The Bible versus Devotionals
I really think it is important to understand there is a difference between Bible reading and reading a devotional. They are definitely not the same thing and often we use those terms interchangeably as if they were.
This is not meant to convince you that devotionals are bad (although some are pretty bad) or don’t have their place. They do. But they should never trump the Bible in terms of authority.
There is nothing a devotional can do that the Bible can’t; but there are plenty of things the Bible can do that a devotional cannot.
You see, devotionals are only a guide. They are not the guide. The bottom line is, the author had a personal connection with God on their own personal matters. What God conveyed to them, personally, was then laid out for other people to read. While some may certainly benefit from some of the information and even be guided in some aspects, it can never give us a full taste of what God has for us, personally.
Authors who write devotionals are not the final authority on what God’s word conveys. Only the Bible has that authority.
Having said all that, however, devotionals certainly have a place. I have a few of my own favorites and have also written one. They are meant, really, for encouragement and to point us to the authoritative word–the Bible. Because, there is power when we read His word with our own background, with our own struggles, with our own insecurities and needs.
We read more then a verse or two, more then a mere devotion can offer, and we find ourselves saturated in a healing balm of His truth. Rather then someone else speaking to us about how God used a verse to work in their life, God speaks to us directly with His truth, knowing us personally and knowing what we need.
Can God use devotionals? Absolutely. But. But, but but…they can also be a hindrance to His voice if we only rely on devotionals and neglect reading His word; the final authority on Truth.
Devotionals should never be a replacement for God’s word, but instead be read alongside, or not at all.
I admit, I am very, very picky about which devotionals I read. I don’t like a lot of fluff and honestly, when it comes to a devotion, I don’t want it to be all about the author. There is a place for that (testimonies). Devotionals should shift our thinking to God’s thinking and encourage devotion to God.
We can very often take the author’s words as if they are always meant for us, and they aren’t always meant for us. But the Bible, the words of Truth, no matter what our circumstances or what our personality, are always meant for us.
I encourage you, if you read a devotional, that’s fine! But don’t allow it to stand alone. Have a Bible reading plan of some sort as well. Read the scriptures for yourself and see what the Holy Spirit would speak to you, personally. This will also protect you against false teachings because not every devotional is lead of God and Truth.
The devotional I am enjoying currently is (affil link) Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts devotional. The one thing I really love about her devotional is that she does not claim to know all the answers, but often asks many questions throughout her devotions. It encourages the reader to seek out answers from the Word for themselves. She uses illustrations from her life, but does not suggest that there is a one-size fits all for every person. Instead, she invites you in to her quest, full of her own questions.
What is your favorite devotional and why?