Daily devotions are important.
You’ve heard it said in church, in Sunday School, at VBS, by your parents, and probably other places too. And maybe you agree– to some extent at least. You agree Scripture is important. You agree that as a Christian it is your source of life, but you don’t agree to the extent that it would cause you to actually sit down every morning and read and think about the Bible.
Alright, maybe I’m jumping to some pretty big conclusions here. I think it’s safe to say, though, that all of us can, and probably have, downplayed the importance of staying in Scripture daily, especially when it comes to doing so in our own lives. I myself have struggled with prioritizing my quiet time with God over other activities, sometimes even good activities, like school or family time. But building a consistent habit of spending time in the Word of God is beyond “a good idea,” it’s crucial if we are to grow and flourish as Christians.
One of my favorite passages that deals with spending time in God’s Word is John 15:4-5. In this passage Jesus says:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
These are just two verses, but they are jammed packed with compelling truths about why daily devotions are so important.
#1 It is God’s Command
Right off the bat, we are given an imperative sentence. “Abide in me,” Jesus says. If you are a Christian, abiding in Christ isn’t optional, it’s required. But what does abide even mean? A lot of people can read this first sentence and immediately over mysticize what it means to abide in Christ. After all, abide isn’t really a word we use in our day to day vocabulary (at least I don’t). Even so, the meaning really isn’t all that complicated.
To abide in Christ is to be deeply grounded in and connected to Him. One of the main ways that we do this is by studying Scripture. Whether you call it quiet time, Bible study, or devotions, we are commanded by God to be saturated with His truth by filling our minds with His Word… and just reading and studying the Bible “sometimes” doesn’t cut it. Afterall, if abiding really means being connected to and dwelling in Christ, how can you dwell in Him if you only sit down and think about God’s Word once a week? That’s not abiding.
I read somewhere that where you dwell is where you live, so to dwell in Christ means to make your home where Christ makes his home. Reading your Bible occasionally isn’t making your home in Christ, it’s visiting whenever you feel like it. It’s knocking on the door whenever you start to feel guilty for being gone for so long, staying just long enough to alleviate your conscience but no more.
God wants you to abide in Him, and you do that by consistently and readily opening His Word and pondering its truths.
#2 It is Necessary if We Are to Bear Fruit
After giving us the command to abide in Him, Jesus moves on to explaining why it is so important that we follow this command:
As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.John 15:4b
Jesus makes it very clear that without Him we will experience no growth, no victories over sin, and certainly no spiritual fruit.
Many Christians come to their pastors or counselors and confess with frustration that they just can’t seem to make any headway against their sin. It’s like no matter how hard they try, they’re not growing. They are not seeing any fruit. As a pastor, my dad has come face to face with these discouraged Christans many times, and one of the first questions he asks them is: “When was the last time you sat down and studied God’s Word?” I think you can imagine what kind of replies he received.
You see, so many Christians want to see themselves grow and make leaps and bounds in their faith. They dream of having a heart overflowing with love for others and tempered by humility. Yet their Bible remains on their bookshelf or nightstand, collecting dust.
We are the branches. He is the vine. To neglect the reading of Scripture is to cut ourselves off from the only thing that can change our hearts and transform our lives into a stunning picture of beauty that reflects God’s image, witnesses to the world, and fills our hearts with joy. You will never see any good or any righteousness come from you if you are not connected to the source of righteousness. Never underestimate the value of consistent time in Scripture.
#3 It is From Him That We Find Our Life
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.John 15:5
One of my favorite things about this passage is Jesus’ vivid use of the “vine analogy.” Like so many of Jesus’ teaching and parables, He connects what may seem like complicated spiritual realities to concrete examples from everyday life that we are automatically familiar with.
We’ve all learned from an early age that not only can a branch not bloom or bear fruit apart from the vine from which it was taken, but it can’t even live. By impressing upon us the necessity of abiding in Him in order to bear fruit, Jesus is also identifying Himself as our source of life.
Now, this doesn’t mean that if you don’t read your Bible you will die and lose your salvation. If you are a believer, your status as a son or daughter of the King is set in stone through Christ’s blood for all eternity. What this does mean is that, as my dad says, to the degree that you abide in Christ is the degree that you will experience His life and bear fruit. This is why Jesus says “apart from me you can do nothing.” If you try to live your life as a Christian without ever opening up your Bible, you will face wall after wall of discouragement and failure and depression. Your faith will be weak.
“But,” you may be thinking, “are you saying that if I do devotions every day, I’ll never fail or be discouraged?” Not quite. Remember, even though the life of Christ is in you, you are still a sinner, and as long as you live in this world you will always be in a constant battle between your flesh and your new identity as a child of God. There will still be times when you get discouraged, fail, or sin. Nevertheless, in those times you are not without hope because you will have the Word of God echoing through your mind and strengthening your heart. You will fail, but you will also succeed. There will be times when you are discouraged, but there will also be times when you will be filled with joy. The Christian life is a roller coaster, but to try to ride that roller coaster without the Word of God permeating your heart isn’t just foolishness, it’s suicide.
One Last Note
I feel there is one more thing I should say before I close. Many of you are still in the trenches of fear and distress as you are overwhelmed by the danger of the Coronavirus. If you are one of these struggling Christians, please don’t disregard what I have said above about God’s Word. You need to read the Bible. You need it because it is your life line and your anchor during this crazy time. It’s the one thing that is staying the same; it’s the one thing that will always be true. Headlines change, health is uncertain, but God’s Word is forever. I say this to me as much as to anyone else. I know what it is like to be ruled by fear, and I don’t want you to be bound by those shackles too. If you haven’t yet read my post 4 Ways to Fight Fear in the Midst of the Coronavirus, I would encourage you to do that, but even more so, I would encourage you to turn to God’s Word. The Word of God is the key to those shackles, Christian. It can free you from those chains. You don’t have to live in fear.
If you’ve never had a daily schedule of studying the Bible, now’s as good a time as any to start. It takes discipline and commitment to prioritize reading Scripture. It’s something I still struggle with. But you could also say that it takes commitment and discipline for a drowning man to swim towards the shore. Yet, he does it anyway, because he knows that it is his only chance of life and that once he gets there, he won’t have to be afraid anymore. God’s Word is that shore. It’s a place of peace and calm when the waves all around you are frothing white and rising beyond your line of sight. Do it. Start swimming towards the shore. Don’t let yourself be tossed by the waves of worry and fear just because it’s easier. You will not regret feeling the solid land beneath your feet.