Daily Devotionals, Christian Encouragement, and The Hope of Something Better

I have nothing against a good daily devotional. They’re useful for setting our minds on the things of the Lord and for giving us a verse of the day to meditate on. Plus, a dated daily devotional may be just what some people need to hold them accountable when it comes to spending time with the Lord.

Like I said, I don’t have a problem with daily devotionals in principle. But I do have a problem with some of them in practice.

Those daily devotionals that I take issue with are the shallow, almost secular ones…the ones that tell you nothing other than how beautiful you are in your Maker’s eyes, the ones that tell you that you’re forgiven but neglect to tell you of the blood that was spilled to make that a reality, the ones whose covers boast of “seven ways your relationship with Jesus can improve your financial situation” or something equally ridiculous.

Many of those types of devotional books line the shelves of Christian bookstores.

Dear friend in Christ, do you yearn for something better? Do you read those books in the hope of immersing yourself in the ocean tides of God’s truth only to feel as though you’ve merely dipped your toe into a puddle of it?

Today, I’m here to talk to you about the hope of something better than trite Christian encouragement. That something better is true theology.

WHAT IS THEOLOGY ANYWAY?

Simply put, theology is the study of God.

Too often, I think that people shy away from studying theology because they fear all that it might entail. To the Christian who has not yet plunged into a study of God’s truth, learning theology might sound as intimidating as learning microbiology. It’s not that bad, I promise.

All theology is, is the study of God. If you read the Bible and take time to go through trustworthy footnotes, commentaries, or books, you’re an ordinary theologian (or “she-ologian,” as my fiancé likes to call me) already .

STOP UNDERESTIMATING YOUR ABILITIES

Maybe you’re still saying, “Yeah, but I don’t really think studying theology is my thing.” If that’s where you’re at today, I encourage you to stop underestimating your abilities. Pick up a commentary at your local Christian bookstore. Read the study notes at the bottom of your Bible pages. Purchase a copy of the catechism and challenge yourself to memorize catechism questions.

Most of us possess far greater strength of will and mental capabilities than we give ourselves credit for. We think that it’s asking a lot of ourselves to set aside thirty minutes a day to read Scripture and pray. We think that memorizing ten Bible verses or catechism questions is a next to impossible task.

Don’t worry, I’m guilty of thinking like that too, but I’m trying to get better at it. Think of all the areas in your life in which you exercise discipline and memory.

Do you work out five days a week without fail? Do you meal plan every Monday and pack lunches in advance for you to take to work or school? Do you make sure all your daily tasks are completed by 9pm on Fridays so that you can sit down and watch the latest episode of your favorite show?

None of those things are bad. In fact, they’re good, and they’re proof that you are disciplined and can accomplish things that you put your mind to.

And about your ability to memorize, take a guess at how many songs you know at least the chorus to. When I stopped to consider that the other day, the sheer number of songs I’m familiar with astounded me. And unfortunately, the number of Bible verses I have memorized pales in comparison.

Today, I encourage you to join me as I try to apply more of my energy and mental store space to the things of the Lord. It, like nothing else, will increase our love for the Lord and our enjoyment of His graces.

WHERE’S OUR FOCUS?

Remember, theology is the study of God. So many daily devotionals and Christian encouragement books are written with the goal of helping their readers love God better. It’s a noble intention, but I think that many of those books go about it incorrectly. They have people-centric messages when they should have God-centric ones. After all, if the goal is loving God better, it’s Him we should be focusing on. As Jen Wilkin wrote in Women of the Word, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know. If we want to feel deeply about God, we must learn to think deeply about [Him].”

You can easily find a daily devotional that’ll tell you that you’re flawless in your Heavenly Father’s eyes. Wouldn’t you rather read something that tells you the truth that you’re more flawed than you could ever imagine, yet still more loved than you could ever hope? Nearly every Christian book will tell you that you’re forgiven, but how many will tell you how that came to be? Many a daily devotional will tell you that having a relationship with Jesus will make you prosper, but how many will tell you that Christ will be your hope and stay in the midst of your storms?

If you want to strengthen your relationship with God and increase your love for Him, focus on Him. Set aside the books that tell you about you and dive headlong into the ones that tell you about Him.

STEP BY STEP

Learning theology is, like most everything else, a process. Sanctification is a journey, and learning theology is part of that.

Don’t feel discouraged if a largely secular devotional is your only source of daily bread. There was a season of my Christian life where that was true of me too. Also, please don’t feel like now you have to go on Amazon and order the thickest commentary on the book of Matthew that you can find or the most intimidating book on the incarnation of Christ.

You don’t.

Start small and take it step by step.

But do start. Learning theology matters. You’ll see that the moment you begin.

 

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