What Devotionals Mean for Christians

Which do you read more: daily devotionals or the Bible? This interesting and difficult question looks different for each Christian, but it contains an important concern. That is, the Christian community needs to be careful in not idolizing other forms of literature over the Bible but instead, use devotionals as a tool with discernment and wisdom.

Writing for Christianity Today, author Jen Wilkin said, “While best-selling devotional books offer formation through inspirational words of comfort, true Christian devotion—the formative practice of being set apart to serve—is founded on inspired words that correct.”

Robbie F. Castleman, biblical studies adjunct professor at John Brown University, discusses the role the Bible holds in her life and what her daily devotional practices have been.

“Scripture is the unique and only authoritative writing for Christian faith and practice, so the Bible stands first and only in my life as authoritative,” she said. “My early morning quiet time has been steady and challenging for my walk with Jesus for over 50 years.”

Aminta Arrington, associate intercultural and biblical studies professor at JBU, emphasizes the dangers in reading devotional books without turning to the word of the Lord.

“Devotionals are very focused on the individual reading them, and tend to deal with topics like stress, worry, anxiety, things like that,” Arrington said. “A prime example is the devotional ‘Jesus Calling,’ which takes Jesus’ words and turns them into the second person, so they are speaking directly to the person reading the devotional.” 

Arrington stated the Bible is not about us but about God and His plan for human redemption through His word and wisdom. She added that devotionals tend to shift that focus from God to us.

Arrington shared that “reading a devotional along with a verse or two can make us feel like we’ve had an encounter with God, and met that requirement for the day — hence the term ‘daily devotional.’” She stated, “This can give the impression that God is a daily requirement and not an entire life stance and that God is just about Him and me, and it doesn’t impact all the people around me that I am required to impact and serve.”

Castleman explained the changes based on the specialness God created every individual to be. She said, “[It] depends on what the Christian’s calling is. If you are a pastor, you are going to study a passage a whole lot longer than most people in the congregation. If you are a businesswoman in a secular setting, you are going to spend more time in witness and evangelism. If you are gifted as a prayer warrior, you’ll spend more time in intercession than another brother or sister.”

Castleman concluded, “Christians should focus their time on doing what the Lord has for them each day. Scripture study and devotional time guide and give insight and wisdom for all these things, of course.”

There is a beauty in daily devotionals with the resources provided for Christians seeking that deeper connection with the Lord. However, Christians must remain aware to the importance of the God-breathed and infallible scripture that is the Bible.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Burden