Generally speaking, devotions tend to fall into one of two styles. Some devotions primarily provide the storyline or context of the Bible. This usually can be accomplished through a normal Bible reading plan where one reads four or so chapters per day, systematically working through the Bible. Other methods of devotions strive for content and greater understanding of meaning. Both general styles are helpful.
Regardless of the style you primarily use, all devotions should focus on the same intended end – helping you grow in your communion with God and living consistent in fellowship with Him. Notice how James describes it.
“But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25).
Three Stages of Daily Devotions
Read for Comprehension.
On any particular day, regardless of how many total verses are read, focus needs to be given to a particular verse or verses. Carefully observe what the text means. To “look” means to stoop over to observe. Essentially, you want to know what was said, where it was said, to whom it was said, and why it was said.
Questions to be asked include:
1) Who is the author? Who are the characters in the story/episode? Who are the recipients of the letter?
2) When and where is it taking place (setting)? and
3) What is the author trying to teach (authorial intent)?
Your goal at this stage is to comprehend what a particular verse means.
Remember What You Read.
Intentionality is the key to remembering what you read. The idea is “to continue or remain.” Essentially you remain in the meaning of the passage throughout the day. The psalmist refers to this, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law does he meditate day and night” (Ps 1:1). This takes effort and must be intentional. There are several options that may help.
1) Use a journal to write out the verse and its meaning.
2) Write the verse on an index card and set a goal to read it throughout the day between 10-25 times.
3) Take time to discuss what you read and thought through with a friend, family member, or a colleague.
Apply What You Read.
Once you understand the meaning of the text, it is important to apply the text to your daily living. How does this passage fit your circumstance?
Key questions you can ask to help connect what you have read with your life include:
1) What is the connection of the meaning to your personal situation?
2) What do these verses reveal about God – Who He is or what He does? You are setting up the scenario so that you understand there is a ‘bigger issue’ at hand; not just your present problem or situation.
3) What do these verses reveal about people – me or people in general?
4) What should I resolve to do in response to these verses/passage? What is explicit in the text? What is implicit? What looks wise as a result of the passage’s meaning?
5) How does this passage help me in loving God or loving my neighbor?
Once you think through your answers, go back to your journal and add key issues of application. Take an additional step further to share with someone your desired application in order to invite some accountability.
What Is the Result?
When you read, remember, and apply God’s Word, you will be blessed. You place yourself in a strong position where God can reward your efforts in seeking to honor Him. As a result, God begins to strengthen and encourage you in your inner man, while establishing you in every good word and work. Further, you begin to live more consistent with what you read, which brings further blessings.
Test the Results
James transitions in the next two verses with the challenge to consider whether or not you are actually religious – are you the real deal? It starts with your tongue. Do you have control of your tongue? Are you serving others selflessly? Are you living a pure lifestyle? James expects his readers to be able to read, consider, remember, and apply God’s Word to everyday life and circumstances.
So how are you doing? Are you regularly enjoying Bible intake? If not, I encourage you to take a few minutes each day to read the Bible for your benefit. If you have never systematically read the Bible, let me encourage you to start in the New Testament Gospel of John. You’ll find this book easy to read and full of incredible content regarding Jesus.