This is the first post in a series on “Building a Better Devotional.” In this series, I talk about the Christian’s devotional life, and give tips on how to build a better devotional. Other posts in this series can be found here. For more articles related to devotionals and hermeneutics, click the side bar menu under “Devotionals & Hermeneutics.“
One of the most common questions I get as a pastor – especially working with youth students and young adults – is, “How do I do devotionals?” Whether it’s a student asking me why he or she should read the Bible, a college student asking me how to get more out of a daily devotional, or a young adult interested in how I personally read the Bible on a daily basis, people are always curious about how to read the Bible. For those who are in Christ, we know that Scripture is not only important, but the very basis of everything we believe. Therefore, a vibrant devotional life is vital to a vibrant discipleship with Christ. However, why is it that so many of us still struggle to be daily devoted to God through Scripture?
The importance of our daily intake of Scripture can be compared to the importance of our daily intake of food. We know we need food to live, and to go days without eating would be detrimental to our health and survival. And when we are hungry, we set out to feed ourselves. Jesus, while being tempted by Satan, equates spiritual food with physical food. In quoting Deuteronomy 8:3:
But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
– Matthew 4:4
If Jesus is saying that spiritual food is to spiritual health as physical food is to physical health, then we need to feed regularly on the Word to be spiritually healthy. To neglect our spiritual feeding on the Word would be to neglect our spiritual vitality and life. However, though we may know and believe this to be true, too often our lives and schedules speak otherwise. Our lack of devotion to God in the Word, I believe, is due to our lack of planning and prioritizing time in the Word.
Plan and Prioritize Spiritual Meal Times
No one, when they are hungry, looks at their watch and concludes that they are too busy to eat. We never skip meals simply because we are too busy. We plan for our meal times every day – 3 times a day, at that! (Or sometimes twice, if you’d rather trade food for sleep). No one, when they are starving, decides to watch more TV or get on the computer as a replacement for food. No amount of entertainment can ever be enough to replace a meal. And yet, so often we treat our spiritual bodies in just the same way.
We skip devotional times because we are too busy and have other more pressing things in the day. We spend our free time in front of the TV, on our devices, or checking our social media apps, rather than seeking God in the Word. A quick look at our schedules reveals the sad reality that we find our jobs, our relationships, and our entertainment more important and more pressing than Scripture. We have traded spiritual feeding from the Word with spiritual deprivation through the world. We are all too content to fill our stomachs with entertainment while we let our hearts waste away.
If we find it hard to spend regular time in the Word, maybe it’s because we are not intentionally planning and prioritizing it. When I plan for a meal, I plan what I am going to eat, and when and where I am going to eat it. I even begin planning for my next meal after the current meal is over. Right when I finish lunch, I find myself thinking about dinner (maybe I need to plan a diet). We need to plan our spiritual “meal times” with the same anticipation and expectancy with which we plan our regular meal times.
Plan what you are going to read and do for your devotionals. I find it much easier to sit down and read the Word when I have a reading schedule I’m following, or a book that I am going through. Plan for a time and place where you can feed on the Word unhindered and unbothered. I find that I am most focused in the mornings and when I am in a coffee shop or a secluded place. So I’ll often guard an hour of my day to spend at a coffee shop and study Scripture. Plan for those times and prioritize them the way you would a meeting with a friend or a loved one. Our spiritual health is much too important to care for only when it’s convenient, or when we feel like it.
Rejoicing in Christ Results in Resting in the Word
Fortunately, our spiritual life or death is not ultimately dependent upon our faithfulness (or lack thereof) in the Word. It is not our obedience through devotionals that saves us, but Christ’s obedience to God through his death.
“The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.”
2 Timothy 2:11-13
No matter how much we may succeed or fail in our faithfulness to God in planning and prioritizing time in the Word, Jesus will never fail in his faithfulness to God for us. Our time spent in the Word is an important part of our spiritual lives, but it is a result of spiritual life, not a cause of it. Remembering this makes devotionals a joy, not a burden. And the more we rejoice in the Cross of Christ, the more we will desire to rest in His Word, thereby increasing our joy. Plan for time in the Word this week. Prioritize it and guard it for the sake of your spiritual health. And remember the great joy we have in our salvation, joy that will increase the more we dine with Jesus in the Word.