What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘devoted’? The first things that come to my mind are breadwinners. They devote themselves to supporting their family until they are literally unable to.
Even from a young age, hearing stories about breadwinners who sometimes became successful people was inspiring. I thought that, one day, I would also be able to work hard and become a successful person. Following the breadwinner’s example, I would be able to help people and support them. But, growing up, I learnt that this was not the case. Some people didn’t work hard at all. They didn’t even work, nor devote any of their time to doing anything beneficial to others.
Ever since the fall of men, things have become this way. The world was turned upside down. The rich hardly worked whilst the poor worked so hard. The rich earning lots while the poor earned close to none. Sin has corrupted the nature of humans and is obvious in what we do and don’t do. Even if we mean good, misunderstandings and temptations render us powerless versus the devil.
“I know I’ve promised my parents that I will study hard and get a good grade in my next exam. But, come on, just a few minute Youtube video won’t hurt my grades. Even if it does, I’ll just get a better mark next time to make my parents proud. I’m sure they’ll understand.”
This little anecdote is probably (in one way or another) quite relevant when it comes to study. But what about this:
I know I told God I’d read my Bible everyday and pray. I’ll read my devotion, and well, it’s not my fault - I need to check out what my friends want to tell me. I’m sure God would understand. I really tried my best to concentrate…”
Well, to ‘devote’ ourselves is more than just studying or reading the Bible. If we investigate the origin of the word ‘devoted,’ we find it has a much deeper meaning.
The True Meaning:
The word ‘devoted’ comes from two Latin words. ‘De’ meaning ‘from’ and ‘vovēre’ meaning ‘to vow.’ Vowing is a more generally used term in the modern age. Originally, vowing was used when one promised something solemnly to God, setting yourself apart and promising to keep that promise. If we put this together, we get ‘devoted’.
Again, in the modern age, ‘devoted’ can be used in any context. Devoted to supporting your family. Devoted to playing games. Devoted to studying. But really, ‘devoted’ means ‘set apart for God.’
So, a devoted life is not any old life; it’s a life devoted to God. But what does that mean? What does it mean to be set apart for God? Romans 12:2 says:
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
There’s our answer. We shouldn’t conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Conform[ing] to the pattern of this world simply means following what the world values and how it behaves. The world is different to those in Christ. So, resisting the temptation to be like the world is important to Christians. We need to be different from those around us. Different in behaviour, values, thoughts, and words.
But that’s not all. We should also be transformed by the renewing of … our mind[s]. Our mind needs to be transformed in how it thinks, so that we will not conform to the pattern of this world but be able to test and approve what God’s will is. This doesn’t mean that we will always know what God’s will for us is, but God will reveal it to us through being transformed by the renewing of … our mind[s].
The Westminster Catechism also describes our life like this:
Question 1: What is the chief end of man?
Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
This is another aspect of the ‘devoted life.’ Not only should we resist the temptation of this world and be transformed by God, but we must also glorify God and enjoy him forever. This is our purpose in life, and this purpose is reflected in a devoted life. Living for God is our purpose. Psalm 57:2 confirms this:
“I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.”
But remember, being devoted is being devoted to God. Not anything else. Remember the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42? They both ‘devoted’ themselves to God but in different ways. Mary sat down and devoted herself to listening to Jesus. Martha tried to tend to the house, ‘devoting’ herself to making the house look clean for Jesus. Though they both ‘devoted’ themselves to Jesus, Jesus commended Mary for sitting down and listening. But to Martha, he told her to join her sister as she had ‘devoted herself to the wrong thing.’
Remember your motivation too. Are you devoting your life to God for God? Or is it just to impress others?
Though these verses contain lots of wisdom, it’s hard to understand what the Bible is trying to show us. How can we live a ‘devoted life’? How can we truly live a ‘devoted life’ according to the Bible and God’s Will? Here are some ways:
- Read the Bible and Pray (But not just for the sake of it)
Yes, this is a very big cliché. But it really is true. The Bible is not some sort of magical book where certain words will pop up and transform you. But, it is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Prayer is your way of communication with God. What kind of relationship involves not talking to the other person?
- Set yourself apart
This is probably something you’ve heard before if you’re a Christian. But in reality, it’s hard to put into practise. Remember, we are not to be conform[ed] to the pattern of this world. The Bible says this in 1 Peter 2:4-5: “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
The world rejects God’s ways, but we are called to live this way. Who do you want to follow, the world or God? James 4:4 says, “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”. But remember, the world will reject the way you behave; John 15:18-19 says: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
- Use your talents for God’s Glory
Talents are gifts from God. One way to live a devoted life is to use these talents for God’s glory, rather than our own. Though some of us may be ‘more’ talented than others, there is an answer to that in the Bible. In Matthew 25:14-30, there is the ‘Parable of the Bags of Gold’ (in other translations, ‘Parable of the Talents’). These ‘bags of gold’ really represent our talents. Even if we have one talent or five, we can still use them for God’s Glory!
- Tell others (even if it’s awkward)
Yes, it’s awkward to get a conversation starting about this topic but, try. I, too, struggle with this so let’s all try together! There are people that we walk past each day who don’t know the Good News. It would be selfish of us to keep it to ourselves!
- Trust in God!
This is the most important and fundamental thing to do. Though sometimes it’s hard, always remember, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28.
But pay close attention. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Do you love God? God called us according to His eternal purpose and sovereignty. We did nothing to be worthy of this calling. Are you answering his call?
We’ve talked about all of this ‘devoting our lives to God’. But in reality, God is the one more devoted to us than we ever will be to him. God is the one devoting himself to us. But, we must try our best to live a life devoted to him. Remember this famous verse? John 3:16
Conclusion & Summary:
If I lost you along the way, here’s a recap:
- A devoted life means to be set apart for God.
- Living a devoted life isn’t easy, because it means going against the flow, against the world.
- Living a devoted life can be lived through everyday things.
- If you want to devote yourself to God, make sure you devote yourself to God in the right way (remember Mary and Martha).
- Remember your motivation - are you devoting yourself for God or for others?
In conclusion, God is calling us to live a Devoted Life. Again, I ask you, will you answer his call?
Want to know more?
This article was a brief touch on what living a Devoted Life means. If you would like to know more, come join us at the RE Gen Z Retreat, which is all about ‘The Devoted Life.’