Calling attention in this article to our personal devotions, we must, of course, first of all turn to the infallible scriptures. After all, these scriptures are a lamp before our feet and a light upon our path. And, what scripture is more appropriate for our purpose than Ps. 119? We read in verse 9: “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to Thy word.” Notice: we must take heed to this cleansing of our way according to God’s word. Then, in verse 15 we read: “I will meditate in Thy precepts, and have respect to Thy ways.” And then we read in verse 24: “Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors.” We should note here that the statutes and testimonies of the Lord and of God’s word are my counsellors. They teach me and I delight in them. And we would also quote II Tim. 3:16 and 17: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Need we quote anymore?
Our personal devotions. This expression refers to our personal attitude toward, our personal activities with respect to the word of God. I speak to you, young people. O, this can be addressed to all our people, the aged as well as the young, office bearers as well as the laity. We all should examine ourselves in connection with our personal devotions.
These “personal devotions” can also refer to our spiritual exercises and practices in which especially our young people are engaged. This is what Beacon Lights is all about. Indeed, especially our young people. How important and vital they are! It has been said that they are the church of tomorrow. And they are. The question, then, is very important: what characterizes our young people?
Perhaps you have heard that we must allow young people to sow their wild oats. They must have their “fling.” And we should not be too concerned when they engage in questionable activities. After all, we were all young once. And young people should be permitted to engage in these questionable things. However, this attitude, that we must not be too severe when our young people, because they are young people, indulge in these practices, can be very dangerous. After all, the scriptures teach us that we reap what we sow. And this means that when we sow wild oats we will also reap wild oats.
We ask again: what today characterizes our young people? We speak of family devotions. These are spiritual activities in which the family takes part. These activities often take place at meal times, or in the evening. But, young people, do you engage in personal devotions? Do you read the Bible? How important this is! After all, the word of God alone is a lamp before our feet and a light upon our path. It is only in its light that we see light. Apart from the scriptures there is no light, only darkness. The word of God converts the soul, makes wise the simple. Do you take time to read this only source of all light and truth? We read other things. Do you have time and take time to read the written word of God? Do you read the scriptures, especially as young people, as the church as it shall appear in the future, that you may know these scriptures, be familiar with them and feel at home in them? Does this word of God apply to you, as we read it in I John 2:13 and 14: “I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one, I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you and ye have overcome the wicked one.”
Do you read the word of God prayerfully? It is only through prayer that this word of God can be the lamp before your feet and a light upon your path. It is only through prayer that the scriptures can be your guide, leading you through all the troubles and trials of this life. The world is full of temptations. Everything here below is allied against you. Temptations are all around you. Need I speak of drugs, etc? Do you resort to them? do you realize that you cannot overcome all these evils in your own strength? Peter once left his boat to walk to Christ upon the water. As long as his eyes were upon the Christ all went well. But as soon as he took his eye off the Lord he began to sink. You know the story. Do you think you can overcome the evil one in your own strength? How wrong you are! You must read the scriptures, and you must read them prayerfully. The Lord must bless His word to your life and heart and soul. You must recognize the enemy who is determined to destroy you. Indeed, you must be strong, but you can be strong only as in the Lord, through prayer and by the power of His grace. We do well to bear in mind that your enemy is strong, exceedingly clever, and that you are no match for him. And yet you must face him, oppose him, overcome him. This you can do only through the word of God and through prayer.
Do you read Beacon Lights? Yes, I may also ask you: do you read the Standard Bearer? Please do not tell me that you cannot read the Standard Bearer because it is “over your heads.” I dare say that you, young people, are able to read this magazine. Do your parents encourage you to read it? This, too, is important. But, after all Beacon Lights is your magazine. It is written primarily for your sake. The articles in Beacon Lights are prepared and written that you may read them. And I have reasons to fear that in this you fall far short. It does not exactly encourage the writers of this magazine when they fear that their articles are not being read. Do the radio and the television screen draw you away from your personal devotions? Take time to read these articles, digest them, make them part and parcel of your lives. This is your calling, as young people, particularly as young people. If you fail in this, you are misusing a tremendously important part of your life. And this is sin before the face of God.
Do you engage in personal devotions as you prepare for your society meetings and for your catechetical instruction? I have my fears also along this line. I have led society meetings and catechism classes many years. What is my experience? Sad to say, there are young people, many of them, who try to get by with as little as possible. And also here our parents have a solemn duty and obligation. Do these parents know when you leave home to attend these meetings, that you are prepared? It is true, is it not, young people, that when some of you attend your society meetings, you do not even know what will be discussed. Again, do you engage in personal devotions? Do you read your subject material: Do you study it? Are you prepared to come to your meetings with questions? You are covenant people, and you are called of the Lord to prepare yourselves for your place, in the future, in the midst of God’s church and covenant. God created you. The Lord placed you where you are. And it is your calling to understand this very seriously. You are young people only once. You can never retrace your steps, do what has not been done. So, do you participate in the discussion? Indeed, also as young people, make your calling and election sure. Redeem the time because the days are evil. There are so many forces and enemies who would have you waste your time. You cannot afford to do this.
Let us understand our calling. To engage in personal devotions is extremely difficult. It means that you must fight. You must fight an enemy who is all around you and also within you. You cannot fight this battle alone, in your own strength. Be strong, but only in the Lord and in the power of His might. Prepare yourselves for your place in the midst of God’s church and covenant in the midst of the world. Again I say: be strong, but be strong in the Lord.
“Who can sufficiently extol these treasures of the conscience, which everywhere are spread abroad, proclaimed, and presented merely by grace? We are now conquerors of sin, of the law, of death, and of the devil; freed and delivered from all human traditions. If we would but consider the tyranny of auricular confession, one of the least things we have escaped from, we could not show ourselves sufficiently thankful to God for loosing us out of that one snare. When Popedom stood and flourished among us, then every king would willingly have given ten hundred thousand guilders, a prince one hundred thousand, a nobleman one thousand, a gentleman one hundred, a citizen or countryman twenty or ten, to have been freed from that tyranny. But now seeing such freedom is obtained for nothing, by grace, it is not much regarded, neither give we thanks to God for it.” -Martin Luther