Listen to discussion on the Fighting for Devotional Time series on the Engage & Equip podcast, episode #173.
Last Sunday, March 15, we talked about what to take back from COVID-19. The primary thing we can take back for good from the destruction of this pandemic, other than an increased discipline of love for our neighbor, is an increased discipline of devotion to God. To this end, this post is the first of a four-part series on fighting for devotional time.
The most important part of doing a devotional is the act of doing it rather than not doing it. This is the main obstacle to start and remains the main obstacle as you proceed. Once you start reading God’s word, you will find benefit in it, and you will know God and his wisdom better. The challenge we face in disciplining ourselves to do this good in devotion to God is three-fold.
First, we have to escape the obstacle of the urgent. There is always something screaming for our attention: kids, work, cleaning, entertainment, and so on. Most growth and self-care requires putting off the urgent for the needful. The urgent thing will not thank you for doing this. It will complain. To persevere, you must know you are doing the right thing for yourself, and for all the urgent things in your life that will get a better version of you after you do what is needful. This is true of sleep, eating well, and exercise, too, but doing what is spiritually needful is the most important of all.
The second obstacle is that the Flesh, often embodied in our habits and nervous system, wants to be pleased by doing something that brings pleasure with no effort and, especially, with no concentration. Mental concentration on something that will cause growth is really hard for most people. It’s like going running. Your body and mind are actually working against you. It’s easier to sleep longer, watch something, play a game, or look at memes. We are pre-programed by the Flesh to save energy and to do what’s easy. You have to choose to overcome this, and then to take time and concentrate on God and his word.
Third, an obstacle we may not be aware of (nor want to admit to ourselves) is our uneasiness with coming to God himself in any real way. We talk about wanting to know and seek God, but deep down we know he is truly terrifying to the sober soul. We know that our life deserves to be evaluated as a “big damnable disappointment,” and no one else knows that better than God. We certainly don’t want to be around the One that knows our failure and wickedness best, nor do we want to go through the consistent experience of acknowledging that truth as we come to him. Coming to God can feel like a death—because it is. That is exactly why you need it. The death is the death of our lying, self-deceiving pretensions. When we come to God, we know somehow that this is Someone to whom we cannot really lie. Even the lies we tell ourselves don’t work for very long if we take up the practice of being honest with God.
These three obstacles are each areas in which we have to first show devotion to God and his goods in order to start a discipline of devotion.
First, we have to value God more than the urgent and the approval we get for tending to urgent things. We have to seek his love and approval rather than the approval of people and things that want something from us NOW!!!
Second, we have to value God and be devoted to him over the ease of amusement. The word “amusement” literally means “not to think.” A first step of devotion is to decide God is worth thinking about enough to escape the amusement of immediate entertainments.
Third, in coming to God in devotion, we have to be more devoted to his truth than to maintaining our lies. We have to be more interested in the growing pains that his truth will bring than in our stagnant comfort. We have to be more interested in the nakedness of honesty, than in the makeshift garment of our self-deception and self-justification. We have to be more interested in knowing the living God, than in having a false version of ourselves with which we can distract the world around us.
Devotions have to start with devotion.