Devotional materials are a mainstay of modern Christian living. Oddly enough throughout my life as a Christian I haven’t used devotionals. I tried using them when I was just about to start my spiritual adventure. Back then the one I used just didn’t engage me. Soon after I made a momentous discovery: how to study the Bible for myself. If it was difficult using a devotional then now it became almost impossible. My appetite for God’s Word had expanded exponentially because I now knew what to do with it. If there was a devotional from a man of God whom I enjoyed I would read it. The thing was I’d read the whole thing at a sitting trying to find out new things. One particular humorous thing I always did in “using” a certain devotional was ignoring the instructions on how to use it.
Generally I have no problems with devotionals. Anything that helps a believer is good and devotionals are a great tool when you are starting out. My issue is with the way Christians use devotionals and extra-biblical material in general. Instead of developing the capacity to handle God’s Word we rely on what others have written. Everything the Christian knows then becomes filtered through the lens of the experience of others. Extra-biblical material becomes a spiritual crutch by which we amble slowly in our walk of faith. What every Christian should seek is a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit. There is nothing as satisfying as knowing the Truth for yourself. Every avid student of God’s Word relishes those “aha” moments when there is a revelation from the Holy Spirit. These glorious epiphanies fill you with a joy that can only come from him. There are a plethora of devotional material but undoubtedly the best devotional material you will ever find is in the Scriptures itself.
Knowing my background with devotionals it’s quite ironic that two years ago I did write a devotional. I didn’t write it because I felt I had a point to prove. The primary reason for writing the devotional was because it was an initiative of the ministry I am in. We wanted to add our take on devotionals. Our goal was to write a devotional that would provoke the average Christian to go deeper and further in the Word of God. We did not want our devotional to indulge lazy Bible study habits. We sought to make a guide and not an instruction manual. For about a month I sat down writing and editing the material. The theme of the first issue was the man Christ Jesus. We explored the human aspect of the Son of God and how he interacted with the world around him. We wanted to take a behind the scenes look at the life of Jesus. We wanted to show the side of him that is often not talked about. I hoped and prayed that what I wrote would be a blessing to others. The thing was that it was a blessing most of all to me.
On account of the perspective we wished to present I spent most of my time studying the Gospels. By the time I was done I felt I had spent a month with the Jesus the Twelve knew and loved. Out of the writing process I emerged with a new perspective on Jesus the Christ. My perception of Jesus had been revitalized. I encountered the energy and intensity of his person. I knew the strength of his character and the tenderness of his affections for us. Above all I realised his passion for God. He had become so much more relatable, so much more comely.
The purpose of devotionals is to kindle devotion to the Master. Pure devotion is a commitment to something or someone greater than yourself. In the life of Jesus I saw the disciplines and habits he formed so that he was always in touch with the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not have thirty-minute morning devotions. He spent mornings and nights in prayer and supplication. He never compromised on the time he spent with God. Devotion must leave the pages of a book and be written on our hearts, seen and read by those around us. For many people the thought of spending hours in prayer and study is quite unrealistic. Maybe, just maybe, we really need to rethink the meaning of devotion. Whether we like it or not the affections of our hearts show in our lives. Jesus made the astute comment that where our heart is there our treasure lies.
I read a while ago that the most popular book of the Bible is the Psalms. The article said Christians quote it more than any other part of the Bible. There is a persistent quality with each psalm. There is a deep personal connection between each psalm and its author. Many psalms of David can be traced to episodes in his life recorded in other parts of the Bible. I doubt there is a devotional in the world that can match the Book of Psalms. In my opinion the Book of Psalms is the best devotional. There is a certain candour and emotion with the book that is hard to replicate. Not only were the verses personal, God was personal to them. Each psalm was inspired by God himself, no wonder there is an overall prophetic tone to the book.
Instead of combing through pages and pages of devotional material perhaps the best devotional we’ll ever encounter is the one we write ourselves. It is about time the average believer is able to take a journey through the Word of God, a personal walk with the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures. This Biblical epic is a daily chronicle of fresh insights and new horizons.