“When you come, bring . . . the books, and above all the parchments.” 2 Timothy 4:13 (ESV)
I dare say many of us live a life in devotionals and not a life of devotion. Let me explain this statement before I go any further in explaining the side effects. Maybe this example might help . . .
Imagine that you are going to your favorite steakhouse. You have spent the whole day thinking of the first bite and the joy of savoring every piece. When you get to the steakhouse, there is a wait, but you know that it will be worth it. After all, you have waited all day so another 45 minutes seems insignificant. You finally sit at the table, place your order, and then wait a little longer for them to prepare your dish. Finally, your server delivers your plate and then proceeds to cut your steak for you. This seems like amazing service; he even agrees to stay at the table and feed you every bite so you don’t have to lift a finger. You happily agree, until he takes your first bite, chews it up for you, and then offers it to you.
This sounds ridiculous to us! Who would want to eat a steak that had already been chewed? Yet, this is what we often do in our spiritual lives in regards to Scripture. We spend a lot of our time digesting pre-chewed food from our pastor or our favorite devotional. Please understand these things are beneficial to us. They do provide us with nourishment, but it does not compare with feasting on God’s word for yourself and letting God speak to you through Scripture alone.
When we operate out of devotionals instead of devotion, two things happen. First, our ability to hear from God through Scripture is weakened because we are dependent on others to chew the food for us. In times of trial and decision, this often makes it hard for us to hear from God. We desperately seek him but are not able to hear him. Second, it causes spiritual impatience. We want God to do things now instead of understanding that what he has in store is worth the wait. When these two things work together we are trapped by the idea that we cannot know or understand Scripture.
Paul desired his parchments, or scrolls because he desired to read and study God’s word. Do you have that desire? It will be hard at first and it will take devotion and patience, but with reading accompanied by prayer, I promise you will taste and see that the Lord is good.