Of all the spiritual disciplines, rising up early in the morning to enjoy God is the first that a new Christian should cultivate.
This is because:
- God’s intention is that Christ would “have the first place in all things” (Col. 1:18), including our personal universe and all that revolves around us. The battle for Christ’s preeminence begins first thing in the morning. We choose every morning how we will align ourselves with God’s determination for the universe. This is awesome—we are privileged to play a small part in securing Christ’s actual preeminence in actual situations! My aspiration is that God would be able to say to me, “You helped make Colossians 1:18 a reality.”
- The habits we build up in the morning have a long-lasting effect on our spiritual condition before God.
And while overcoming the pillow early in the morning has always been a challenge down throughout the ages—as Proverbs 6:9 makes evident—our generation now must also overcome technology with its incessant demand for out attention. The pillow and the smartphone, both allied against us. A second front has been opened! So whether it’s being unable to get out of bed in the morning or being unable to ignore your iPhone in the morning, understanding WHY this practice is so important is crucial in beginning to cultivate it.
Enjoying God for Christ’s Preeminence
Moses depicts the effect that our morning time can have on the rest of our life:
Satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness that we may give a ringing shout and rejoice all our days. –Psalm 90:14
In this verse, “that” is an important word, linking the cause with the effect. If we build up the habit of enjoying God as our satisfaction in the morning, we will be positively effected for the rest of our life. Discovering God as our greatest enjoyment will trump all other joys and become a source of great motivation to appear before God in the morning.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When will I come and appear before God? –Psalm 42:2
“Enjoying God” is really the best way of putting this. Although some Christians may not be familiar with the concept of enjoying God, it has a rich heritage among Christian teachers that extends back to the inspired text (Psa. 43:4). John Piper has made famous the saying, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Augustine 1500 years before him said, “This reward is the supreme reward—that we may thoroughly enjoy God…” George Mueller said, “The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.” Witness Lee said, “As God’s children, we need to change our concept and see that God’s only desire is to give Himself to us to be our enjoyment… We simply need to enjoy Him, and His glory will be expressed through us.”
This joyful encounter with the living God in the morning has been given different names by different people—morning watch, morning devotional, personal time, quiet time, etc.— and while I don’t really mind WHAT it’s called, I DO think the name should hint at its indispensable ingredient. I like to call it morning revival because I believe the most critical experience involved here is meeting the living God in the morning to experience anew His act of giving life. Some good verses on this are John 5:21, 25, 6:63, and 1 Cor. 15:45.
This encounter can happen most substantially through praying the Bible (I’m anticipating a future post here), which is the word of life (Phil. 2:16) that embodies and conveys the life-giving Spirit. In this way God’s word can enliven us:
My soul clings to the dust; enliven me according to Your word. –Psalm 119:25
The takeaway: Moses links our lifelong enjoyment of God with our daily enjoyment of God, and only the enjoyment of God will cause us to desire His preeminence.
Root and Branch
The Bible also uses the example in nature of roots and branches:
If the root is holy, the branches are also. –Romans 11:16
Beneath, his roots are dried up; and above, his branch is withered. –Job 18:16
Although both these verses have a specific doctrinal context for their interpretation, the principle they embody is perfectly suited for illustrating the necessity of morning revival. The root is the unseen, hidden source of our day. The branches represent our visible life and conduct before man as the organic development of our root system. Naturally, the relationship here is one of continuity, growth, development, and reciprocation. Our roots—what we are absorbing and anchoring into—are deterministic of our development.
Like Psalm 90, these two verses present alternative cause-and-effect scenarios. If the root of our day is holy, then our daily living will be an extension of that holiness. If we absorb God’s holiness in our contact with Him in the morning, that very holiness will be transported throughout the branches of our day. This is how God’s divine attributes can fill our human virtues for His glory. In Colossians, Paul tells us that we are rooted in Christ and, through our organic union with Him, the rich elements of what He is are absorbed by us as nutrients for our growth.
As therefore you have received the Christ, Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, having been rooted and being built up in Him… –Colossians 2:6-7
Certainly this image of being rooted in Christ is still in Paul’s mind 11 verses later when he says that the Body of Christ is receiving a rich supply from Christ and is therefore growing with the growth of God (Col. 2:19). In this growth process the nutrients of the soil get absorbed through the roots and then become the substance with which the plant actually grows. The growth of the plant comes from the soil, and the substance and constitution of the plant itself is the element of the soil that has been assimilated. When we absorb the rich supply of the all-inclusive Christ in whom we’re rooted, the entire Body grows with the growth of God until Christ is all and in all (Col. 3:10).
Thus our branches are determined by our roots. Watchman Nee translates the illustration with startling clarity:
Many children of God have no lack in consecration, zeal, or love, but they cannot live a normal Christian life because they rise up too late.
The takeaway: our spiritual health and our ability to express God are determined by the root of our day.
God’s two overarching desires in Colossians—that Christ be preeminent and that Christ be all—are practically worked out through a daily habit of morning revival. Of course, this benefits us immensely as well. But while discipline is essential in cultivating this practice, nothing motivates me more than seeing this in the context of enjoying God and being rooted in Christ.
1. John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, p. 10
2. Saint Augustine, On Christian Teaching 1.32.35
3. George Mueller, The Autobiography of George Mueller: The Life of Trust, p. 206
4. Witness Lee, How to Enjoy God and Practice the Enjoyment of God, pp. 29-31
5. Watchman Nee, CWWN 48:166