The Duty of Devotion

Devotion is an expression of love and loyalty rooted in both duty and delight.

Christians often speak of devotion. We speak of “devoting ourselves to God” and, more commonly, of “doing our daily devotions.” This word is familiar to every believer, but I wonder how often we consider what it means and what it entails. What is this devotion we offer to God? And what’s the connection between devotion to God and personal devotions? What is its purpose of our personal devotions what do we hope to gain from them?

 

B.B. Warfield has gone down in history as one of America’s great theologians, and for good reason. He was a bulwark of orthodoxy against the rising tide of liberalism. Even a century after his death, many of his works are as powerful and relevant as the day they were written. Yet while he is known for his keen intellect and profound theological insights, he was also a man of tender affection.

Soon after his marriage to Annie, the young couple journeyed to Europe together. During this trip, Annie underwent a terrifying experience that resulted in a kind of nervous trauma she was never able to overcome. She returned home an invalid whose condition continued to deteriorate for the rest of her life. Warfield responded to these tragic events by diligently committing himself to her care. For the duration of their marriage, he rarely left her side for more than a couple of hours at a time, and never for longer than necessary. A friend recalls, “I used to see them walking together and the gentleness of his manner was striking proof of the loving care with which he surrounded her. … During the years spent at Princeton, he rarely if ever was absent for any length of time.” Warfield was not only a great theologian but also a great husband.

There are few virtues more powerful than devotion. There are few character traits we honor more highly than this one. In this short series, we are considering the 10 duties of every Christian, and among these is the duty of devotion.

The Purpose of Devotion

Christians often speak of devotion. We speak of “devoting ourselves to God” and, more commonly, of “doing our daily devotions.” This word is familiar to every believer, but I wonder how often we consider what it means and what it entails. What is this devotion we offer to God? And what’s the connection between devotion to God and personal devotions? What is its purpose of our personal devotions what do we hope to gain from them?

In both uses, devotion is an expression of love and loyalty rooted in both duty and delight. B.B. Warfield owed his wife certain duties by virtue of being her husband, and his devotion flowed out of his duty. God expected no less than what Warfield offered, for his devotion was an expression of obedience to the vows he had made to her on their wedding day. Yet his devotion was also an expression of delight. He loved his wife and found joy in her, and it was out of this delight that he was devoted to her. It would be unfair to disconnect his long devotion to his wife from either duty or delight.

Similarly, the Christian’s devotion to God is both duty and delight. It is an expression of the love we have for God and the loyalty we long to express to him. It is the overflow of the joy we have in him and our commitment toward him. Our devotion to God leads to certain habits or disciplines. We devote ourselves to God by devoting ourselves to practices that inform and enhance our relationship with him. Among these practices is the one we know as “personal devotions.”

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