As a pastor, I’m in God’s Word a lot. I spend many hours reading it, outlining it, praying over it, meditating upon it, and wrestling with it in order to teach it. Throughout all of these practices, I’m amazed that I can never fully grasp even one verse of Scripture. The depth of God’s Word is deeper than the ocean, and has more layers than the largest onion that you can conceive of. The Word of God nourishes my soul, gives me encouragement for today, and convicts me of sin. All of this happens while I am preparing messages to preach.
I remember for years how pastors and professors encouraged me to not neglect my daily quiet time with God. Even though I wasn’t a pastor yet, I would preach occasionally, so I knew (at least a little) of what goes into preparing a sermon. I wondered how I could ever neglect my quiet time with God as a pastor when I’m forced to be in God’s Word so much merely due to my pastoral responsibilities.
But I’ve learned that that’s exactly why it is so important for me to guard my time with God. It’s not because God speaks to me any more through His Word when I’m reading it apart from sermon preparation. On the contrary, God certainly speaks to me through both. And it’s not because I take a different approach to studying the Bible when I approach it in a devotional way. As I’ve already mentioned, God’s Word nourishes my soul even in the midst of preparing a message for God’s people.
So why must I maintain a separate time of devotion with God, when I already spend meaningful time in His Word as a part of my regular pastoral duties? In order that I never forget that fundamentally I am not a pastor, but a believer in Jesus Christ. He is my Lord, and owe Him my life. I’m given the great privilege as a pastor to devote myself wholly to the ministry of the Word. But in order to do that, I must first allow the Word to minister to me. Because I, too, am a weak and lowly sinner, in need of the grace of God.