“Little drops of water, little grains of sand, make the mighty ocean and the beauteous land.” – Julia Carney.
In the short run, it’s often hard to see the impact of repeatedly performing an action. However, cued by the opening lines above, taking the long view does help us see the benefits of persistent effort and faithful discipline. This interplay between time and effort is visibly at play in many areas of life, no less in the area of Christian discipleship. Little wonder, then, that the Bible hints at such diligence in gaining knowledge:
“… For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little.”
Saved for good works
Whilst believers are saved by faith alone, we are saved unto good works – not to earn favour or right standing with God, but to bear witness to the salvation we have experienced. Put in their right place, these good works are indeed pleasing to the Lord.
Diligently toeing the line of Christian discipleship (personally and communally) is one telling work that Christians are called to do. Not merely because it’s just what good Christians do, but primarily because it is the means through which the Spirit transforms our lives and brings about spiritual growth. It also gives expression to the love we have for our Saviour, as we seek to obey his commands.
Personal and Communal aspects of discipleship have different flavours and serve different but complementary purposes. As such, one cannot take the place of the other! Communal aspects traverse whole church gatherings, small group meetings, intentional friendships, and not the least, family settings. To varying degrees, each of these interactions places the teacher right alongside the learner in the learning process, for as is often posited, “to teach is to learn twice”.
Yet, faithful Christian discipleship, in all its varied forms, is not an end in itself, but a necessary means to an end.
The goal of daily devotions
At the most basic level, personal devotions are times of fellowship that mirror a two-way street communication where time is spent hearing from God, primarily through the reading or studying of the Bible, and speaking to God in prayers. These set apart times may be structured differently from person to person but are nonetheless superintended by the Holy Spirit.
The end goal of devotion isn’t so much information gathering, nor is it scouting for lists of dos and don’ts, rather, it is ultimately worship. Hence, these times of fellowship ought to help orient our hearts and minds to the One whose rightful due is our worship. As we catch glimpses of God’s character, displayed in power, authority, love, grace, and even his wrath, we are captivated by his majesty, and enabled by his Spirit to become increasingly inclined to submit to his will.
By nature, we are hardwired for worship. So, when we are not captivated by the awe of God, our worship effortlessly devolves to less deserving, man-made gods who enticingly over-promise but disappointingly under-deliver.
In much the same way that our bodies crave physical nourishment, our souls also require consistent spiritual nourishment to thrive. The consequences of habitually neglecting times of daily devotions are dire: in the short run, we miss out on the joy and blessings of abiding in Christ, in the long run, we’re left with a shortfall in the moment of crisis.
A delightful duty
There’s no sugar-coating it, making a commitment to set aside time daily for personal devotions or family devotions will many a time prove challenging, especially when legitimate needs compete for the limited time that we have. But I guess that’s the test of real commitment – leaving undone, in order to do. Also bear in mind that the devil will do everything possible to keep us from taking advantage of this means of grace. Some days will meet us with the dullness of a tedious mountain climb, others will meet us with the exuberance of a hiker at the peak of a mountain. We must therefore guardedly plan for and pursue this spiritual discipline with both a sense of duty and delight.
Day in day out, it may not look like much is happening, but here a little, there a little, we are being transformed into the image of our Lord from one degree of glory to another.
Food for thought
I have yet to meet a professing Christian who doesn’t know that personal devotions ought to be a regular part of their rhythm of life. The real test of that knowledge however, is in how it is applied – do we take that knowledge seriously enough to deliberately carve out time and space to make it happen? Starting today, what can we leave undone in order to do good to our souls?
Sike Osinuga is a Christian woman learning the ropes of being a godly wife and mother, one wobbly step at a time. An erstwhile Telecoms Engineer, she enjoys reading good books and writing. Her passion is to know Christ and to make Him known. She blogs at http://www.thrivebytheword.com”