This month we are considering how we grow spiritually. I shared last week that I was saved as a senior in high school at a youth camp and God graciously gave me some specific tools that helped me grow. Last week we talked about sermons and how God uses His men, His Word, and our submission to help us grow. This week I want us to consider devotionals as weapons of grace.
I am not sure who gave it to me, and honestly, I don’t even remember receiving it, but when I was a young Christian I had a small devotional booklet called “The Promises of God.” It was simply, a verse or two for each day of the year with each verse being a promise from God to us, His children. It wasn’t fancy, it was basically a calendar with a passage under each date for the year. I found it in a drawer in my room and out of my spiritual hunger began to make it a point each day to read the passage it listed. It wasn’t a major time commitment or theological endeavor but it got me into God’s Word daily. Devotionals, though not all equal in value or purpose, can be great tools to get you into your Bible regularly and are great ways for you to grow spiritually. God used this simple little plan to grow a hunger for His Word and to help me grow in discipline as a young Christian.
Disciplines are the means by which we have been given to grow, physically and spiritually. They are the submissions of our hearts, minds, and bodies to the processes of God for the desired outcome of holiness. God alone is holy, but we through discipline seek to conform our lives to Him, His will, and His purposes. That’s a lot, especially if you’re a young Christian so let me explain what I mean. We all have goals and dreams. Accomplishing those goals and dreams is really a matter of discipline. Are you willing to do what it takes to get where you want to go? Think of a young Tiger Woods (pre meltdown) hitting 10,000 golf balls a day. It could be something as simple as running a 5k or as complicated as getting a degree, it starts with a plan and a commitment.
My sister is one of the best people in the world. She’s funny, she’s beautiful inside and out, and she’s brutally honest. She has always been such an example to me in so many ways not just because she was older but because she enjoyed sharing the journeys that God had her on. This last year she decided that with her kids being old enough to not require her total attention every second of the day that she would like to start running as a hobby. She set a goal to run a 5k. She read how other people began the process of running and how they set regular goals for running a 5k for the first time and she committed to a plan to do the same. She got up regularly and ran. At first it wasn’t as glorious, it was probably more pain than gain but she kept the goal in mind and kept her commitment. She not only reached her goal of running a 5k but has run a few other races since and has found the process to be not just helpful in pursuing her goal but also in relieving stress and producing joy. Disciplines are built around a goal but always provide us with so much more than just achieving the goal.
Devotionals are guided tracks for us to grow in spiritual discipline. They give you a text, usually some comments on it, and a rhythm so that you daily are moving towards your goal of spiritually growing in Christ-likeness. They help you achieve that goal of conforming your life to His but they have so many other impactful outcomes. Devotionals can really frame your day. I have on numerous occasions found that my devotional prepared me for the difficulty that the day was to bring. I love Charles Spurgeon and I am reading through his “Morning & Evening” devotional and his “Cheque Book of Faith” devotional this year with my best friend. There are several days that I have to go back and re-read the devotional at the end of the day because it’s scary how closely what Spurgeon wrote connects to my day and heart. Devotionals also have this way of connecting us to other people or situations. You begin to see the scriptures as speaking into your life not about history. The Bible is living and active, but most people treat it as an inspiring historical story instead a filter for life to be sifted through. There are many more benefits, but the outcome is the same, devotionals helps us grow spiritually.
So, what devotional do we use? There are so many places to begin. I just want to Amazon and typed in “devotional” in the search box and pulled up 18 pages of options! So, let me start by saying, ask someone you look up to spiritually what devotional has helped them. You may luck out and have them offer to read along with you. You may find that your church has a devotional guide that they give out like Our Daily Bread. Another solution is to pick a topic of theme to study for an extended period of time like a book of the Bible, the attributes of God, or a devotional that just daily looks at the gospel. Here are some suggestions of devotionals that have meant a lot to me:
New Morning Mercies by Paul Tripp
I love Paul Tripp. He is one of my favorite preachers to listen to and authors to read. He just consistently helps me see the gospel from another angle or apply the gospel in a new way. I also think he’s the best dressed man I know. I have asked him to leave his glasses to me in his will. This devotional just daily considers the gospel in a new or different way. It’s great for young and older Christians to root our thinking and living in what Christ has done or us.
My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers
This is a classic. It’s been used for years by millions of Christians to encourage and grow them. It’s a great place to start if you haven’t used a devotional before. It shares a daily idea/text with a page of comments from Chambers. I have a good friend who is going on almost 20 years of reading this every day and he says it’s still helpful and encouraging today for him.
Thoughts from Your Father by Roger Palmer
If you’ve been to Crossings you know Roger. Roger is one of the most alive human beings I have ever met. He is up every morning jump roping for an hour memorizing scripture before he goes to the gym. It’s out of that time for the last few decades with the Lord and his jump rope that Roger began writing down some of what he has learned about God, our Heavenly Father. This is a great devotional for you to jump in and to take a year to reorient your thinking about who God is and what He thinks about you.
The New City Catechism by Tim Keller
This might be a bit different for some of you, but a catechism is a systematic teaching of what we believe. It was a teaching tool the church used for centuries to help congregants know what they believed. It is usually written in the form of questions and answers. What I love about the idea of catechisms comes from being a father. I want my children to know what they believe and why. I saw so many friends grow up in church being told what to believe but when they went to college and were questioned why they believed it their only answer was, I was told it was true. We have truth. The Scriptures are the words of God. We need to know why we believe what we believe not just to defend it but to share it and to hold to it tightly in hard times. This is a great new tool from a brilliant pastor that I think would help anyone.
She Reads Truth started as an online devotional community. It was a way for women to share and grow together. What came out of that was not just a website but regular devotional studies and communities. It also led to He Reads Truth for men. They have so many great devotionals, groups you can connect to, and even their own study Bible! You will have a ton of resources here to get you growing and studying.
Table Talk by Ligonier
Ligonier is the ministry that Dr. R.C. Sproul founded and from there has become a content powerhouse! They publish books, create video teaching series, host conferences, oversee St. Andrews Chapel, run Ligonier Academy, and so much more. One of their resources is this monthly devotional they created called “Table Talk.” Each edition comes with several helpful articles from numbers solid Bible teachers as well as a daily devotional for you. It usually follows a theme or moves in a direction so you are growing each month in a specific and helpful way. It’s a cheap and easy solution to having help growing.
There are so many more from daily devotional podcasts or vlogs, John Nix (a Crossing Camp speaker) has his own website where he has a blog, podcast, and app to walk through a passage of scripture ever day (http://www.johnnix.org/) and there are so many more! A daily devotional isn’t meant to dominate your morning but to start your day. So, pick one and set aside a few minutes every day to think about God, His Word, and your life. You will find that this plan and commitment will lead to your growth spiritually and so much more!