I went to Egypt last week. In the midst of coronavirus, I toured the Great Pyramid of Giza and climbed the steep walk into the heart of the structure for the first time. The plainness of the walls surprised me; I expected lots of paintings and hieroglyphics. The tour guide excitedly shared with me the mysteries that still lay behind the wall of the burial chamber and the myriad of theories people have concerning the pyramid’s small, yet long, inside tunnel. The next day, I trekked to Dahshur and toured the original pyramid, the bent pyramid of Pharaoh Sneferu, famous for being a failure (which may be a whole other post in itself).
Both pyramids were quite a sight, and after the treadmill program quit and my Dahshur walk was complete, Yusuph looked at me triumphantly and said, “See, now I don’t have to pay to take you to Egypt! You’ve been there!”
To which I replied, “No, all this is doing is causing me to really want to go in person.” And then I started thinking.
Not a person in the world would tell me walking on a treadmill and watching a video of a pyramid tour is the same thing as actually going to Giza. Not a soul would argue that the well-filmed tour adequately replaces flying to Egypt, entering a structure that has been around for thousands of years, and walking the same paths that people in an ancient civilization once walked. I didn’t get to feel the heat, touch the stones, or worriedly look around the ground for cobras in the sand (which is the biggest downside of eventually going one day).
And yet, on a regular basis, so many of us take flimsy substitutions for time alone with God.
My pastor preaches great, biblical, practical sermons on Sunday mornings. I love a good devotional book, an insightful Instagram post, and a Christian podcast as much as the next girl, but they all pale in comparison to sitting down with just the Bible and silence. Frequently, I find myself piggy backing off of the relationship my favorite Bible teacher has with God instead of experiencing it for myself. I would never let a video trick me into believing I’ve actually walked the pyramids—why would I let the words of someone other than the Lord himself be the place I abide?
Now, don’t get me wrong—I enjoy a good devotional. I appreciate a powerful Instagram post that causes me to refocus my mind on the Lord instead of on the latest home trend. Going to church and sitting under the teaching of a Christ-honoring leader is necessary and biblical. However, stopping there sells yourself short. It’s like walking on a treadmill as you watch videos of the pyramids–it may be better than nothing, but it’s not the best.
Hopefully, hearing a good sermon or reading a great online devotion causes you to want the real thing, like how I viewed “touring” the pyramids from the comfort of my own home. My treadmill tour did not substitute for the actual thing; it caused me to want the real thing even more.
If you use a Biblically-based devotional as a jumping off point—great! If you find yourself reviewing the notes from Sunday’s sermon during your daily quiet time—wonderful (and your pastor would be greatly encouraged)! But, those things should not be our only interaction God.
Our main time with the Lord should involve reading His Word. Not words someone else says about it.
Scripture commends the greatness of God’s Word over and over again, throughout both Old and New Testaments. God’s Word is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrew 4:12). The Bible changes us. Sitting with Scripture that is “breathed out by God” is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16).
Psalm 119, perhaps the most famous passage concerning the benefits of God’s Word, touts Scripture’s multiple blessings. The psalmist describes the word of the Lord, His laws and statutes, as something to “delight” in, “hope” in, and “love” (among many other positive verbs and adjectives, too numerous to list here). God’s words “give life”, bring “comfort”, and “makes one wise.” His Word brings “insight”, “understanding”, and “joy”. The poet even writes, “How sweet your word is to my taste—sweeter than honey in my mouth.” It’s pleasant. It’s sweet. It’s essential.
So I encourage you: Don’t miss out on the blessings Scripture has to offer. Don’t take anything as a substitute. Walk the real path, for it is “the path of life”, filled with “joy in [God’s] presence, with eternal pleasures at [His] right hand” (Psalm 16:11).