Disclaimer & Exhortation
I would like to offer a disclaimer on my words at the beginning of this article rather than the end. This is so that someone reading may not become discouraged or ill-willed towards me before they finish reading the entirety of it. My disclaimer, which happens to be a summary of what's to come, is that something is better than nothing and you should keep doing something rather than nothing. God was happy with the two copper coins the poor widow gave because she gave everything she had (Mark 12:41-44). If this is you, keep giving those two copper coins. I exhort you to continue to mindfully give something to God every day. I also exhort you to strive to devote more of your time to Him. Don't be content to check off a box in the morning that you paid some mind to the creator of the universe, but always be seeking. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." (Matthew 5:6)
What I Mean by Devotional
Let's set the record straight quickly. When I say devotional, I mean stuff along the lines of Jesus Calling, Wake Up to the Word, The Purpose Driven Life, etc. I also group into devotionals anything that takes you less than two minutes to read. I have a men's devotional that was given to me. It is written by Tony Dungy, former NFL coach. The general layout for each day is a short verse followed by a story from Tony's coaching career or a major historical event such as a battle in a war and wrapped up with how to apply that to your life. It takes all of three minutes to read. Real quick, go to your search engine and type "1-Minute Devotionals." There are six quintillion google pages of book after book. Why are these types of devotionals in such high demand? My opinion is that this is a falling in line with the current type of culture we live in.
Our current "fast-food society" wants everything now. We have been groomed into little autonomous bots desiring instant gratification. No need to waste space to discuss how this came about because the world wasn't always like this. But, a thought experiment for you, consider American culture before the microwave and after, then consider it before and after fast-food restaurants exploded onto the scene.
Because of the trickle down effect, people now not only rarely share a meal at a table with their family anymore, but they also rarely share a spiritual meal with God. "Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.'" (John 6:35)
Rather than share a meal, they grab a granola bar on the way out the door. Let me sum up what I mean by devotional in one statement before I get too far ahead of myself.
A book that has a format similar to: One verse, life story, be your best self today/overcome your enemies today...
Some of these books were written with good intent. But you were made for so much more! A lot of the books that follow this one page format are only a ploy from the enemy to make you feel better about yourself and keep coming back for more. If you stay content your entire life with your one page, three minute offering to God, how could you ever expect to grow? Growth comes from being in His word. Do not let yourself be the subject of those harrowing words in the 5th chapter of Hebrews: "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child." (12-13)
You Were Made for More
There are 31,102 verses in the Holy Bible, God's Word. If we are generous and say that a devotional has three verses per day, and that this devotional walks through every verse of the Bible, it would take you 28 years to work your way through God's Word. Are you prepared to be content with this? Picture yourself at the foot of the throne, that Glorious Throne of Grace!! But Lord! I read this devotional everyday that gave me scripture, and the writer wrote as if the comforting words were coming straight from your mouth. I learned to be a little less stressed along the way.
If you are honest with yourself, you know this isn't enough to grow you in holiness and submission to God. The problem with many devotionals on the market today is that they can lead us to become self-centric instead of God-centric. Our human nature seeks to gratify the self, some more than others. When you are constantly reading a devotional that tells you day in and day out how loved you are and that you will slay your giants today because you are fearfully and wonderfully made, yet that devotional never convicts you of your sin nature and the need for God's grace through Jesus, you will inevitably become self-centered and utilize God as your genie in a bottle when that next big circumstance comes along.
Humanity was not created to be lonesome doves. God created Eve almost immediately after Adam, saying "It is not good that man should be alone." Call it a stretch but in the same manner you were not meant to be alone in your study. When you go into your alone time with God every morning, that's just what it is - alone time with God. Morning study without God is idolatry. Taking a daily devotional that pushes you to be more self-centric instead of God centric is against your new nature as a Christian. You are no longer a slave to sin (self pursuits) but a slave to righteousness (Godly pursuit). You may tell yourself that you go to church on Sunday morning and supplement with a daily devotional through the week so you think you have a good balance. Amen to that. You are seeking God and devoting your time to him, and with this He is pleased. But please hear me, even if you attend church regularly, you were made for so much more than this. Not only were you made for more, but God desires more.
God Desires More
"For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, when you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." Deuteronomy 30:9-10)
"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." Joshua 1:8
Take these two passages along with the abundance of verses through Proverbs, Psalm, or the New Testament and it is easy to see why we should abide in God through the studying of His written Word. God is not an abstract, impersonal thought. He is a loving Father that will have communication with His children. But how do we communicate with God? Most people tend to think that hearing from God is taking a stroll in the woods, soaking in the quiet of nature, and waiting for God to audibly speak. (thinking of Monty Python here) However, God doesn't speak to us in this manner, nor does he speak to us in the way that the prophets spoke to Israel. Why? "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
God does speak to us. We have 31,102 verses of His words to us. The words in the Bible are God's words. The writers were carried along by the Spirit in their writing. I want you to imagine having a solid relationship with your coffee barista whom you don't know. (I know you most likely don't go to a coffee shop every morning, but that only furthers my analogy) How good of a relationship do you expect to have with this person if the only conversation you are having, the only time you are taking to get to know them, is completed within a 2-3 minute window a few times a week? Would we dare try to build a relationship with anyone in our lives by only committing no more than five minutes per day to establishing it? We would never! But you don't have to do this with God, and you shouldn't. Your coffee man did not create the neurons transmitting in your brain right now that give you the ability to understand the letters on the screen you are currently reading. Your coffee man didn't breathe air into your lungs to give your brain oxygen that it needs to understand these words or the Bible. Your coffee man didn't create the tree, the cow, and the components of ink that are required to bind together His Words that he wants to share with you.
Your coffee man doesn't know your every need, but the Father does. If you are currently reading a devotional (a good one), keep on giving that to God. But I strongly encourage you to begin to give more. Start small. Start with this article on being a Student of the Word. Begin to read more of the actual Bible each day and let it change your life. Below, I will list some recommended bible reading plans and what I would call wholesome devotionals if you choose to continue to only read a devotional.
These are very brief devotionals. However, Ligonier is an incredible ministry. Group this with Bible reading. While you're there, check out the daily Renewing Your Mind.
365 Days With Spurgeon - Unreal how edifying this can be.
Another Charles Spurgeon work that will certainly bless you. A quick devotional in the morning plus another in the evening. Both grounded in Scripture.
Daily Readings From the Life of Christ
I admit I haven't read this one but I have read only good things about it. Plus, it's MacArthur, can't go wrong.
In lieu of listing out 10 reading plans, I will supply this link for you to check out a good list already compiled by Ligonier.
Once again, thanks for reading! May the Lord bless you and yours this day! His kingdom reigns.