My appetite for devotional books loomed large. In this particular season of life, I scoured bookstores and researched friends’ suggestions. Stacks of these works—various sizes and themes—surrounded my private place of worship. This volume here, that volume there…. Names like Surgeon, Chambers, Carmichael, and Taylor stood ready. In time alone with the Lord, I daily made my way through one after the other, and, eventually, I made my way to the Bible.
My habits changed when I realized my treasured collection of devotional books had subtly become a distraction to the Scriptures themselves. God used the words of Elisabeth Elliot to alter my course;
“If you only have five minutes, read what God wrote, not my writings.” Her admonition stayed with me, and I evaluated my ways.
Years later, I offer these observations:
Benefits of using devotional books
Valuable spiritual lessons can be gleaned from those who have walked before us, particularly those who witnessed the faithfulness of God in other periods of history.
Seasons of late nights with newborns or extended hospitals stays with family, seasons of unprecedented pain when our hurting soul simply cannot take in much, are periods of time when life can be softened with the encouraging touch of words from a devotional book.
Establishing a daily routine to spend time alone with God is bolstered when one follows the dates frequently laid out in devotional books.
The richness of the spiritual writings of others ministers to us, while we wisely guard ourselves against allowing a devotional to replace the Bible — listening more to the voice of others than to The Voice of God.
View the devotional as an appetizer before a feast, something that pulls me toward the greater supernatural content of the Bible itself.
Resist the temptation to view the devotional book as a sufficient, stand-alone resource in walking with God. The Bible must always be one’s priority.
Ten of My Favorite Devotional Classics
A Lamp for My Feet, Elisabeth Elliot
Daily in Christ, Neil Anderson
Daily Light, Samuel Bagster
God’s Best Secrets, Andrew Murray
Jesus Calling, Sarah Young
Joy and Strength, Mary Wilder Tileston
Keep a Quiet Heart, Elisabeth Elliot
Morning and Evening, Charles Spurgeon
My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers
Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, Arthur Bennett
Our goal is not to eliminate the use of devotional books. Rather, we should prayerfully seek the Lord in the selection process; He knows what content will enrich our time alone with Him.
Currently, I limit myself to only one or two carefully selected resources, which can set the stage, and create a tone and atmosphere of worship for me to meet with God. Tactically, I've learned to thoughtfully place devotional volumes in the car, the kitchen, the guest room, or on my nightstand. Always, though, I keep before me the admonition of Charles Spurgeon who said, "Visit many good books, but live in the Bible."
Living With Eternal Intentionality™
How do you incorporate devotional writings into your walk with God?
What favorite title would you add to this list?