As pastors and church leaders, most of us are teachers of the word of God and probably spend some time of the day preparing our sermons, Bible studies, talks or even general discussions based on the Bible. We usually have the Bible with us, and we turn to it for our responses. For example, when we are discussing the Gospel or we are in a theological or doctrinal discussion with someone. The Bible is our weapon and tool. We spend a lot of our time with this book, but it is generally for the benefit of other people. Sadly, many pastors rarely read the Bible for their own spiritual growth.
Just like each church member, pastors also need personal spiritual edification. Only when we spend some time of the day reflecting on the word of God and trying to apply it to our own lives can this happen. Pastor Garrett Kell rightly says, “Even as a pastor, we are always a sheep in need of nourishment.” Every believer is in need of nourishment. Pastors are first Jesus’ sheep, and secondly pastors to His flock.
There is nothing new about devotion that the Bible has not already taught us. We might have taught others about devotion. However, it is always wise to take a step back and look at the word of God, so that we can understand how devotion is made complete. The whole Bible is full of different passages about the goodness of the word of God, but consider with me a few verses from Psalm 119. As we try and look at the various aspects of devotion, I hope your soul is encouraged to spend personal time with our Father.
1. Reading the Word of God
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” (Ps. 119:105) A light from the lamp comes into effect only when it is lit. Similarly, for the word of God to guide us, it needs to be known, and it is known by reading the Word. It is necessary that we understand what God is saying to us through His word. And this is possible only when we open our Bible and read from it.
Do not confuse the voice of God with the superstitious assumption that God has a new deal for you daily. He doesn’t! It’s the same old and good Gospel, it’s the same status of God being reminded of us, and it’s the same Christ being shown to us daily through the word of God. This does not mean that we stop reading the Bible because at the end of the day the message is the same. Instead, we fervently try to look at all the aspects of the text and see Christ in it .
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Thus, to see Him daily in the word of God is to find light for our daily walk in this earthly life. And this light from the lamp is lit by reading the word of God .
2. Meditating on the Word of God
“The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” (Ps. 119:130) Quickly reading through a verse or passage of the Bible is as good as passing by beautiful scenery and not cherishing the uniqueness and creativity of its creator. It would be a waste to go for a drive in the beautiful countryside all the while ignoring the calm streams, the flourishing trees, the colourful birds and the entire landscape.
Similarly, we can read a passage without thinking about its meaning. To dig into a text and decipher the meaning based on the context makes us appreciate the beauty of the text and also understand the connections to the storyline of the Bible. By in-depth study, we put the blocks together and seek to understand where that particular text fits into the whole picture of God’s story. Paying attention while reading and asking questions will make us more deeply understand the word of God.
As we read in Ps. 119:130, the unfolding of the Word gives light and gives understanding to the simple-minded. Therefore, we must think and ponder on the passage which we read, so that we understand the will of our Lord. We should not assume what the word of God is saying, but pay close attention to the context, structure and grammar of the text to unfold the deeper meaning. As we understand God’s word we can enjoy the beauty of God as we grow in intimacy with Him.
3. Praying the Word of God
“I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word.” (Ps. 119:147) When we begin to see the beauty and glory of God in His word, then we begin to realize the futility of our minds and the sinfulness that remains in us.
We cannot keep quiet but will end up thanking God for His work. At the same time, we will recognize our need to repent of our sins. When we get assurance from the word of God then we start to rely on and pray to God for various things in our ministry.
Our prayers should be sincere and thoughtful. Praying while reading the Bible is required. It shows our dependence on God and our faith in Him for the fulfillment of our prayers. Remember Jesus’ words from Lk. 5:16, “But He would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” Jesus was God-Man, thoroughly busy with a purpose. Sometimes he was busy to a point where he had no time to eat and even His brothers called him insane in Mk. 3:21. However, he set aside time to spend in isolation with His Father. Let me repeat, the Word Incarnate himself spent time in prayer with the Father. We must be encouraged, as preachers of the Word, to pray fervently in isolation and base these prayers on the word of God.
Simply put, devotion is reading, meditating and praying the word of God so that an individual is enlightened to walk as per the will of God in their daily lives and put all their hope in God. May God help us pastors not to neglect this foundational, necessary and important spiritual discipline in our personal lives.
Philip Johnson serves on the pastoral staff at Satya Vachan Church, Lucknow. He is married to Sangeeta and they have two daughters.