Recently the youth group I serve in started sending home daily devotions that correspond with the curriculum we use. Immediately after the youth pastor announced this, a few youths exclaimed, “you’re giving us homework!?” That night I took a brief moment to explain why it was a good thing. Since then, I’ve thought about it more, and this open letter is the result. I know it won’t be directly beneficial to you if you don’t attend my youth group, but hopefully it can still explain why it’s important to know God more and encourage you to spend time getting to know him.
I know you probably don’t find the daily devotions we send you home with each week exciting. Maybe you don’t have any interest in them; maybe you think they’re boring. Especially since we want you to bring them back in to see if you did them. Maybe you think it’s too similar to homework.
I can imagine that you want to be done with school for the day when you get home, but you still have homework to do. Then you come to youth group. You get to see your friends and chill while hearing what the Bible says.
Then we give you “homework.” Not cool, right? I promise we don’t want to make your life miserable. Just the opposite! We want your life to be full of joy. In John 15:11, Jesus said, “I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” The way to have a life full of joy is to know God! We know him by listening to what he tells us through his word. If we listen to him and obey his word, we naturally grow closer to him.
Why Does Our Youth Group Have “Homework”?
For the same reason that school has homework: so you can learn. But homework from school is just learning about the world God made without saying anything much about God directly. Compared to that, the “homework” from Youth is directly about God. (It might be different for you if you go to a Christian school or if you’re homeschooled.)
Every week you have 168 hours to use. How much of that time do you spend getting to know God? How much time do you spend getting to know God outside of a church building? Be honest. Do you have a daily devotional time? Do you study the Bible on your own? Or do you count on being at youth group once a week and going to church on Sunday?
Imagine you met two new people, Alex and Sam. You only see Alex for a few hours every week, but you see Sam for hours on end every day at school. At the end of a year, who will you know better, Alex or Sam? You’d probably know Sam better. Why? Because you spent more time together.
The same thing happens with God. If we only spend a few hours, or less, getting to know him each week, we’ll find that we hardly know him any better after a year! But if we spend more time with God, we’ll get to know him that much more!
We give you these daily devotions to help you jumpstart the time you spend with God each week. These devotions are short, so they are doable. But eventually, you should probably spend more time with God each day beyond just doing these devotions.
Why Do We Want To Know God?
There are a lot of reasons, and I know I’m not going to cover all of them.
To start with, who is God? He’s the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of the entire universe. He made everything and it was good (Genesis 1–2). But then humanity messed it up when we sinned by choosing to do things our way instead of trusting in God (Genesis 3). Even though the world was, and still is, messed up because of sin, God sustains everything and holds it together (Hebrew 1:3). But even though his perfect world was upended by sin, God chose to redeem it by sending his only Son to die on the cross, taking the punishment we deserved. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. Jesus rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3–4) so that we could also have a new life in Christ.
So there’s the first reason we should know God: he is God.
But we shouldn’t just know about God and believe that he exists. James 2:19 says that “Even the demons believe — and they shudder.” We can believe facts about God and yet be no better than the demons. If we truly have saving faith in God, we will show it with our actions. We demonstrate that belief and trust in Jesus as our Savior by doing what he has commanded. That’s how our belief in God is different from that of the demons. But how will we know what he has commanded unless we know what he says in his word,? How will we know unless we know and understand what Jesus did during his time among us? How will we know unless we know what his disciples wrote with divine inspiration? How will we know what he has commanded us to do unless we know him? We need to read the Bible. Not only do we need to read it, but we need to study it, to live it, to love it (Psalm 119:97).
In John 17:3, Jesus tells us that we can have eternal life by knowing God. When you are saved you know God, but that doesn’t mean you know everything about him. Think of your closest friend. When you met him or her for the first time, there was plenty you didn’t know about them. You hardly knew them. That’s how it is with God. There is still a lot you don’t know about God.
Finally, why wouldn’t we want to know God? Wouldn’t you want to know the creator of your favorite book, video game, toy, or movie? We can know the one who made the people who made those things. I think that’s awesome, and I want to take him up on the offer to grow closer to him.
Why I Don’t Like Calling This “Homework”
Maybe you’ve noticed I’ve put the word “homework” in quotation marks each time I’ve used the word to refer to the daily devotions we give you. That’s because I don’t like calling these devotions homework. Yes, it’s meant for you to do at home, and it might feel boring, but I don’t want you to think it’s work, something you have to do. Instead, it’s something you get to do. You have the opportunity to get to know God through his word. That’s amazing!
Think of these daily devotions as getting to know a close friend. You spend time together so that you know more about them. Inevitably, when you spend time around a group of people, you find yourself becoming more like them. The same thing happens when we spend time getting to know God; we become more like Jesus Christ. That’s a good thing, seeing as he was the perfect example of how to live and our goal as Christians is for God to transform us to become like Christ (Philippians 2:5, 1 Corinthians 11:1, 2 Corinthians 3:18, and Romans 8:29, to name just a few verses), to “walk just as he walked” (1 John 2:6).
Maybe spending time in God’s word seems stuffy and boring. That’s because you aren’t used to it, so it just seems bland. You haven’t developed an interest in it by spending time in God’s word. In the same way, someone who has only had cereal for every meal wouldn’t care to try and find a steak to eat, or ice cream, pizza, or chicken wings because they don’t have a taste for it. They like cereal, and nothing else is quite like it, so they’ll stick with their cereal. But when they try something else, and they stick with it and try it again and again, the chances are that they’ll find that they like ice cream, or pizza, or chicken wings, or a steak, or French fries, or a burger.
Reading the Bible and getting to know God shouldn’t be something you have to do, an item on a checklist. It should be something you want to do, a friend who you miss when you don’t get to spend time with them.
One of My Regrets
Finally, I want to tell you something about me. I regret not making better use of the time I had to get to know God more.
I wish that I would have seen and embraced the wonderful opportunity I had to study the Bible and get to know God when I was your age. I knew I should know God better, but I didn’t know exactly how. So I didn’t do anything about it. I just went to church and youth group, and I occasionally read my Bible, but nothing deep.
I wish people would have encouraged me to dig deep into the Bible, not just surface-level reading or quick devotions. I wish I would have been driven to the Bible not just for facts and knowledge, but with a love for God so I would get to know him more and love those around me with God’s love. You have more of something that I have less of: time. You have time until you’re my age to get to know God better than I do now.
You have an opportunity to know the God who created everything, and even when we sinned and messed it all up he provided a way of redemption. Please, don’t waste this opportunity to know God more and more. Don’t waste the opportunity you have with these daily devotions we give you to jump into God’s word and begin to know him. I pray that God uses these devotions and what you hear at youth group to grow a beautiful, God-centered, loving desire to study his word in you. I pray these things so that you can get to know him better, better than I do now at 23 years old.