. I don’t know how many times I’ve read through my Bible and not remembered a thing I’ve read. In this case, there are two things to bear in mind.
The first is that my overall growth will be greater than the sum of its least significant part. The second is that my routine needs to include what I do within my quiet time. A solid quiet time routine needs to focus on the four most important spiritual disciplines. It also needs to start by confronting my heart. I do this with my journal by answering four simple questions, two of which I answer as I begin. As I start my quiet time, my journal prompts me to answer a simple question about the state of my heart before the Lord. Having acknowledged how I really feel, I can then respond biblically to what I find. Set up your routine to confront and deal with your flesh.My quiet time isn't a slave driver - my desire for holiness drives my quiet time Click To Tweet
Don’t routines get boring?
The danger of a routine is that it gets boring. Or at least that is what we tell ourselves to avoid getting into a routine. In my experience, when we’re constantly at war with the flesh, it is anything but boring. Disheartening, discouraging, and sometimes satisfying, but not boring.
By having four spiritual disciplines in your quiet time, you can mix and match them to some extent. Have a routine you follow most days of the week in which you do all four disciplines. But allow different circumstances to determine which of the disciplines you practice within the routine each day.
Routines may sound dull. But properly motivated and organized a daily routine can be a powerful tool to boost growth in holiness. Over time, this growth will be a blessing to ourselves as we avoid sin and serve others. But our growth will also be a blessing to others as we serve them. This comes about when we leverage routine purpose and routine to focus on what the Lord has called us to rather than what our in-the-moment desires try to dictate.