Devotion is a training

By Heavenly Baby

 本文原刊於《舉目》14期

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       For a very long time, "Daily devotion" has become a promise to God I was unable to keep. Every year I made a plan; but regretfully, my yearly plans were all transformed into the next year's New Year Resolution. I have found many excuses to comfort myself: my work is too busy, my learning is too busy, my serving is too busy, my body is too weak, I lack suitable material, etc. At last, I gradually found out the root cause of my delinquency.

        David said, "My soul thirst after thee, as a weary land" (Psalms 143:6) David was thirsting after God, thirsting after God's face, and thirsting to pour out his mind to God. This desire to be near to God occupied most of David's mind, and it burned and tormented David's heart. Devotion is not reading bible for the sake of reading, and it is even further for the execution of a plan.

        Devotion is to be near God. Through bible reading and praying we enter into God's mind to know God, to build up and renew our relationship with God. Our desire to see God's face and to be close to God should be the only motivation for our devotion. It is unsustainable to have devotion in order to execute a plan; even with a determination to suspend one's head from the ceiling and to prick one's butt, it would lose the meaning of devotion.

       Henri J.M. Nouwen said, "It is not easy to live in right now, because our past and our future will unceasingly disturb us. The past disturbs us with regret; the future disturbs us with worry." I think that is the reason I cannot be at peace during devotion. I will bring with me a lot of baggage, and many questions demanding imminent answer, when I have my devotion. I kept thinking, today I must receive enlightenment during devotion, and solutions to certain problems that bothered me. I was occupied by too many "mine" thoughts.

        Ignatius of Loyola prayed to God thus: "Lord, please take away and accept all of my freedom, my memory, my understanding, all of my mind – everything starting with 'my..' is grace from you. Lord, I return them to you …"

       When I gradually learn to pray this prayer, my mind is calmed down during devotion, and I can lay my soul's burdens in front of the Lord's feet. The regret of yesterday cannot bind my heart, and tomorrow's worry cannot occupy my heart. Slowly, I appreciate the Lord is the Lord who is with me always, the Lord who resides within me always. Gradually, I discover that devotion is coming before the Lord will a simple heart, just to worship Him, just to adore His glory.

        Tozer has said, "The Bible was written with tears. Only those who weep can find the most precious treasure within." In the past, I thought the reason for having devotion in the morning is to have peace and joy for today's living; is to learn what one ought or ought not to do in the beginning of the day.

       In fact, when we have an encounter with God, and when God's word has an impact on us, the Lord's life generates a shock wave within us. When darkness is enlighten by true light; when sin meets forgiveness by holy love; the tears of joy will wash away and cleanse the dirt and fear deep within us. Devotion is such an exercise; an exercise to open up our inward darkness, our hurt, our fear, love and desire to be loved, and allow God's love to embrace and heal us, and in the process experience the power of God's word.

        A story told of a young man who was in pain. He came to God's presence and said, "My cross is too heavy; it is too much for me to bear and I am about to give up." God told him, "Sure. Put down your cross here and open the door to that other room. You can pick a cross that you can bear."

        The young man put down his cross and opened the door to the other room. There he found many crosses every one of which is very large; so huge that he cannot see the top of the crosses. Suddenly, he found a small, toy-like cross sitting at a corner of the room. He walked over and easily lifted up that cross. At that moment, God said to him, "My dear child, this is the cross you have just put down."

        I wish I could be like the young man, who can openly and sincerely bring his pain to God, and received help and guidance in return. I envy Hannah's ability to pour out her thoughts to God, and Samuel's experience to hear God's calling while sleeping. I am often concerned why I cannot hear God's voice. This story reminds me that devotion is a time when we fellowship with God and listen to His voice. If we are like the young man in the story and are willing to bare and honestly tell God about ourselves, I believe God will speak to us and reveal His wonderful will.

        I read a meaningful devotional note from the internet. A brother was reading the Lord's prayer during his devotion: "Our father, who art in heaven…" God said, "You called me?" He said, "no, I am reading the Lord's prayer." He followed: "Hallowed be thy name…" God said, "Are you not calling my name?" He said, "No! I read this prayer every day." He does not have patience to continue to argue with God, so he just closed his eyes and said, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…" God asked, "How can my will be done on you?"

       That was how I used to do in my devotion. I opened up the Bible and just read, thinking it is better to read than not to read. Sometimes I would look at the watch, thinking that soon I will finish what I wanted to read today.

        In a Bible reading camp, the Director of Overseas Campus, Edwin Su told us that during devotion one has to "read the Bible with a praying mind, and pray using verses from the Bible." After a period of following this advice, I gradually realized that devotion is to contemplate the Lord's word in prayer, understand the Lord's mind with a praying heart, and instruct our soul with the Lord's word.

       Once again I read Hebrews 12:2 "looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." I would not ask, how do I look up? How could I despise shame? Rather I would cry out earnestly and pray, "Lord, give me the faith to look up to you; may you draw me near with what you have accomplished on the cross, and your salvation become the source of my joy."

      "Jesus my Lord, when I think of you,

      My heart is filled with joy.

      If I behold your face and rest in your bosom,

      There will be unspeakable sweetness…"

      Devotion is an exercise. An exercise to hear the calling of love from our Lord; to see the Lord's holy countenance; to discover that God has put His heart in ours; to obey the excellent will He bestows on us.

The author came from Si-an, currently living in Toronto, Canada.

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