Deep down, have you ever had any of these thoughts?
If I have my devotions, God will be pleased with me. If I don't have my devotions, God will be disappointed with me.
Having daily devotions makes me more spiritual. If I don't have daily devotions, I am less spiritual.
If I have devotions today, God will help me out and my day will go better. If I don't have devotions, God won't help me, and I'm sure to have all sorts of problems.
I have to have daily devotions—every good Christian does.
Thoughts such as those listed above have put many believers in bondage and kept them from entering into the real purpose for setting aside time each day to meet with God.
Daily devotions are not a way of bartering or negotiating with God.
We need to understand that having daily devotions is not for the purpose of getting extra points with God—nor is it a way to keep God from disapproving of us; we are not trying to earn His favor or get Him to love us any more. If we belong to Him, we already have His favor; He could not love us any more, and He could not love us any less.
Further, setting aside time for devotional activity, in and of itself, does not necessarily make us any more spiritual. (The Pharisees were renowned for their "devotional habits," but they were far from spiritual.) Neither is a quiet time some sort of good luck charm that gets God on our side, guarantees our day will go better, and keeps us from having problems. Daily devotions are not a way of bartering or negotiating with God.
Then what is the purpose of devotions? What makes it worth making the effort to get up earlier in the morning, to find time in an already hectic schedule, and to prioritize a daily quiet time? What are we hoping to see accomplished through that time? And why is this habit such a crucial one in the life of a believer?
Why You Should Have Daily Devotions
I'd like to suggest four purposes I have discovered for maintaining daily devotions:
The most important purpose of a daily devotional life is that we might experience intimate union and communion with God. Remember, we are talking about a relationship. The God of the universe loves you, and He created you to be His friend.
If your study of the Word does not lead you to know God, you have missed the whole purpose.
As you meet with God in your daily devotional time, don't forget that the ultimate purpose is not simply to gain more knowledge about God or His Word but to know Him. You may be a seasoned student of the Word. You may even be a Bible study leader. But if your study of the Word does not lead you to know God, you have missed the whole purpose.
In the front of my Bible, I have written these words that express my longings to come to know God through His Word:
Beyond the sacred page, I seek Thee, Lord.
My spirit pants for Thee, O living Word. —Mary A. Lathbury (1841–1913)
The second purpose of a devotional life is purification, or cleansing of our hearts and our lives. Do you sometimes feel like all you ever do is clean? That's because things (and people) tend to get dirty. Whether it's clothes, children's hands, kitchen floors, bathrooms, vinyl siding, entryways, or our bodies, dealing with the dust, crumbs, and grime that accumulate is a necessary and never-ending process.
In the Old Testament tabernacle we find a striking picture of the process of washing. Before entering into the Holy Place to represent the people before God, the priest would first stop at the bronze altar where an innocent animal would be offered up as a sacrifice for his own sin and for the sin of the people. Then, the priest would move to a bronze basin known as a laver, where he would wash his hands. He would return to that laver as needed throughout the day.
Although our sin has been atoned for by the blood of Jesus, when we come into His presence, He takes us to the laver that we might wash our hands and feet of whatever may have defiled us.
Ask any woman today how she's doing and there's a good chance the answer will be, "Busy!" or "Exhausted!" Overcrowded schedules and stressed-out lives seem to be the order of the day. I don't think the issue is just a matter of how much we have to do. If it were, all we'd need is a vacation. But you've probably had the experience, as I have, of taking time off, only to come back more exhausted than when you left.
I'm convinced that one of the major reasons we can't handle the demands of day-to-day living is that our spirits are weary. Our souls need to be restored. And that is why restoration is another purpose of setting aside time to be alone in God's presence each day.
The circumstances and demands of a typical day may cause us to fall wearily into bed at night. But when we awake in the morning, His mercies are new and fresh (Lam. 3:22–23).
Wouldn't it be great if there were a class you could take that would teach you everything you needed to know and provided answers for all your problems? Maybe you've got a boss who is impossible to please, a food addiction you just can't kick, a husband who watches TV all the time, a church where no one seems to be hungry for God, a child who has started lying, or bills that always seem larger than the paycheck.
The fact is, there is a "course" that addresses every issue we will ever face. The Teacher loves to meet one-on-one with His students so that He can tailor the course to our needs. He is willing to hold class every day that we are willing to meet. We already have the Textbook, which was written by the Teacher Himself. Parts of it can be difficult to grasp. But the Teacher is always available—twenty-four hours a day—to help us understand.
God isn't as interested in solving our problems as He is in changing us.
Establishing a daily devotional habit enrolls us in this course. The Textbook—the Word of God—doesn't claim to solve all our problems. (The fact is, God isn't as interested in solving our problems as He is in changing us.) But it does claim to have all the resources we need to face those problems. And it will teach us something that is absolutely essential to dealing with the circumstances of life: the ways of God (Ps. 103:7).
So let me ask you . . .
What are some inferior motivations you have sometimes had for having a quiet time?
What are some instances in which God used His Word to cleanse your heart, to restore your soul, or to teach you something of His ways?
Do you have specific passages that you like to pray back to God during your quiet time?
Adapted from Nancy’s book A Place of Quiet Rest.