FROM BRANDON HANKS

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.  But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night”
- Psalm 1:1-2 NLT 

I grew up in a Christian home and participated in a local church almost my entire life.  As I matured in my journey of faith, I realized the importance of devotions; those daily set apart times with the Lord in prayer, Bible reading and reflection.  Over the years they have been extremely helpful in guiding my mind and heart to embrace the eternal truths about the God we serve and His ways.  I’ve found that time to be protective in guarding me against sin and deception, as it set me on a healthy, right direction for the day. 

Several years ago, I became very good at doing devotions.  I mean very, very good.  In fact, I was so good at doing devotions that I rarely missed that time in the schedule and allowed for significant time to do them each day.  And then something happened.  I realized that I had become so good at devotions that I missed the Person I was supposed to be devoting myself to during that time.  Sadly, I had replaced devotion to God with devotion to devotions. 

And then something else happened.  I found myself swimming in His great grace as I laid down my devotion to devotions and replaced it with a new devotion to the Master.  Only this time it was not at a set time each day.  Moreover, I was free from having to cover a certain number of chapters in the Bible or certain devotional material to be “successful”.  I could just spend time with the Lord who is my Shepherd. 

Looking back, I now understand that I became good at the religious duty of devotions but had missed the delight of spending time with God.  I discovered that I didn’t need to feel shame and guilt about failing to meet my religious duty.  However, on the other hand, I was convicted when I neglected that quality time with the One who loves me. 

Devotions, the very thing that was supposed to help my relationship with God, ironically hurt it, because of the wickedness of my own heart.  The lesson I learned was not that devotions are bad and that we should not do them.  I learned that devotions are what I make of them.  I can make them as personal and relational as I want to.  Or I can play it safe.  I can settle for that mechanical devotional life where I believe I’m in total control and choose to keep God at a distance with a big, flashing sign hanging in front of my heart that says, “Stay back! You’re getting too close.”   

What are your devotions like?  Do they reflect a real encounter with the Living God, who deeply cares for you?  Just maybe you and I need to let our devotions die from time to time so that Jesus can resurrect that time and breathe new life into us. 

There is truly a daily delight to be discovered in devoting ourselves to God and His ways.  We can be like those that the Psalmist goes on to describe: “They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season.  Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.”  (Psalm 1:3). 

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