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Do you have a daily devotional?

April 13, 2014

Palm SundayDevotional

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”. Hebrews 12;1-3

I remember when I was studying theology. During the first year, the pastor, the student’s chaplain, invited a group of students to visit monasteries and learn about the spiritual life of monks. We took his Kombi and we traveled to a Benedictine monastery near the city. In a later trip, we went to a Trappist monastery 300 km from the capital city. There we stayed with the monks in rooms that were for visitors, but we were invited to partake in the same life as them. Waking up at 3:30 in the morning, there was devotionals, breakfast, work time, lunch at 11, devotionals, a short nap, work, devotionals, dinner and sleep at 9:00 pm. It was an interesting experience, especially that invitation to get up at 3:30 in the morning!

But the most interesting thing I learned from them, and it took me many years to realize it because at the time I looked at it more like a matter of habit and monastic discipline, was the spiritual strength that having certain fixed times for devotionals can give. In this sense, a devotional is an invocation to God, reading of a psalm, prayer or singing of a hymn. The monks performed these devotionals as a community, with everyone singing along and repeating the same sentence. That way everyone participated in the devotional. All this seemed and felt to me at that time to be very ritualistic and that I wouldn’t benefit from this type of activity. Over time, and only a few years ago, I realized the great richness and great spiritual strength that one gains if one can perform these devotionals every day.

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

We have to stand firm in the faith to overcome the attacks of the devil. We must stand firm in our faith to achieve victory in our Christian life. I don’t know if you have a devotional life. I don’t know if you have it – if you don’t have it, why not? Perhaps no one has taught you this properly. It is something that should be taught in churches. It should not be taught from the pulpit, but should be taught early in Sunday school, then in the Confirmation course and then in the weekly Bible studies that should be held in every Christian community. But if it is the case that it has not yet been taught, we can also teach about it from the pulpit, as today.

What does it mean a daily family or a personal devotional? As I said above, it is a devotional time, –devotion means a form of prayer or worship–, especially in the morning or it may be at the end of the day or at both times, where in a personal or family holds a sort of ‘mini service.’ It can last a few minutes or it may take longer. But it is essential that everyone who considers themselves to be a Christian to have a devotional time at least once a day. During this time we can pray, read a passage from the Bible or we can also sing a hymn.

Is it necessary to be devotional like the monks, with the same length, frequency and discipline as them? No, it is not necessary. But we do have to have the discipline to turn to God daily, plus on Sunday, as we need God to strengthen our faith and we need spiritual energy to face the day. Let us be reminded that, as human beings, we have a physical body, a mind, but that what drives our whole being is the spirit of each of us that dwells within us.

If the spirit is good from a young age, everything else will be fine also. However, if the spirit is not fed daily with prayer and the word of God, our whole being starts to malfunction. It is with this that I began to understand how dull words like “discipline” relate to devotionals. I realized that it is important to have a daily moment of encounter with God through devotionals, as they strengthen our faith and strengthen our perseverance and spiritual strength.

We can compare the daily spiritual food that we get through devotionals with regular food that our bodies require daily. We know what food is. And it’s so nice when we are eating healthy and have a good appetite! We don’t want to stop eating, not only because it is pleasurable but also because we know that it fortifies us, it gives us the energy to walk, to work, to live. When a person is sick, they don’t feel a longing to eat. If the doctor asks us if we are eating and we say no, that we are not hungry, he will tell us that there is a problem and we are probably sick because not eating is not normal for a healthy person. He would then begin to do tests to find out what is wrong. Likewise, if we Christians don’t have a desire to pray and nourish ourselves with the reading of the word of God, then it is because there is a spiritual anomaly. Something is not working well in the area of ​​our spirit. We cannot go more than a day without eating spiritually, regardless if that meal comprises only of a short devotional. If this minimum does not happen, then there is a problem. The problem is not physical, it is spiritual. This notion may seem strange and exaggerated to us, but it is so. Many times we complain that we don’t have the required faith, or that our faith is weak and that we only face trials and problems in life. We feel spiritually weak, broken, anxious and sick. This illness can manifest itself physically, even though the problem originated in the spiritual realm.

Today many doctors and scientists, including non-believers, are realizing that the vast majority of physical illnesses have a mental root that they call psychosomatic reasons, which we can identify more accurately as spiritual illness. Because the mind, that is the brain, is just one of the physical organs that is controlled by the spirit of the individual. The Bible itself is full of verses stating that the spirit is in control even over all the physical symptoms of the person. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Pro 17:22)

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”

The only way in which we can keep the mind strong and persevere in faith against the tricks of the wicked one and the problems that we have to face in life is by keeping ourselves strong in the faith. We need to be committed to Christ and be in full communion with him daily. It is needless to pray or read the Bible for a long time every day. What is most important is the quality of that time. If we would only say a little prayer and read the Bible for 5 minutes every morning and every night before bed, that would make a fundamental difference in the quality of our spiritual life. From then on we would of course be living an optimal life in all areas of our being.

It is known that when you stop eating, you become weak and even sick. Likewise, if we do not feed ourselves spiritually through daily devotionals, we will also get sick considering that the Spirit has the entire control over our whole being.

There are many people who would like to have more faith, more strength and more confidence in God’s power in Christ. Jesus Himself said, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)…. “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:22). These are real and precious promises of Christ to deal with the problems of our life. The question is, why don’t we have that faith, especially if God promised it to each of us? And the answer is perhaps because we are not feeding ourselves spiritually on a daily basis so that we can strengthen our spirit.

It is in this manner that I learned and came to understand the reasons for the spiritual exercises and discipline of the monks. The reason is not to have more religious devotionals to show off in front of people. For a devotional time, I have to have the same discipline that I have for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have to feed myself if I really want to stand firm in the faith. Five minutes a day is not much, right? But if you calculate 5 minutes a day times four weeks, it comes to 140 minutes, that is: two hours and twenty minutes that we spent feeding ourselves with Christ’s Word and praying. If you’ve never done it before, or if you have never tried to do it, and perhaps have given up after a half hour of great spiritual enthusiasm followed by nothing for a long time, we can say for 3 months, then it is not better to have reached two hours and twenty minutes in a month rather than 10 minutes in a month, if we average?

It is best if we only take a little bit each day. The apostle Paul, referring to spiritual childhood and talking about other issues, said, “My friends, you are acting like the people of this world. That’s why I could not speak to you as spiritual people. You are like babies as far as your faith in Christ is concerned. So I had to treat you like babies and feed you milk. You could not take solid food, and you still cannot, because you are not yet spiritual.”(1 Co 3:1-3)

We can compare those who have never had the discipline to have quiet devotional time to those who have not eaten for months. Starving, they have already lost the feeling of hunger and should start eating again slowly, because the body has lost the physiological discipline and ability to digest food. Eating too much can be counterproductive. Likewise, in the spiritual case, you might lose the discipline to feed yourself. If we have not had that discipline, in the words of the Apostle Paul, we are like spiritual babies that should be fed with soft food to slowly become accustomed to it.

I am sure that each one of us wants to be a good Christian and be strong in faith and be of good courage to face life and live in full communion with Christ. Isn’t this true? Then let us learn from the monks and let us discipline our devotional life in the same way we do with our meal times. That’s why there are as many publications such as the ‘Losungen’ devotional books in German and in many other languages; or other daily devotional books such as ‘Our Daily Bread’; what a suggestive title! We can go to Christian bookstores and look for a good, simple and easy to understand reading journal and start over. Or we can just take the Bible, a good modern Bible that you truly understand and read it two or three minutes a day aloud, pray aloud and, if you like, sing a hymn also at home. Yes, let us begin with five minutes a day with discipline and perseverance. That’s already a huge amount of time and you will soon see miraculous changes in your spirit, and of course, it will show results in your entire being.

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Amen.

 

 

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