Article of the week: Is a daily devotional worth my time?
15 May 2021
Major Paul Robinson explores the value of spending time with God’s word
LIKE many Christians, I enjoy daily devotional readings. Sometimes they are a gentle and cosy couple of passages, at other times they are from a more serious tome or a Bible commentary.
During Lent I read Heavenly Humour for the Chocolate Lover’s Soul: 75 Chocolate-Covered Inspirational Readings. In the book Janice Hanna gives the following thought:
‘The Bible isn’t a box of chocolates for us to rip apart, choosing only what feels right at the moment. God desires that we eat every word. Savour it. Let it change us. Sure, there are some things that are harder to swallow than others. Turning the other cheek. Doing good to those who hurt us. Placing the needs of others above our own. But the sweetness far outweighs the difficulty, especially with the Spirit of God leading the way.’
Janice argues that chocolate is an important part of our diet – at least that’s how I read it – but picking and choosing the ones we like means we sometimes neglect others that may become our favourite. It is necessary to eat every single chocolate in the box to gain the full experience. I prefer the toffee and nut ones; my wife, Susan, prefers the soft centres. Yet if I only partake of the hard caramels, I will miss out on the Turkish delights, which I also love.
Janice fears this is how some Christians treat their devotional time: picking and choosing verses they like and ignoring the ones that may bring the most blessing. Who enjoys reading the long lists of families in 1 Chronicles? And yet, when we reach Jabez in chapter 4, we see all the other people in a different light. If we avoid the list, we miss out on an inspirational reminder that God answers prayer.
In Heart Talks on Holiness, Samuel Logan Brengle comments:
‘Most people give about 10 hours a day to their bodies for eating, drinking, dressing and sleeping, and maybe a few minutes to their souls. We ought to give at least one solid hour every day to restful, loving devotion with Jesus over our open Bible, for the refreshing, developing and strengthening of our spiritual lives. If we would do this, God would have an opportunity to teach, correct, inspire and comfort us, reveal his secrets to us and make spiritual giants of us.’
Brengle is advocating quality devotional time. Our days are split into hours for eating, sleeping, working and so on. Is it possible that our Christian life can be squeezed into a couple of minutes a day or less?
When learning to play an instrument I was encouraged to spend 20 minutes a day practising. I was not guaranteed a place in the International Staff Band, but I was in my corps band where I could minister. Regular practice enabled progression and further opportunities.
Susan and I were once facing a difficult decision, so we opened a promise box to see what the Lord had to say on the way forward. Our decision was precise, the promise box was not. We found comforting words about death and the promise of Heaven, but not much about our situation. Yet, when we spend time in God’s word the way forward can become clear and meaningful, even though it may not be what we want to hear.
If I eat a bar of quality chocolate, I can have one or two squares and let their flavour and texture bring me enjoyment. If I eat cheap chocolate, it’s gone in seconds and any pleasure goes with it.
Is a daily devotional worth my time? It is if it brings me closer to the Lord, enables me to become more like him and places me where he can use me. We can put our feet up or our knees down, we can put on some worship music or listen in silence, as long as we open his word, chew on it and let it help us grow as Christians.
If there were one person in Scripture who needed to eat a bar of chocolate, it would be Jeremiah; he was not known for being happy. However, this is what he had to say about God’s word: ‘When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God of Heaven’s armies’ (Jeremiah 15:16 New Living Translation).
Enjoy your time with the Lord – it is worth it.
MAJOR ROBINSON IS CORPS OFFICER, NORWICH MILE CROSS