Devotions or Devotion
By Dwight L Niswander
I think that your problem is not a matter that concerns spending the time to have your devotions. I believe your problem is understanding the meaning of devotion.
I didn’t want to sound prophetic in what I was saying to this young fellow. Actually, he understood what I meant quite quickly. He had made a serious effort to maintain a certain pattern of devotions. He longed for a good spiritual life. He was one person that I could set as an example of an ideal disciplined person.
The problem he faced is a problem that many face today. It is not a problem about doing the spiritual exercises or even forming the habit. The real concern is the matter of relating and understanding the true meaning of devotions.
I was brought up in an atmosphere where reading a chapter a day from the Bible was like an apple a day. It was considered as good medicine, and I was always expecting my Bible reading to give me a real spiritual lift. After all, there is always a satisfaction when we accomplish something. Sometimes I feel that my devotions merely satisfied my religious ego. For instance, it was a good feeling when I could say: “Praise God, I read five chapters in Nehemiah!” Nehemiah has something to say, but it didn’t always lead me to Christ when I read from it.
I remember a serious young mother who made up her mind to read the entire Bible. She was lost in the shadows of the book of Jeremiah when I found her. She was mostly discouraged that so much that she was reading didn’t relate to her life. I explained that I seldom read Jeremiah myself. I feel that Jeremiah is a precious book but it doesn’t always fit my spiritual need. I only ponder over its worth when I am sufficiently serious to accept it, and I am not always that serious.
Devotions means devotion to Christ. He must be in the focus of my adventure. I look for Him as I meditate and read. I honestly consider this the most amazing discovery. It is not that I have any feeling that He has left me. I simply know that with the pressures of each new day I must be impressed with His presence and direction for the day. Devotions is the cultivation of a Christ-conscious habit. I had a young lady startle me with the shocking fact that she didn’t need to read the Bible quite as much since she learned the art of discerning Him. She also said that what she now reads has more spiritual significance. It is a matter of tuning in. We must maintain a first love relationship with Christ. That old English word “tryst” perhaps describes what I want to say. It means “an appointment to meet at a specified time and place, as one made by lovers.”
At this point it might be wise for me to give some practical suggestions about our devotional life:
1. Be aware of His presence in the morning waking time. The waking hour should be precious. Don’t be contaminated during those sensitive moments with jazz and loud-mouth radio announcers that may drain everything from your spirit. Let’s tune heavenward. We must learn to form habits that turn to mercy, love and grace.
Putting it a little more differently: We need to get up in the morning with a sense of dignity and well being. If my mood is clouded by a bad attitude set by bad dreams, I had better find a remedy for this malady. We better set our dial to heavenly music that frees our spirits from a bad disposition.
2. Be careful that your conversation in the beginning of the day is on thoughts of Him. The way be begin the day may determine a pattern for the rest of the day. It is well that we learn how to praise the Lord, and praise will put the attention on Him instead of ourselves. It is easier to ask for the Lord’s blessing than to “bless the Lord, O my soul.” However the real purpose in devotions is to bless the Lord regardless of our feelings.
3. Read what is acceptable to your need. Don’t exploit the Word like a game of magic. I do not encourage anyone to read the Bible through in their private devotions. A lot of Scripture is not always inspirational at the time we read it. The book of Ecclesiastes may even set a state of gloom when read at the wrong time. We should know the Bible sufficiently to understand what each book contributes to our spiritual life. I generally prescribe the Psalms because they often reveal the moods of the psalmists and then show a way to victory. Isaiah is full of promises that can meet the needs of many. I suggested Proverbs to a fellow who needed to have his conscience turned to loftier moral concepts. I encouraged a lonely girl to share her feelings with the book of Ruth. I seldom, if ever, suggest that anyone read Ezekiel as a devotional book for fear that he may turn his imagination to all kinds of ideas about the visions in this mysterious book instead of the glory that it teaches. We must, however, search the truth that the Holy Spirit is after in our hearts.
Perhaps a word of encouragement must be suggested to those who follow other adventures of help in devotions than the direct channel of the Scriptures. I am not offended by much of this material. To some it may be the way of the hymn book. Others appreciate the writings of devotional material. And then, there are those who deem it most helpful to just wait silently in His presence. We dare not be critical to these methods. The important matter is that we have a rendezvous with Christ.
4. This all simply means that we must make our devotional periods a spiritual search. We must fear the mere intellectualization of Scriptures, or the desire to only search for beautiful discourses of devotional material. We must learn how we can be caught up in Him. It may be two hours, but rarely. It may be two minutes, but hardly. The point to remember in having devotions is that we become graced with Him. I know that when we are strong in Him He never fails to help me through the day. It all adds up to the same thing: My devotions are simply the result of my devotion to Him.
Reprinted with permission given to Kenneth Greatorex by Lucille A. Niswander, November 1, 1997.
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