Your daily devotional life is your springboard for developing a rich, rewarding, and productive relationship with the Lord. The key to living a life of continuous victories beyond human comprehension, is be in touch with God in a practical way, also called “fellowship of the Spirit” or “abiding in Christ”.
This article has two objectives:
- To give you a profound scriptural understanding of what a daily devotional is;
- To show you why and how you should do everything in your power to establish a solid devotional life.
For the sake of brevity, many of the concepts discussed below will not be explained in detail. In addition, the full article will be published in two parts. Please ensure you go through each part carefully. I encourage you to print or bookmark this page. Read the article repeatedly, ponder each concept, and pray the Lord will reveal the truth of Word presented here. The unabridged version of this article will be available shortly as an Ebook and Print. They will be offered free for a limited time, so subscribe to our Ministry Update to be notified when they are ready!
- 1 DAILY DEVOTIONAL LIFE UNDER FIRE
- 2 WHAT IS A DAILY DEVOTIONAL?
- 3 EXAMPLES
- 4 WHAT THE DAILY DEVOTIONAL IS NOT
- 5 THE LIFE FACTOR
- 6 REFERENCES
DAILY DEVOTIONAL LIFE UNDER FIRE
Upon brief observation, it is widely apparent to any Christian that the habit of spending daily time with God is an endangered species, facing the threat of extinction by the pressures of modern life. Just as Pharaoh chastised the Israelites, it is discouraging to observe even Christians outwardly frowning upon time with God as laziness or idleness!
You are idle, you are idle; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD’ (Exod. 5:17 ESV).
Two Subtle Lies We Must not Accept
Additionally, two similar perceived obstacles must first be rejected before we continue.
1. Life is too busy today.
The pace of life has increased a thousand times since Jesus’ day. Even contemporary teenagers have more crammed into a day than an entire combined household of their ancient counterparts! Since we can’t return to the slower lifestyle of old, we must adjust to our modern reality. Despite this reality, life is truly never too busy for time with God. The Psalmist prophesied this shift, and gave us a prayer to be kept close to our hearts every day:
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom (Ps. 90:12 ESV)
We need wisdom to number our days and manage our time.
2. It’s normal for the Christian life to have “highs and lows”.
We accept that the Christian life has good days and bad days. This idea came from the world around us, but is actually contrary to God’s Word. God designed the life of believer, the new creation, His child, to be ever upwards and forwards, despite the many problems we all face. Challenges and problems do not mean down days for the child of God!
He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers (Ps. 1:3 ESV)
A tree by the river never experiences dryness. Its leaves are fresh, and its fruit abundant everyday of the year. This is the picture of your life-whether this is your experience now is a different question.
Why is the daily devotional time under threat?
But why is the daily devotional time facing the threat of extinction? While we often cite a lack of time, this is a lie I pray will be excavated from your mind before the end of this article. Though our time today is certainly under pressure, contrary to what many Christians believe, it is not the MAIN reason why many find it so difficult to establish a solid daily devotional life. I will expose five underlying causes of the lack of time available for our Creator.
1. Priority mismatch
Your perceived priories are the most powerful personal factors dictating how you allocate your time. Your priorities are driven by your perception of need. You place more value in the activities you believe are most necessary to meet your needs or ideals of success, whether your perception is truly accurate or not. Many believers sincerely do not understand why a consistent devotional time with God is critical in their lives.
2. Misperceived need
An even bigger problem is our perceived need for God and His Word. Sadly, many believers still see God’s Word simply as a Christian instruction manual, rather than the source of our very life. As a result, our perceived need for God’s Word is blurred by an inadequate appreciation and understanding of the role His Word plays in our lives.
3. The wisdom problem
The wisdom problem is closely related to our mismatched priorities and misperceived need. We need divine wisdom to discern our most important needs and set our priorities right. If believers truly grasp the impact of their relationship with God on every area of life, they will give the Word the true attention it deserves.
4. God’s work dilemma
This casualty of ministry might surprise you. Over-extending ourselves in God’s work erodes and destroys ministers’ time of intimacy with the Lord. As God’s precious children, we must never think that God called us primarily to work for Him. Our relationship with Him must have priority over the work He has commissioned us to do.
Enemies of the daily devotional life
While there are many enemies of our time, space allows me to mention just three of them here.
Distractions are anything that come in our way to interfere with the time we set aside to spend with the Lord. The work God has commanded us to do can even be a distraction! The classic story of Mary and Martha below explains this beautifully without further comments.
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me. “But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her. (Lk. 10:38-42 ESV)
2. The religious spirit
This silent destroyer occurs when we engage in the form of religion without the substance. The religious spirit focuses on the practice rather than the purpose of the practice. We might even begin to measure our performance based on how consistent we are in our time with God. The mindset of the religious spirit kills the quality of our time spent with the Lord.
3. Crisis Christian
Believers with this attitude only seek God when there is a crisis. For them, God is a Problem Solver, so they only come to Him when they need answers. This is a heightened risk for believers with a misperceived need for God, as explained earlier. Christ is more than your problem-solver; He is your very life (Col. 3:4).
Why bother about your daily devotional life?
Many Christians ask this very reasonable question. I will show you how your relationship with the Lord has a huge, practical impact on all areas of your life. If something does not solve an emotional pain, financial crises, health turmoil or relationship unrest or similar daily to day issues we face, they turn to matter less to us.
The Flourishing life
Your life, both spiritual and physical, is like a tree. The leaves indicate the overall well-being of your body, soul, and spirit. The fruits are virtues like love, joy, peace, and righteousness, all characteristics both God and man desires. A tree planted by a river will never run dry, even when the sun is high above in the sky. The secret to its fruitfulness is not the tree, but it’s proximity to the river.
Simply stated, to flourish in life, plant yourself by the living waters of God. This is where your daily devotional life comes in. It opens the flood gates for the Holy Spirit to nourish your relationship with Christ. Devotionals bring you to the water of life, to abide in Christ every day. For many believers, their mindset and routine has planted them in a dry place far away from the River, and they wonder why their leaves are drying up and they struggle to produce fruit.
So why should you care? Your fruitfulness in life will depend squarely on where your practical, daily habits plant you.
WHAT IS A DAILY DEVOTIONAL?
The phrase “daily devotional” today
Today we understand the phrase “daily devotional” to mean a short piece of Christian writing, often based on scripture, for each day. Even Wikipedia defines a daily devotional as such! Check out their insightful article here.
However, your devotional life is more than reading a brief, inspiring, encouraging Christian writing every day. Let me use two simple real-life examples to illustrate what a daily devotional truly is.
1. Care of our body
How many of us doubt the importance of proper daily nutrition for a healthy body? If we make careless nutritional decisions, we might be leaving the earth to be with the Lord sooner than we think. I hope not! The body must be cared for, whether you are a Christian or not. We do not eat our daily meals solely for pleasure. Daily meals provide the vital nutrients we need to stay productive. Even after you eat breakfast, you might decide to go to a restaurant with your colleagues to have lunch. This meal might be a pleasure meal, and not really vital.
Just as your body needs a daily portion of nutrients to live and function, your spirit also needs a daily dose of the Word of God to “stay alive” and operate. Do you remember Jesus saying man does not live by bread alone (Matt. 4:4)?
2. The gas tank of a car
You regularly go to the gas station to fill your gas tank, don’t you? Just as gas fuels your vehicle, daily devotionals fuel your spirit. Though we are already filled to the full at salvation, as long as we are still in this earthly body, we must regularly refuel our spiritual tanks. Trying to live a fruitful Christian life loving others, without practical fellowship with the Spirit, is like trying to drive a car on an empty tank. It will certainly crash. We will visit this idea more later.
The concept of a daily devotional
The word “devotional” is not in scripture, but the concept is everywhere. Therefore, it’s more important to grasp the idea of a daily devotional than the definition. Please read the following core concepts of daily devotionals carefully to ensure you have an introductory understanding of each.
1. Living by the Word of God
The central pillar that holds every other idea of the devotional is that man was created by God to live by the Word of God. As a believer, Jesus (the incarnate Word) is not only the life you were given, but you live by Him. We will visit this idea again later.
The Christian life is a life devoted to God. Your relationship with God will require devotion, commitment, and sacrifice. You don’t give God the remnants after other activities have already used up your best. A healthy Christian life will cost you something. If it does not cost you anything, it will be not be worth anything. It will be practically meaningless to you while living here and now. The cost will be paid with your time and attention rather than your money. We will expand upon this later as well.
3. Time with God
The cornerstone of daily devotional time is essentially that: time spent with God. This alone time with God keeps you practically alive in the spirit from day to day, just as necessary nutrition keeps your body going! There is no shortcut in spiritual things. You cannot serve or tithe your way around this. You need time, alone, with your Father, as long as you are still in this earthly body. When the new body comes, we will not need to find time to spend with God, as He will be perfectly immersed in all of our being. We will forever and completely experience His full presence. But until then, time with God is the only way to realize the dream of living in God’s presence and experiencing His daily manifestations.
4. Fellowshipping with God
Fellowship with God describes our state of being together and talking with Him. This has two parts. First, Christians experience fellowship with God, beginning at salvation, by virtue of our spiritual re-birth. The second part is the practical fellowship that revolves around nurturing your time with God. Our daily devotional time must be dedicated to focusing solely on Him, being in His presence, hearing Him and talking to Him. Beyond the devotional life is an even more intimate connection- learning to maintain fellowship with God all day long. This is even more important than your devotional life! It is learning to cultivate God’s presence, no matter where you are or what you are doing. The devotional life is a critical foundation for building this 24/7 fellowship.
So what is daily devotional? I define it as a daily moment of nourishment in the presence of God. You can craft your own definition from the basic concepts presented above!
The essence of the daily devotional life
The essence of the daily devotional life is to feed and nourish your spirit in God’s presence using the Word. It is essentially feeding your spirit to live through each day! The Word is the anchor, and it is always goes in an atmosphere of prayer. While daily devotional prayer is important, the fundamental quality of the devotional is a time of daily nourishment by the Word.
The two flows
It is helpful to understand the larger dynamics of our interactions with God’s word. There are two major motions of our relationship with the Word, which I call “the inward flow” and “the outward flow”.
1. The inward flow
This is receiving the Word into our heart, our spirit. We received the Word at salvation, which imparted God’s life into us, bringing us back from the spiritually dead. He then instructs us to continue to receive that Word daily, and sustain this new life for action. That is why you can have a Christian who is spiritually dead though he is alive! He is alive with God’s life, but functionally dead, and devoid of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
2. The outward flow
This is the Word coming out of the heart through our words and actions. We release the Word into action by doing it. The secret of the outward flow is the inward flow. Oh, how I have seen believers trying to do the Word that is not first dwelling in their hearts! What frustration that will bring. The devotional time is a place for the inward flow. It puts you in a place where the Word fills your spirit, and prepares you to pour it out. Don’t try to run the car of your Christian life on an empty fuel tank!
The ultimate purpose of daily devotional time is to prime your heart to receive the Word, whether through meditation or prayer. Please understand that the most important part of prayer is not talking to God. It is hearing from God, as this is the place of receiving the Word. When we hear His Word, healing, prosperity, righteousness, and love come to life straight from heaven!
The Secondary purpose of daily devotional time is to allow the Holy Spirit to complete His multi-faceted ministry in our lives. I will briefly present three of the Holy Spirit’s activities which are most pertinent to our discussion.
1. Feeding and nourishment your spirit.
This is receiving the life of God into your soul to live in the here and now. The devotional life matures your spirit man to grow in maturity and Christlikeness. This is God’s heart’s desire for His people.
2. Fellowship with God.
God fellowships with us in His Word.
3. Primer for the day.
Some Christians wonder what time of day is best to have a devotional. This crucial answer is clear upon a brief moment of consideration. Have you seen an athlete who begins to train after the game? Does a student prepare for an exam after taking it? Certainly not! Why does a minister pray and spend time in God’s presence before preaching? The crucial purpose of preparation is to face the event. The principal behind preparation is to be ready for life’s events; however, too many Christians face the demands of life unprepared. Some only begin seeking God after Satan strikes a heavy blow. It is easier, and cheaper, to always be ready.
A healthy daily devotional life gives the Holy Spirit the opportunity to nourish your spirit, facilitate a rich and intimate relationship with God, and build a solid preparation for every day. The Holy Spirit’s ministry allows you to ultimately flourish in life!
We will not have time to discuss men, such as Isaac (Gen. 24:63), and women, such as Mary (Luke 10:39-42), in Scripture, who demonstrated a strong devotional life. Our Lord’s example should be enough inspiration for all of us.
And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. (Mk. 1:35 ESV)
WHAT THE DAILY DEVOTIONAL IS NOT
It is proper that, after explaining what a daily devotional life is, we should also discuss what it is not, in order to frame our reference and understand the limitations.
1. Piece of daily devotional writing
The devotional life discussed here is not reading a daily devotional writing each day. Yes, we refer to these short, encouraging, Christian writings as “daily devotionals”; however, we now know that these writings are merely a tool that can be used during devotional time. Do not be satisfied and become complacent, thinking these short writings suffice for the essence of devotional time. It may be part of your routine, but a brief writing does not replace the nourishment of time with God in His Word!
2. The devotional life has its limitations.
It is not everything in and of itself. While we know that fellowship with God is a core concept of daily devotional time, there is more to the Word than just doing a devotional study. Similarly, there is more to prayer than just your devotional prayer. You cannot grow to full Christian maturity by devotionals alone. You will have to go deeper in both the Word and prayer, beyond the boundaries of daily devotionals.
3. Performance measure
Your daily devotional life is not a means to prove your devotion or commitment to God. Do not allow yourself to start thinking God feels better about you because you are doing so well with your daily devotional life, or vice versa. This is a deep pit of the religious spirit that you must not allow yourself to fall into. Beware of creating a religion out of your devotional time.
THE LIFE FACTOR
The daily devotional life is closely related to the concept of living by the Word of God and feeding on the Bread of Life(the Word). It is therefore important to understand the meaning of “life” and “living” as used in scripture pertaining to the believer in Christ.But first, let me quickly lay a necessary foundation by reviewing who God created us to be.
Man’s internal wiring
Man is God’s masterpiece, beautifully created. We all understand that we are made of more than our physical bodies. Simply stated, our composition can be divided in two ways: functional and constitutional.
The scriptures tell us there are three distinct parts of man (1 Thes. 5:18). This is the classic division of man into spirit, soul, and body.
To understand the constitutional concept better, imagine you were to dissect an egg. You will first remove the hard outer shell. Then you meet the white, which you can also peel off and put it aside, distinct from the shell. Then comes the last part, the egg yolk. So the egg has three distinct components. These are constitutional components, meaning they have a distinct, existential part. Though man is spirit, soul and body, if you were to dissect him as you did the egg, you will find just two distinct, separable components rather than three. You will find that man’s composition consists of an outward part, called the body, and the inward part, called the spirit. The soul comes alive when the spirit meets the body. The soul is nothing other than the spirit man living in the body. The soul is the operational or working center of man. This is why the term soul can be used in scripture to refer to the mind, the spirt man, or even the entire life of a person. It is similar to the term heart, that is trying to capture this inward part of man.
God created two distinct components in man-his spirit and his body. Each component has its distinct set of needs. In summary, the body needs physical bread to stay alive, and the spirit needs the Word of God to stay alive.
This truth above should come as a revelation to you, and it will change your life for ever. With this in mind, let us review the term “life” and what it means “to live”. Keep in mind we are heading towards addressing what Jesus meant when He said man shall not live by bread alone.
Life and living
We already know that the Word of God is your life, and man lives by the Word. We’ve discussed that this pivotal revelation will propel your devotional life. His Word, including the written Word, is not merely a religious book for guidance. It is your very life. Moses said
For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess (Deut. 32:47 ESV)
The revelation that God’s Word was their very life gave Moses a deep reverence for the Word. To the Israelites, the Word of God was a list of laws for them to keep whereas to Moses, the Word was their life. Scripture says God revealed His ways to Moses and His acts to the Israelites (Ps. 103:7). Follow the steps of Moses.
What is life?
There are several key ideas you must understand about “life”, as referenced to the life of man, or to the devotional life.
1. Life is spiritual.
It is a tangible, spiritual entity that you can have, lose, receive, or even lay down. Life is in the spirit of man, not in his body. The body is only alive because the spirit is inside. The moment the spirit comes to life, the body dies, which clearly tells us that the life of man is in his spirit rather than his body. The spirit is called the breath of life. The first characteristic scripture gives us of living things, both man and animal, is that they “have the breath of life”.
They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life (Gen. 7:15 ESV).
2. Life manifests, or expresses, itself.
The life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us (1 Jn. 1:2 ESV)
How do you know something is living? The life it has will manifest itself in different ways, in his body and spirit.
A. Life manifests in the body
As stated in scripture.
Always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies (2 Cor. 4:10 ESV)
Life manifests in our bodies in at least three different ways.
- Life imparts biological functions, including both internal function and external relationship. This involves bodily activities and the functions of the five senses. The first manifestation of life given to us in scripture is movement or activity.
- Life manifest itself in the state of existence of the body. Besides function, the body exist in a state of health and vitality. Health and healing are manifestations of life, and disease is a manifestation of death.
- Life ultimately sustains the existence of the body. When life leaves the body, the body will eventually cease to exist.
B. Life manifests in the spirit
When the life of the spirit is in the body, the activity of the spirit comes alive as the soul,comprised of the mind, emotions and will. We can then manifest that spirit life by thinking, imagining, and feeling. These activities together form our personality, that is, the person. So the soul is a basic manifestation of the life of the spirit.
For example, peace and joy are manifestations of life. Bitterness, fear, anxiety, and hatred are manifestations of death.
Beyond the soul, the ultimate manifestation of life in the spirit of man is fellowship with God. In fact, Jesus defined eternal life as the knowledge of the one and only true God! (John 17:2).
3. There are different forms of life.
There are two types of life relevant to us as believers- the natural human form of life, and God’s very life. Adam was given the natural human life, and God promised to give His very life through His Son (Titus 1:2). This promise was fulfilled through Jesus.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (Jn. 3:16 ESV)
Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life (1 Jn. 5:12 ESV)
4. Man has only one form of life.
You were born with only the human form of life, and it manifests itself in different ways. When you received Christ, you then received the life of God into your spirit. The Word then determines how much of the life of God manifests in you. His Word is your life.
5. The Word of God and life
You must fully receive the following three distinct revelations regarding how the Word of God relates to life.
- The Word of God gives, or imparts, life to the spirit, soul, and body of man. It is called the Bread of Life. It is the means by which man receives life!
- The Word of God by itself is living, exercising, and manifesting the fullness of the life of God.
- The Word of God is life itself. It is not just alive or life-giving. It is life.
Since God’s Word is our life, we despise, neglect, or under-estimate it to our own detriment.
6. The principle and its manifestations
Both the tangible substance (or principle) and the manifestations (activities) can be called life in the scripture.
For example, healing of the body or health is life in the scripture below.
For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh (Prov. 4:22 ESV)
Let us now look at the word “living”.
What does it mean to live?
There are two basic meanings of the word “live” relevant for our discussion. You can consult BDAG and HALOT(1,2) lexicons for a more extensive list of the usage of the word “live” if needed.
1. Receiving life
Above all, to live means to receive life. This is called quickening. When a dead body receives life, it is said to have been quickened. Likewise, when a dead spirit receives life, it is said to have been quickened. In the same way, at salvation, we were quickened.
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) (Eph. 2:5 KJV)
Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. (Jn. 5:25 ESV)
2. Sustaining and manifesting life
Why do you eat every day? To continue living, right? You eat to sustain your physical life. The Word of God not only gave you life at salvation, but God’s Word must persist for sustaining and manifestation of that life. Peace and joy from heaven are manifestations of divine life. As mentioned earlier, you won’t find heavenly peace and joy on an empty spiritual tank, so sustain this life by God’s Word.
Positional and practical
At salvation, you received the life of God, forever changing your state of being. You have to allow that life to manifest in your soul and body, so it will show in your way of living. The same is true about our fellowship with God. As a believer, you were brought into fellowship with God the moment you received Jesus. You were brought into God’s presence and His presence was brought into you. This is positional fellowship.
You now have to live in fellowship with God in a practical manner in your daily life. This is practical fellowship. The devotional life is building practical fellowship with God. Jesus called this practical living “abiding in Me” in John 15. It means “to remain in Me”. He said that because it is possible to be in positional fellowship with God but, to live your practical, day to day life out of Him. Sadly, this is the experience of many of God’s precious children.
Let these two conditions of living in fellowship with God remain in your mind as we proceed.
This is Part I of this series on the Daily Devotional Life. Part II is expected to be published soon and you can get notified by email when this is done by subscribing to our Ministry Newsletter.
You can read Today’s devotional from Glory & Grace Daily here.
- Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 424). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Koehler, L., Baumgartner, W., Richardson, M. E. J., & Stamm, J. J. (1994–2000). The Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 309). Leiden: E.J. Brill.