As a young man, Cliff Knight set two alarm clocks to wake him up early for a quiet time with God.
More than 40 years later, the associate pastor and minister to families at Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn now awakens “at the crack of dawn” naturally to engage his mind and heart with the Lord.
Not every believer is an early riser, but that’s not the point. Developing spiritual disciplines can increase contentment and help believers find God in everyday habits.
Believers sometimes struggle to feel God’s presence, but the spiritual disciplines of Bible study, prayer and fellowship are the means to God’s grace, Knight said. Developing habits like memorizing Scripture and journaling helps believers sense the Lord is there, waiting to commune with them.
“Those [disciplines] set my life on a course,” Knight recalled. “The Lord has been faithful to sustain me and walk me through life.”
He talks candidly with students about the death of his son, Ben, in 2017, describing how practicing spiritual disciplines helped him and his wife, Toma, find peace in the Lord.
“I’ve been carrying verses in the front of my wallet over my license for four years,” Knight related. “Any time that hurt comes back, I open up my wallet and literally just hold these verses in my hand and reread them. I know them by heart now. But I reread them and say, ‘This is the truth about God.’”
Setting a D.A.T.E.
Zach Beasley, Baptist Campus Ministries campus minister for Alabama State and Tuskegee universities, said a consistent quiet time is not only biblical, but Jesus Himself set the example. Jesus set a time and location for prayer and fellowship with the Father, Beasley said.
“I define [quiet time] as a Divine Appointment To be Edified (D.A.T.E.), a spin-off phrase I heard when I was in college,” Beasley said.
“Jesus rose early to meet with the Father. And Jesus is our perfect example, which means we should probably meet with God early. This is not to condemn anyone who doesn’t. It just helps in having a quality quiet time.”
Beasley encourages students to follow in the footsteps of Christ by looking for a place where they won’t be disturbed while spending time praying and praising God.
Importance of discipleship
While hobbies, careers, academic pursuits, relationships and financial planning are important and worthy of attention, God’s word doesn’t outline a compartmentalized version of life, said Jerrod Brown, BCM campus minister for Metro Mobile Baptist Campus Ministries. Instead, discipleship is the normal, expected life for the Christ-follower, Brown asserted. Believers are called to be actively focused on and engaged in the Kingdom mission.
“The Apostle Paul, in his second letter to Timothy, exhorts his young disciple to share what Paul himself had taught him with other faithful men who would be able to ‘teach others also,’” Brown noted. “This exhortation is for young Timothy, the early church and the contemporary church — pass on the gospel and the life of the disciple to other faithful people who will pass it on to others.
“Paul shows us that this labor includes multiplying our efforts through other believers,” Brown explained. “Not only are we to ‘teach others also’ (2 Tim. 2:1–2), but they are to teach others as well. We are not to embrace simply ‘discipleship’ but ‘missional discipleship’ that trains others for the labor expected of all disciples.”
Discipleship is a community endeavor, said Will Spivey, college ministry pastor at First Baptist Church Opelika.
God helps believers look more like Jesus by using the community of faith to help shape believers to grow in spiritual maturity and self-awareness, he said.
“What we want to do is have the ability as Christians to grow more and more like Jesus,” Spivey declared. “Part of that is having a biblical understanding of our emotions and how to have control of them and then also growing in self-awareness.”