I ran across this quote today,
‘The man who doesn’t read good books
has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.’
A thought struck me. In the same way,
The Christian who doesn’t read the Bible
has no advantage over one without Scripture translated in their language.
If I leave my thought here, I will most likely only be heaping feelings of guilt upon you. I understand that many who read this today may have not yet sat with their Bible in their lap. Those who have, are resisting a smug false-piety for having passed this unexpected test.
The ability to read and own books is new on the stage of history. It is fascinating to consider Elijah, Daniel, Peter, (even the Bereans!) and others. They lived powerful, godly lives without having 21st century devotions. They did not get up and read and pray, they probably only prayed. It wasn’t until well after Gutenberg for the present concept of devotions to become even a POSSIBILITY.
There was a season in my life when I had five little ones under the age of seven. I languished under a sense of guilt for not getting up before them to read and pray! How I struggled! I felt guilty for not executing a practice that I thought was not only beneficial-but ESSENTIAL. I assumed I was failing in some way. In truth, I was just an exhausted Mother who was largely incapable of putting more into her schedule.
It took a few years for me to come to a sense of peace in this situation. It was only after I noticed a vibrant habit of mine of converting every thought to a spiritual one that the guilt subsided. As I brushed up against Scriptures from various places, and met with deeper thoughts, I would meditate upon them until a new one came along. Often, something would strike me profoundly and when I finally had a moment to myself, I would study it further. I realized I WAS having devotions, I was just doing them unconventionally.
It is better by far I think, to consider devotions as the ongoing, deliberate act of meditating on God’s Word.
The sitting down and reading is not the crucial part. More is gained if one walks throughout their day, brushing against the Word wherever they go, and relating all they encounter to the truths they have internalized. The transforming element is the meditation of what is before you at any given time, not the habit, albeit good and beneficial, of opening to the reading for that day. I can say with all honesty that I have gained more from this habit than from reading at prescribed times. I am not dismissing the importance of habitual reading, only elevating constant meditation above it.
(I am not speaking of studying the Scriptures. This is different from devotions. We need to frequently compare our thoughts with the truths in Scripture; this requires concentrated exploration of the Bible to find truth. This is not the same as ‘devotions’ as it is commonly practiced.)
Exposure to His Word can come from many things, in many ways… in my experience, being exposed and prompted to dwell upon God’s precepts is what is critical, not the habit of reading. A foolish person will neglect the habit all together and then lament the slowness of his Christianity to produce fruit. A deluded person will religiously sit each morning reading yet have the same fate as the first if they do not continue to meditate upon what they have read when they close the book.
The heart of devotions, is hearing the Word and putting it into practice…it is hearing, however that may be, and then staying focused on it to carry it out. Productive devotions are the moments we spend responding more to our inner reality than that of the worldly circumstance we are in. Devotions are not an act, it is a state of being, grounded on the truth we have heard.