Scripture Reading: S.S. 7:12; Psa. 57:8-9; 63:1; 78:34; 90:14; 108:2-3; Exo. 16:21
I. Early morning being the best time of the day
What time should believers rise up every day?
A sister once put it well when she said, “How much a person loves the Lord can be judged primarily by the way he chooses between his bed and the Lord. Do you love your bed or the Lord more? If you love your bed more, you sleep a little longer. If you love the Lord more, you rise up a little earlier.” She spoke these words more than thirty years ago. Yet they are still fresh to us today. A man must choose between his love for his bed and his love for the Lord. The more he loves the Lord, the more he will rise up early.
A Christian should rise up early because the early morning is the best time to meet the Lord. Except for those who are sick, all the brothers and sisters should rise up early. Actually, many sicknesses are not sicknesses at all. They become sicknesses because men love themselves too much. Other than those who are advised to rest by doctors, everyone should rise early. We do not want to go to extremes; we advise sick brothers and sisters to sleep more. However, the healthy ones should get up as early as possible. The best time to meet the Lord, to contact Him, and to fellowship with Him is early in the morning. Manna is gathered before the sun rises (Exo. 16:14-21). Anyone who wants to eat God’s food should rise up early. When the sun waxes hot, manna melts and is gone. If we want to receive spiritual nourishment and spiritual edification, and if we want to have spiritual fellowship and spiritual supply, we need to rise up early. If we rise up late, the manna will be gone. The early morning is the very time when God dispenses His spiritual food and holy fellowship to His children. Whoever is late will not gather anything. Many children of God lead a sick life, not because they have spiritual problems, but because they rise up too late. 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. Do not think that this is a small matter. Do not think that this has nothing to do with spirituality; it has much to do with spirituality. Many people are not spiritual because they rise up too late. Many people have been Christians for years, yet they fail to live a proper Christian life because they rise up too late. We do not know of anyone who knows how to pray, yet rises up late. Nor do we know of anyone who has intimate fellowship with God, yet rises up late. All those who know God rise up early. They rise up early as a rule to fellowship with Him.
Proverbs 26:14 says, “As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.” Here it says that a slothful person in bed is like a door that turns upon its hinges. The slothful keeps turning upon his bed; he cannot leave it. He turns to one side on his bed. Then he turns to the other side on his bed. Whichever way he turns, he is still on the bed. Many people cannot part with their bed. They love their bed as they turn from one side to the other. When they turn left, they are on their bed. When they turn right, they are still on their bed. They love to sleep and cannot part with their bed. Many people just want to sleep a little longer; they cannot get out of their bed. If one wants to learn to serve God and be a good Christian, he has to rise up early in the morning every day.
Those who rise up early in the morning reap much spiritual benefit. Their prayers at other times of the day cannot be compared with their prayers in the early morning. Their Bible reading at other times of the day cannot be compared with their reading in the early morning. Their fellowship with the Lord at other times cannot be compared with their fellowship in the early morning. The early morning is the best time of the day. We should spend the best time of the day — the early morning — before the Lord, rather than in other things. Some Christians spend the whole day on other matters and kneel down to read the Bible and pray only at night when they are about to go to sleep. No wonder they are ineffective in their Bible reading, their prayer, and their fellowship with the Lord. They wake up too late in the morning. The moment we believe in the Lord, we should set apart the early morning for fellowshipping with God and for contacting Him.
II. Examples of early rising
In the Bible we find God’s servants rising up early in the morning. Let us consider their examples:
1. Abraham — Gen. 19:27; 21:14; 22:3
2. Jacob — Gen. 28:18
3. Moses — Exo. 8:20; 9:13; 24:4; 34:4
4. Joshua — Josh. 3:1; 6:12; 7:16; 8:10
5. Gideon — Judg. 6:38
6. Hannah — 1 Sam. 1:19
7. Samuel — 1 Sam. 15:12
8. David — 1 Sam. 17:20
9. Job — Job 1:5
10. Mary — Luke 24:22; Mark 16:9; John 20:1
11. The apostles — Acts 5:21
These many verses tell us that God’s servants had the habit of dealing with God early in the morning. Every one of them had the habit of waking early in the morning and fellowshipping with God early in the morning. They rose up early in the morning to do many things related to God’s business. They also rose up early in the morning to consecrate themselves. Although there is no commandment in the Bible that tells us to get up early, there are sufficient examples in the Bible to show us that all faithful servants of God rise up early. Even the Lord Jesus Himself rose up early. He rose up very early in the morning, while it was still night, and went away to a deserted place to pray (Mark 1:35). When He wanted to appoint the twelve apostles, He called them to Himself early in the morning (Luke 6:13). If the Lord had to rise up early to do these things, how much more do we need to rise up early?
Any brother or sister who wants to follow the Lord must never think that there is little difference in rising up an hour early. You must realize that your Bible reading becomes ineffective if you rise up an hour late. Likewise, your prayer becomes ineffective if you rise up an hour late. Although one may spend the same amount of time in reading the Bible, an hour’s difference will produce very different results. Early rising brings in great blessing. We hope that you will not miss the blessing of early rising at the start of your Christian life. One brother was asked at least fifty times during his first three years as a Christian, “What time did you get up this morning?” Early rising is a great blessing. Those who have learned to rise up early know the significance of it. If you do not rise up early in the morning, you will live in spiritual poverty. Late rising brings in much loss. Many spiritual things are lost through late rising.
We have seen many examples from the Bible. How about the servants of God who are not mentioned in the Bible, like George Müller, John Wesley, and many other famous servants of God? They also rose up early in the morning. We can say that almost all the ones we know of or have read about from books, who are of any use in God’s hands, pay attention to the matter of rising early. They call this early rising “morning watch.” All servants of God emphasize morning watch. The term morning watch itself tells us that it is done early in the morning. Have you heard of anyone who keeps watch when the sun is already up? Never! One keeps morning watch early in the morning. This is a good habit, and we Christians should cultivate this habit. God’s children should not be sloppy people. The church has been practicing this for years. We should maintain this good habit of meeting God early in the morning. The term morning watch is not found in the Bible. We can give it another name, but no matter what name we give to it, meeting God early in the morning is a very crucial matter.
III. What to do in the early morning
We do not merely rise up early. There must be spiritual exercise and spiritual content to what we do. Here are a few things to do early in the morning:
A. Fellowship with God
Song of Songs 7:12 shows us that the early morning is the best time to fellowship with the Lord. To fellowship means to open up our spirit and our mind to God and allow Him to enlighten us, speak to us, impress us, and touch us (Psa. 119:105, 147). During this time our hearts are drawn near to God, and we allow God to draw near to our hearts. We should rise up early in the morning to tarry before the Lord, to meditate, to receive leading and impressions from God, to learn to touch Him, and to give Him an opportunity to speak to us.
B. Praise and sing
There must be the sound of praise and singing in the early morning. The early morning is the best time to sing praises to God. When we offer our highest praise to God, our spirit rises to the highest peak.
C. Read the Bible
The early morning is the time for us to gather the manna (which is Christ). What does it mean to eat the manna? It means to enjoy Christ, to enjoy God’s Word, and to enjoy His truth early in the morning every day. After we eat the manna, we have the strength to journey in the wilderness. The early morning is the time to gather the manna. One will not be fed spiritually or be satisfied if he spends his early morning on other things.
We have mentioned already that we should have two Bibles, one with marks and notes in it to use in the afternoon and the other with nothing in it for “eating manna” early in the morning. In the early morning, do not read too much and do not take many portions of the Word. Instead, read a single portion of the Bible carefully, always mingling your reading with unceasing communion with God and singing. This does not mean that you should fellowship with God first, praise second, and then read the Bible last. You have to blend all these things together. At the same time you should also pray. Come to God’s presence and open His Word. As you read, you may be convicted to confess your sins. As you read certain portions, you may be touched by His grace to offer up thanksgiving. You can also pray to God concerning what you have read in the Word. You can say, “Lord, this is truly what I need. This portion, this verse, this word, truly exposes my lack. Lord, fill up this lack of mine.” When you find a promise, you can say, “Lord, I believe in this promise.” When you find grace, you can say, “Lord, I take this grace.” You can also intercede. While you are reading, you may remember the condition of those who fall short of what this portion says. You should not accuse or criticize them. Instead, you should pray, “God, fulfill this word in me. Fulfill this word also in my brother and sister.” You can confess your sins and the sins of others. You can pray for yourself and for others. You can believe for yourself and for others. You can give thanks for yourself and for others. Your Bible reading in the morning should not be too long; it should not cover too much. Two, three, four, or five verses are sufficient. You can dwell on them for an hour. As you read these verses word by word, pray over them, and commune with God through them, you will be filled.
Both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, there were people who fellowshipped with God this way. They knew God and communed with God. Their fellowship with God became part of their lives.
In Psalms David interchanged the pronouns you and He freely. At one moment he would be speaking to man, and at the next moment he would be praying to God. In the same psalm, he would say a few sentences to man and then say something to God. On the one hand, David spoke to man. On the other hand, he spoke to God. The Psalms show us that David was a person who was in constant fellowship with God.
While Nehemiah was working, he would speak a few words and then offer a short prayer. When the king asked him something, he would speak to the king first and then to the Lord. He mingled his work and prayer together. He did not separate his work from his prayer.
Paul wrote the book of Romans to those in Rome. However, more than once he turned his speaking to the Lord. A few times he seemed to have forgotten the fact that he was writing to the Romans. It seemed as if he were talking to God. We can find frequent examples like this in Paul’s Epistles. In an instant he could turn around and speak to God.
Those who have read the autobiography of Madame Guyon will notice one characteristic of hers. Most autobiographies are written for man. But in Madame Guyon’s autobiography, she spoke to man in one instant and to God in the next instant. In one moment she would be speaking to LaCombe (who asked her to write her autobiography), and at the next moment she would be speaking to God. This is fellowship. One does not know where fellowship with God begins and where it ends. Fellowship does not mean to set aside other affairs to pray. Nor does it mean to pray first and then deal with the affairs. It is to do both simultaneously.
Hence, during this early morning hour of gathering manna, you should learn to mingle prayer with God’s Word. You should learn to mingle praise and fellowship with God’s Word. One moment you may be on earth, but the next moment you are in the heavens. One moment you may be in yourself, but the next moment you are in God. If you maintain this practice before God every morning, you will be filled after some time, and God’s word will dwell in you richly. Such reading of God’s Word, such gathering of manna, is indispensable to us. Many brothers and sisters are weak and unable to take the wilderness journey. We need to ask them, “Have you eaten anything?” They cannot walk because they have not eaten enough. Manna is gathered in the early morning. This is why we need to rise up a little earlier. We will not have any manna if we are late. We have to rise up early in the morning to labor in God’s Word.
In the early morning we should fellowship, praise, and gather the manna. We must also pray to the Lord. Psalms 63:1 [KJV] and 78:34 [KJV] both say that we should seek the Lord early. The prayer spoken of in the previous paragraph is a kind of blending prayer. But the prayer we are talking about here is more specific. After one fellowships, praises, and eats manna, he has strength and can present everything in prayer before God. Prayer surely requires much strength. One must first draw near to God early in the morning and be fed. Then he can set aside about half an hour or a quarter of an hour to pray for a few urgent things. He can pray for himself, for the church, or for the world. Of course, he can pray also in the afternoon or at night. But if he takes advantage of the fresh power he has gained, the power acquired in the early morning through fellowshipping with God and eating manna, he will receive greater support.
Every believer should do these four things conscientiously before the Lord early in the morning: fellowship with Him, praise Him, read the Bible, and pray to Him. Whether or not a person has done these four things in the morning is manifested in his walk during the day. George Müller confessed that the degree to which he was fed by the Lord in the morning determined his spiritual condition throughout the whole day. His spiritual condition for the day depended on his feeding before the Lord in the morning. Many Christians find themselves weak during the day because their mornings are ill spent. Of course, there are those who are so far ahead in their spiritual journey that they can experience the total separation of the spirit from the soul. Their outward man is broken, and they are not that easily shaken by anything. However, this is another matter altogether. New believers should learn to rise up early. Once they become loose in this, they become loose in everything, and everything will go wrong. There is a great difference between being nourished and not being nourished in the morning.
A very famous musician once said, “If I skip practicing for one day, I will notice it. If I skip practicing for two days, my friends will notice it. If I skip practicing for three days, my audience will notice it.” If this is true for practicing music, it is even more true for the spiritual lesson of rising up early. If we fail to have a good morning watch before God, we will know it. Those who are experienced in the Lord also will know it when they come into contact with us. They will know that we have not touched the spiritual source. From the very first day, new believers should strictly discipline themselves. Every morning they should rise up early to exercise this way before the Lord.
IV. The practice of early rising
Finally, we should speak a little about actual ways to implement this practice. How can we rise up early? We need to pay attention to a few things.
All early risers must have the habit of going to bed early. No one can stay up late and rise up early. This is like burning a candle at both ends.
Do not set too high a standard for rising. Some people want to rise up at three or four o’clock in the morning. When they find out that they cannot make it, they quit after a few days. It is better to take a moderate course. Five or six o’clock is a suitable time to get up. Get up when the sun is about to rise or has just risen. Always get up around sunrise. If one tries to get up too early, his practice may not last long. An unreasonably high standard will only result in a condemned conscience. Some people have set too high a standard for themselves. They get into problems with their family or their work. When they take hospitality at the homes of others, they get into problems with their hosts. This is not a profitable thing to do. Our standard should be reasonable. We do not advocate extremes. Do not set too high a standard for yourself. Before the Lord you should consider carefully the proper time for you to rise up. You should take into consideration your physical limitations as well as the environment. Set your standard accordingly and keep it.
You may face a little difficulty at the beginning. It is always easy the first and second day. But the third day is difficult. You will find it easy for the first few days. But after a few days, you will love the bed so much that you will not want to get up at all. This is especially true in winter. It takes a long time for us to build up a new habit. Perhaps you are used to getting up late, and your mind has been used to getting up late. But if you rise up early a few times, your mind will gradually adjust to getting up early. After you do this for a few days, you will not want to go back to sleep even if your mind is telling you to do so. In the beginning you will need to force yourself a little in order to rise up early. Before a habit is built up, you need to ask God for grace. Continue to ask until this habit is built up. Try to do this again and again. Give up your bed daily to rise up early. In the end you will rise up early spontaneously. You must build up this habit before God. You must not miss the grace of fellowship early in the morning.
A healthy person does not need more than eight hours of sleep. Do not think that you are an exception. Do not worry that early rising will affect your health. It may be your anxiety which is affecting your health. Many people love themselves too much and worry themselves to sickness. You may need ten or twelve hours of sleep if the doctor says that you are ill. But six to eight hours of sleep are sufficient for a normal person. However, do not go to the extreme. Maintain at least six to eight hours of sleep. We do not expect those who are sick to rise up early. If you are sick, it is all right for you to lie on your bed in the morning and read your Bible there. However, those who are not advised by doctors to stay in bed and who are not really sick should rise up early in the morning.
We hope those who are mature and weighty in the Lord will uphold this practice. The church should push the sluggard ones to go forward. They should be shaken up a little. We should usher the new believers into this great blessing. You should take every chance to ask the new ones, “What time do you get up every day?” After a few days, you have to ask them again, “What time did you get up this morning?” This kind of reminding should go on for at least a year into a person’s initial Christian life. After a year, you may still need to ask, “Brother, what time do you rise up now?” Ask the new believers whenever you see them. You need to go to them and render them some help in this matter. However, if we have not learned the lesson well before the Lord, it will be hard for us to do this to others. This is why we must first learn this lesson well ourselves.
Early rising should be a believer’s first habit among all habits. Giving thanks before meals is a habit. Meeting together on the Lord’s Day is also a habit. Rising up early is even more an essential habit. A new believer needs to build up this habit. It is unfortunate that some have been Christians for years and yet have never enjoyed the blessing of early rising. They have never enjoyed the grace of early rising. If we want to experience this grace, we have to learn this lesson well. If more brothers and sisters will come together to learn this lesson, and if everyone will rise up early in the morning, the church will grow. When one brother receives more light, the whole church will receive more shining. When everyone receives a little more light each day, the church as a whole will become richer. The church is poor today because too few people are receiving their supply from the Head. If everyone receives something from the Head, however little it may seem to be, the culmination of all the little portions will make the whole very rich.
We do not wish to see only a minority of people working in the church. We hope to see all the members rising up before the Lord. We hope to see the whole church rising up to receive God’s riches and grace. What one member receives from the Head becomes the profit of the whole Body. If every brother and sister takes this way, there will be many containers before God, and we will be richer and richer as the days go by. We hope that you will not consider early rising as a small matter. If we all learn to rise up early, and if we all maintain this habit, we will have a bright spiritual future ahead of us.