9. The Principles of Practicing Daily Devotions
Relevant Words of God:
Faith in God necessitates a normal spiritual life, which is the foundation for experiencing God’s words and entering into reality. Does all your current practice of prayers, of drawing near to God, of hymn-singing, praise, meditation, and pondering the words of God amount to a “normal spiritual life”? None of you seems to know. A normal spiritual life is not limited to such practices as praying, singing hymns, participating in church life, and eating and drinking of God’s words. Rather, it involves living a new and vibrant spiritual life. What matters is not how you practice, but what fruit your practice bears. Most people believe that a normal spiritual life necessarily involves praying, singing hymns, eating and drinking the words of God or pondering His words, regardless of whether such practices actually have any effect or lead to true understanding. These people focus on following superficial procedures without any thought to their results; they are people who live in religious rituals, not people who live within the church, and much less are they people of the kingdom. Their prayers, hymn singing, and eating and drinking of God’s words are all just rule-following, done out of compulsion and to keep up with trends, not out of willingness nor from the heart. However much these people pray or sing, their efforts will bear no fruit, for what they practice is just the rules and rituals of religion; they are not actually practicing God’s words. They focus only on making a fuss over how they practice, and they treat God’s words as rules to follow. Such people are not putting God’s words into practice; they are just gratifying the flesh, and performing for other people to see. These religious rules and rituals are all human in origin; they do not come from God. God does not follow rules, nor is He subject to any law. Rather, He does new things every day, accomplishing practical work. Like people in the Three-Self Church, who limit themselves to practices such as attending morning services every day, offering evening prayers and prayers of gratitude before meals, and giving thanks in all things—however much they do and for however long they do it, they will not have the work of the Holy Spirit. When people live amidst rules and have their hearts fixed on methods of practice, the Holy Spirit cannot work, because their hearts are occupied by rules and human notions. Thus, God is unable to intervene and work on them, and they can only continue living under the control of laws. Such people are forever incapable of receiving God’s praise.
Excerpted from “Regarding a Normal Spiritual Life” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
A normal spiritual life is a life lived before God. When praying, one can quiet one’s heart before God, and through prayer, one can seek the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, know God’s words, and understand God’s will. By eating and drinking of His words, people can gain a clearer and more thorough understanding of God’s current work. They can also gain a new path of practice, and will not cling to the old; what they practice will all be to achieve growth in life. As for prayer, it is not about speaking a few nice-sounding words or breaking down in tears before God to show how indebted you are; rather, its purpose is to train oneself in the use of the spirit, allowing one to quiet one’s heart before God, to train oneself to seek out guidance from God’s words in all matters, so that one’s heart can be drawn to a fresh new light each day, and so that one will not be passive or lazy and may set foot upon the right track of putting God’s words into practice. Most people nowadays focus on methods of practice, yet they do not do so in order to pursue the truth and achieve life growth. This is where they have gone astray. There are also some who are capable of receiving new light, but their methods of practice do not change. They bring their old religious notions with them as they look to receive God’s words of today, so what they receive is still doctrine colored by religious notions; they are not receiving today’s light simply. As a result, their practices are tainted; they are the same old practices in new packaging. However well they might practice, they are hypocrites. God leads people in doing new things every day, demanding that each day they gain new insight and understanding, and requiring that they not be old-fashioned and repetitive. If you have believed in God for many years, yet your methods of practice have not changed at all, and if you are still zealous and busy about external matters, yet do not have a quiet heart to bring before God to enjoy His words, then you will obtain nothing. When it comes to accepting God’s new work, if you do not plan differently, do not go about your practice in a new way, and do not pursue any new understanding, but instead cling to the old and receive only some limited new light, without changing the way you practice, then such people as you are in this stream in name only; in actuality, they are religious Pharisees outside the stream of the Holy Spirit.
To live a normal spiritual life, one must be able to receive new light daily and pursue a true understanding of God’s words. One must see the truth clearly, find a path of practice in all matters, discover new questions through reading God’s words each day, and realize one’s own inadequacies so that one may have a longing and seeking heart that moves one’s entire being, and so that one may be quiet before God at all times, deeply afraid of falling behind. A person with such a longing, seeking heart, who is willing to continually attain entry, is on the right track of spiritual life. Those who are moved by the Holy Spirit, who desire to do better, who are willing to pursue being perfected by God, who long for a deeper understanding of God’s words, who do not pursue the supernatural but rather pay a real price, who truly care for God’s will, who actually attain entry so that their experiences are more genuine and real, who do not pursue empty words and doctrines or pursue to feel the supernatural, who do not worship any great personality—these are the ones who have entered into a normal spiritual life. Everything they do is intended to achieve further growth in life and to make them fresh and lively in spirit, and they are always able to attain entry actively. Without realizing it, they come to understand the truth and enter into reality.
Excerpted from “Regarding a Normal Spiritual Life” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
No step is more crucial to entering God’s words than quieting your heart in His presence. It is a lesson that all people are in urgent need of entering at present. The paths of entry into quieting your heart before God are as follows:
1. Withdraw your heart from external matters. Be at peace before God, and give your undivided attention to praying to God.
2. With your heart at peace before God, eat, drink, and enjoy God’s words.
3. Meditate on and contemplate God’s love and ponder God’s work in your heart.
First, begin from the aspect of prayer. Pray with undivided attention and at fixed times. No matter how pressed you are for time, how busy your work, or what befalls you, pray every day as normal, and eat and drink God’s words as normal. As long as you eat and drink God’s words, no matter what your surroundings are, you will have great enjoyment in your spirit, and you will be undisturbed by the people, events, or things around you. When you ordinarily contemplate God in your heart, what goes on outside cannot bother you. This is what it means to possess stature. Begin with prayer: Praying quietly before God is most fruitful. After that, eat and drink the words of God, seek out the light in God’s words by pondering them, find the path to practice, know God’s purpose in speaking His words, and understand them without deviation. Ordinarily, it should be normal for you to be able to draw close to God in your heart, to contemplate God’s love and to ponder the words of God, without being disturbed by external things. When your heart has achieved a certain degree of peace, you will be able to muse silently and, within yourself, to contemplate God’s love and truly draw near to Him, regardless of your surroundings, until finally you reach the point where praise wells up in your heart, and it is even better than prayer. Then you will be possessed of a certain stature. If you are able to achieve the states of being described above, it will be proof that your heart is truly at peace before God. This is the first basic lesson. Only after people are able to be at peace before God can they be touched by the Holy Spirit, and enlightened and illuminated by the Holy Spirit, and only then are they able to have true communion with God, as well as to grasp God’s will and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They will then have entered onto the right track in their spiritual lives. When their training to live before God has reached a certain depth, and they are able to forsake themselves, to despise themselves, and to live in God’s words, then their hearts are truly at peace before God. Being able to despise oneself, curse oneself, and forsake oneself is the effect achieved by God’s work, and cannot be done by people on their own. Thus, the practice of quieting one’s heart before God is a lesson people should immediately enter.
Excerpted from “On Quieting Your Heart Before God” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
If you would have your heart truly at peace before God, then you must do the work of conscious cooperation. This is to say that every one of you must have a time for your devotions, a time when you put aside people, events, and things; settle your heart and quiet yourself before God. Everyone must keep individual devotional notes, recording their knowledge of God’s word and how their spirit is moved, regardless of whether they are profound or superficial; everyone must consciously quiet their heart before God. If you can dedicate one or two hours each day to true spiritual life, then your life that day will feel enriched and your heart will be bright and clear. If you live this kind of spiritual life every day, then your heart will be able to return more into God’s possession, your spirit will become stronger and stronger, your condition will constantly improve, you will become more capable of walking the path on which the Holy Spirit leads, and God will bestow increased blessings upon you. The purpose of your spiritual life is consciously to gain the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is not to observe rules or conduct religious rituals, but truly to act in concert with God, truly to discipline your body—this is what man should do, so you should do this with the utmost effort. The better your cooperation and the more effort you commit, the more your heart will be able to return to God and the better you will be able to quiet your heart before Him. At a certain point, God will gain your heart completely. No one will be able to sway or capture your heart, and you will belong completely to God. If you walk this path, then God’s word will reveal itself to you at all times and enlighten you about everything that you do not understand—this can all be achieved through your cooperation. This is why God always says, “All who act in concert with Me, I will reward twice over.” You must see this path clearly. If you wish to walk the right path, then you must do all that you can to satisfy God. You must do all that you can to attain a spiritual life. At the start, you may not achieve great results in this pursuit, but you must not allow yourself to regress or wallow in negativity—you must keep working hard! The more you live a spiritual life, the more your heart will be occupied by the words of God, always concerned with these matters, always bearing this burden. After that, reveal your innermost truth to God through your spiritual life; tell Him what you are willing to do, what you are thinking about, your understanding and view of His word. Do not hold back anything, not even a little bit! Practice speaking the words within your heart and revealing your true feelings to God; if it is in your heart, then by all means, say it. The more you speak in this way, the more you will feel God’s loveliness, and God will tug more strongly on your heart. When this happens, you will feel that God is dearer to you than anyone else. You will never leave God’s side, no matter what. If you practice this kind of spiritual devotional on a daily basis and do not put it out of your mind, but treat it as a matter of great importance in your life, then God’s word will occupy your heart. This is what it means to be touched by the Holy Spirit. It will be as if your heart has always been possessed by God, as if that which you love is always in your heart. No one can take that away from you. When this happens, God will truly live inside you and have a place within your heart.
Excerpted from “A Normal Spiritual Life Leads People Onto the Right Track” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
When you eat and drink the words of God, you must measure the reality of your own state against them. That is, when you discover your shortcomings in the course of your real experience, you must be capable of finding a path to practice, of turning your back on your incorrect motivations and notions. If you always strive for these things and pour your heart into achieving them, then you will have a path to follow, you will not feel empty, and thus you will be able to maintain a normal state. Only then will you be someone who carries a burden in your own life, who has faith. Why is it that some people, after reading God’s words, are unable to put them into practice? Is it not because they cannot grasp the most crucial things? Is it not because they do not take life seriously? The reason that they cannot grasp the crucial things and have no path to practice is that when they read God’s words, they are unable to relate their own states to them, nor can they master their own states. Some people say: “I read God’s words and relate my state to them, and I know that I am corrupt and of poor caliber, but I am incapable of satisfying God’s will.” You have only seen the very surface; there are many real things that you do not know: how to put aside the enjoyments of the flesh, how to put aside self-righteousness, how to change yourself, how to enter into these things, how to improve your caliber, and from which aspect to begin. You only grasp a few things on the surface, and all that you know is that you are indeed very corrupt. When you meet your brothers and sisters, you talk about how corrupt you are, and it seems that you know yourself and carry a great burden for your life. In fact, your corrupt disposition has not changed, which proves you have not found the path to practice.
Excerpted from “Practice (7)” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
In your daily life, you must understand which words you say and which things you do might cause abnormality in your relationship with God, and then rectify yourself to enter into the correct manner. At all times, examine your words, your actions, your each and every move, and all your thoughts and ideas. Gain a proper understanding of your real state and enter into the manner of the Holy Spirit’s work. This is the only way to have a normal relationship with God. By assessing whether your relationship with God is normal, you will be able to correct your intentions, understand the nature and essence of man, and truly understand yourself, and, in doing so, you will be able to enter into real experiences, forsake yourself in a real way, and submit with intention. As you experience these matters concerning whether or not your relationship with God is normal, you will find opportunities to be perfected by God and become able to grasp many states of the Holy Spirit’s work. You will also be able to see through many of Satan’s tricks and penetrate its conspiracies. Only this path leads to being perfected by God. You put right your relationship with God, that you may submit to His arrangements in their entirety, and that you may enter even more deeply into real experience and receive even more of the Holy Spirit’s work.
Excerpted from “How Is Your Relationship With God?” in The Word Appears in the Flesh
When people betray a corrupt disposition; when they indulge in pleasures of the flesh and grow distant from God; or when God works in a way that is at odds with their own ideas, and complaints arise within them, they should make themselves aware at once that this is a problem, and a corrupt disposition; it is rebellion against God, opposition to God; it does not accord with the truth, and is anathema to God. When people realize these things, they should not complain, or become negative and idle, and less should they be upset; instead, they should become capable of more profound self-reflection and self-knowledge. In addition, they should become able to come before God proactively, and must not be passive. They should take it upon themselves to come before God to seek and accept God’s reproach and discipline, and should immediately turn their state around, such that they are able to practice according to the truth and the words of God, and can act according to the principles. In this way, your relationship with God will grow increasingly normal, as will the state within you. You will be able to identify corrupt dispositions, the essence of corruption, and the various ugly states of Satan with increasing clarity. No longer will you utter such foolish and childish words as “it was Satan interfering with me,” or “it was an idea Satan gave me.” Instead, you will have accurate knowledge of corrupt dispositions, of the essence of people’s opposition to God, and of the substance of Satan. You will have a more accurate way of treating these things, and these things will not constrain you. When you have revealed a bit of your corrupt disposition, or transgressed, or have done your duty perfunctorily, or when you often find yourself in a passive, negative state, you will not become weak or lose faith in God and in His salvation. You will not live amid such circumstances, but will face your own corrupt disposition correctly, and be capable of a normal spiritual life, and, when your corrupt disposition is revealed, you will immediately be able to reverse its course, live at once before God, and seek His discipline and reproach. You will not be controlled by your corrupt disposition, nor by the essence of Satan, by your various negative and passive states, but grow faith in the pursuit of truth, in salvation, and in accepting God’s judgment, chastisement, discipline, and reproach. In this way, will people not live freely? This is the path of practicing and gaining the truth, and so, too, is it the path of salvation. Corrupt dispositions have taken root deep within people; the essence and nature of Satan control their thoughts, behavior, and mentality; yet, in the presence of the truth, the work of God, and His salvation, none of this is of concern, and it presents no difficulties.
Excerpted from “How to Solve the Problem of Being Careless and Perfunctory When Performing Your Duty” in Records of Christ’s Talks
Some people put a lot of enthusiasm into their pursuit and yet fail to enter onto the right track. This is because they are too careless and pay no attention to spiritual things. They have no idea how to experience God’s words, and do not know what the work and presence of the Holy Spirit are. Such people are enthusiastic but foolish; they do not pursue life. That is because you lack the slightest bit of knowledge of the Spirit, you know nothing of development in the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work, and you are ignorant of the state within your own spirit. Is the faith of such people not a foolish kind of faith? The pursuit of such people ultimately yields nothing. The key to achieving growth in life in one’s faith in God is knowing what work God does in your experience, beholding the loveliness of God, and understanding the will of God, such that you defer to all of God’s arrangements, have God’s words wrought into you so that they become your life, and thereby satisfy God. If your faith is a foolish faith, if you pay no heed to spiritual matters and to changes in your life disposition, if you exert no effort toward the truth, will you be able to grasp God’s will? If you do not understand what God asks, then you will be incapable of experiencing, and will thus have no path to practice. What you must pay attention to as you experience God’s words is the effect they produce in you, so that you may come to know God from His words. If you only know to read God’s words, but do not know how to experience them, does this not show that you are ignorant of spiritual matters? Right now, most people are incapable of experiencing God’s words, and thus they do not know the work of God. Is this not a failing in their practice? If they carry on like this, at what point will they be capable of experiencing things in their rich fullness and achieving growth in their lives? Does this not amount merely to empty talk? There are many among you who focus on theory, who know nothing of spiritual matters, and yet still wish to be put to great use by God and to be blessed by God. This is totally unrealistic! Thus, you must put an end to this failing, so that you may all enter onto the right track in your spiritual lives, have real experiences, and truly enter into the reality of God’s words.
Excerpted from “How to Enter Into a Normal State” in The Word Appears in the Flesh