What exactly is a devotional? Does it have to be done in the morning? How much should I be reading my Bible? How do I “meet” with God, “connect” with God?
Why is connecting with God even important?
“But you, stand here by me.”
Deuteronomy is Moses’ recounting of Israel’s incredible journey through the wilderness. Moses was given leadership over the people of Israel during this time, just after they were taken out of slavery under the harsh rule of Egypt. This was obviously an incredibly large responsibility – at the time the people of Israel numbered about 1 to 2 million (the Bible numbers 600,000 men, excluding women and children). Moses would have been crushed by the weight of this responsibility, had he not stayed very close to the Lord. The Bible says that the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, like a friend (Exodus 33:11).
We, like Moses, have also been given great responsibility. Okay, maybe you’re not the go-to guy for millions of people just yet – but we all have been put in a place of leadership of some type. And we will all face tough decisions. And we will all find ourselves despairing, discouraged, depressed…
Let me tell you the best thing about “devotionals” (by the way, that’s really just a fancy word for taking time to meet with God each day). The best thing about devotionals is NOT that we “have” to do them. No – quite the opposite.
The best thing about a devotional... is that we can
Think about it for a minute. God. The creator of the entire universe. The very one who put breath in our lungs. Actually wants relationship with me?
32 “For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of! 33 Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live?… 35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him.” (Deuteronomy 4:32-33, 35)
Before Christ, there was the tabernacle, the go-to place if you wanted to “meet with God”. The tabernacle was made of three main parts – the outer courts where everyone was permitted to enter, the inner courts where only the priests and Levites (temple workers) were permitted , and the Most Holy Place, the place where God would actually come to dwell in the midst of the people (Exodus 40:34-38). The Most Holy Place was separated from the rest of the tabernacle by a thick curtain, also called the “veil” (Exodus 26:33). The veil stood between an Almighty God and sinful man. No ordinary man was permitted to enter the Most Holy Place.
When Christ died, the veil that stood between God and man was torn. Literally! At that very hour!
51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.” (Matthew 27:51)
Do you see it now?! Christ’s death literally put an end to the separation between God and Man!
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh… let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith!” (Hebrews 10:19-22)
Now that we’ve established the basics, let’s move on to our other questions.
What exactly is a devotional?
According to dictionary.com, “Devotion” means profound dedication, consecration, and/or earnest attachment to a cause or a person. In the sense we’re talking about here, it’s just a fancy word for meeting with God!
It’s incredible that this is even possible (as we just explored). A devotional is about intentionally setting aside time during your day, each day, to get your priorities straight. So, what might this look like? Here are some ideas to get you started – although in the end, your devotional time will end up being as unique as you.
- Grab at least your Bible, journal, and a pen. I highly suggest adding a Bible commentary as well as a concordance to help you understand words and passages that don’t quite make sense to you (you can always ask a pastor or a friend, too!)
- Find a special, quiet place.
- Get your favorite drink.
- Don’t bring distractions.
- Bring an extra pad of paper for those little to-do items you may remember as you’re meeting with God – having a place to write them down will ensure that you can focus on your devotional without forgetting important tasks!
- Focus on Him first. Praise Him for recent blessings you’ve received, for dying for you, for your children, for your friends, whatever! Thank Him for His sovereignty over everything that happens. (For more ideas on praising, open up to a Psalm and try reading it out loud to God.)
- This may be sounding a little too religious – but really all this means is admitting to God the areas of your life that need work. Keeping the conversation open will help keep your heart soft, and transformation will start to come in these areas!
- God wants to hear what’s on your mind, what’s bugging you, what you’re worried about! You’ll find you feel much better about troubling circumstances when you’ve “given it to God”. While you’re at it, tell Him that you trust Him in these circumstances – or ask Him to help you trust Him more if you’re not feeling it just yet.
- Time to dig in. Open the Bible to where you last ended, or use a Bible reading plan to get you started, or just flip it open and see where it lands. You’ll find that you can hear His voice through the words – He’ll often show you a verse that is directly related to a situation you’re going through right now.
- You can read just one verse, or multiple chapters, or even whole books of the Bible at a time. Just don’t read for the sake of reading – take time to let it soak in, and think about how to apply it to your own life.
- My Pastor, Jesse, suggests reading through the books in the Old Testament at least once every couple of years, but to make reading the New Testament chapters a regular habit. Certain chapters are very important to our walk as modern-day Christians, and those should be read often – Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Romans 6-8. These chapters are RICH with encouragement, solid doctrine, and practical advice!
- Focus on Others.
- Take some time each morning to pray for other people you know who are struggling. Friends and family members, other countries, the world as a whole. This is not only absolutely essential, but you’ll find that it helps to give you perspective on your own trials in life.
- Practice inviting Jesus to come with you throughout your day, every day! Your devotional time is not the only time you can meet or talk with Him. He is always at hand.
- Now that you’ve been refreshed yourself, refresh others. Offer uncommon grace to those around you! Be a servant. Spread the Word.
Why is meeting with God even important?
Hopefully now you can answer this question yourself! A devotional is not defined by the time of day, the place in which it happens, or by how many chapters in the Bible you get through. It’s ALL about connecting with God.
Our lives often careen by us at an insane pace, especially as Americans. Intentionally slowing down will not only benefit your health in literal ways, but really – what better way to calm chaotic days, organize confused thoughts, prioritize endless to-do lists, give us the strength we need to get through each day?
Meeting with God takes the focus off of us. It gives a healthy dose of perspective – this life is short and there is a promise of eternal life in the hereafter, but in the meantime, we’re here for a purpose. To bring life to a hurting and dying world. How can we do this if we ourselves are burnt out?
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord,
continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith
as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy,
which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”