Are Daily Devotional Books good for my quiet time?

Is my spiritual growth being managed by someone else's commercial goals?

Daily devotional books are found in almost every Christian home. It might be a monthly “Word for the Day” or an annual collection such as Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. For many Christians, these daily devotional books are their primary exposure to Christian writing. But are they a good tool for a daily quiet time? I don’t think so. Here are five reasons why these daily devotional books are inadequate for a quiet time.

Daily Devotional Books

1. Daily devotional books are not authoritative

Having reminded his readers of the fact that he had seen and heard Christ in His glory, Peter said, “we have the prophetic word made more sure…” (2 Peter 1:19). In other words, though Peter had had this amazing experience, he regarded the written Word, the words recorded by the Prophets, as more certain than his own experience.

He also explained why he regarded Scripture as more certain than his experience. He explains that “no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will.” Scripture is not something made up by people. Instead, Scripture is written through a process in which men are “moved by the Holy Spirit” and consequently they speak “from God” (2 Peter 1:21).

The reason the word of God is authoritative is that God directly influenced it’s writing by directly superintending (or moving) the human author. The Bible carries God’s authority because the Bible conveys God’s words. Daily Devotional books don’t.The Bible carries God’s authority because the Bible conveys God's words. Daily Devotional books don’t Click To Tweet

2. Daily devotional books don’t address our sin sufficiently

Limitations of humanity

If daily devotional books don’t carry the authority of God, then they are not going to address our sin sufficiently. Because we are finite, our understanding of God’s perfections is limited to what He has said about Himself and our ability to comprehend His revelation. Therefore, we simply can’t grasp how repulsive God regards sin to be.

But our understanding of sin is even worse than that. Sin has corrupted us, preventing us from even reaching our full potential to understand what God has revealed. Add to that our love and rationalization of sin and the effect sin has on our thinking and the result is that, rather than detest sin, we love it. Consequentially, as sinners we tend to avoid the subject of sin, except perhaps for the sin we don’t like, and which we see in others. Part of sin’s influence on us is to cause us to stay away from opportunities to be confronted with the reality of our sin.

Limitations of impact

If this is true of us, it is true of the authors of daily devotional books too. They are not able to fully convey the horror of sin, nor are they free from its corrupting effects. This means they have the same tendency to avoid their sin that we do and probably won’t address our sin the way we need to. At best, daily devotional books will provide a limited view of sin.

One of the key things we need to do in our quiet time is to examine ourselves and day by day put to death our flesh. Daily devotions tend to touch on sin in either a general way (if at all) or in a highly specific way. Either way, the treatment that daily devotional books give to sin is not as broad or as applicable as the word of God, and therefore the authority with which they deal with sin will be inferior.

The Bible: Sufficient

By contrast, Hebrews 4:12-13 says, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” The implication of verse 13 is that the word of God exposes the thoughts and intentions of our hearts because God knows our hearts and wrote His Word with this purpose in mind. The Holy Spirit can’t work through daily devotional books to convict us of sin with the same scope he can through His own Word.

The benefit of Daily devotional books is limited by their human authors. Therefore daily devotional books are not as focused on holiness as you, and I need to be.Daily Devotional Books are not as focused on holiness as you, and I need to be Click To Tweet

3. Daily devotional books truncate the word of God

Some of these daily devotional books sometimes cover their ground well. But few, if any have readings from every book of the Bible. I doubt any cover every verse of scripture. In other words, daily devotions don’t present you with the full counsel of God.

Jesus refuted Satan’s first temptation saying that man is to live on “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). It’s true that the Lord uses individual verses to drive significant changes in our lives at various points. But we don’t all share the same need for change, so the variety of the word of God is useful for teaching, reproving and training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16).

Have you ever been convicted of a sin in one passage, and then begun to see that same sin illustrated or warned against in different passages throughout scripture? The Lord uses His word by highlighting key ideas to us repeatedly as we read. He teaches something in one place, and then we start to see examples, warnings, and consequences of it throughout the word of God. The entirety of scripture is used to reinforce and expand on itself, developing our understanding of the Lord and His world and ourselves, leading us to Christlikeness.

Daily devotional books tend to focus on a thought (per page) based on a verse or passage. Often they’ll have 365 entries, though monthly booklets are also popular. That provides you with 365 verses or passages covered throughout a year. If that’s all we’re reading from the word of God in our quiet times, we’re probably not growing very much.

4. Daily devotional books set your spiritual goals for you

There is a troubling question that arises from this. If my daily devotional is guiding me to selected parts of the word of God, then who is guiding my spiritual growth? Whoever it may be, it isn’t me, and it isn’t in response to my personal needs. Is my spiritual growth being managed by someone else’s commercial goals?

Daily devotional books are often an almost random collection of varying verses and ideas. Perhaps they follow a theme, but often they don’t. Variation means that they don’t model good practices when it comes to planning spiritual growth. Rather than focusing on the areas you need the most help in, their approach is more likely oriented around keeping you engaged. Continual engagement is a slippery slope since it frequently depends either a motivational hook or enjoyment to keep us. That means avoiding hard-hitting issues… like sin.

You’re better off thinking through your needs, setting goals and then building your quiet time around those.Is my spiritual growth being managed by someone else’s commercial goals? Click To Tweet

5. It’s just reading.

Finally, we all know that reading is an important part of spiritual growth, and specifically reading the Bible. Reading a daily devotional book isn’t reading the Bible, but it is only reading. There are other aspects of a quiet time that are critical to spiritual growth that we should be investing in such as prayer, meditation, and journaling. Reading is essential to a quiet time. But when we put these four disciplines together with a clear goal, the result over time is remarkable.

Reading is good. But reading alone, and particularly something that isn’t the Bible is far less impactful than you might be led to think.

Save the Daily Devotional Book!

Don’t think I’m saying you shouldn’t use these books. They’re great in many ways, and I wouldn’t suggest that these works are worthless. They serve a purpose. My point here is that they are insufficient as a quiet time. That means the if all you’re doing is reading from a daily devotional book, then I suggest that your quiet time is primarily about ticking a box. That might sound harsh, but the value you’re getting from that reading is nothing compared to what you should be deriving from the word of God. If all you're doing is reading from a daily devotional book, your quiet time is primarily about ticking a box Click To Tweet

In your quiet time, focus on developing personal holiness, bringing every area of your life under the sovereign control of the Lord and slowly and steadily relinquishing the control of the flesh. It’s unlikely your daily devotional book will help you do that in any significant way.

If you use a daily devotional book, how do you use it and how does it benefit you? Leave a comment below.