E. Stanley Jones — a great devotional writer
E. Stanley Jones was an outstanding Methodist missionary to India in the mid 20th century. He wrote extensively and I have read and collected several of his books. Many were written in daily devotional book format. He is no relation to me as far as I know but I have been blessed by his thoughtful writings. One of his devotionals, Growing Spiritually, was very instrumental in my own spiritual growth as a young adult. You can learn more about him from http://www.asbury.edu/offices/library/archives/biographies/e-stanley-jones.
My 2011 devotional book
The book I have been using for devotions this year is a delightful contemporary compilation of writings from nine of his books. It uses a devotional format also with a selection for each day. However, topics continue from day to day so that the whole reads like a book, in the same way that Jones formatted his books. The editor, Mary Ruth Howes, has done an excellent job in selecting and arranging the material to preserve the thoughts of E. Stanley Jones. Jones’ missionary experience brings a breadth to his writings that is often lacking in writers without international exposure. There are several strong points about his writing. One is his articulate understanding of the nature of conversion and how integrally related conversion is to how God has set the laws of the world. Another is his deep teaching about sanctification. For him, Christian life is mean to be a whole-hearted, life-transforming experience, just as the Bible teaches. He also has a strong awareness of the role of the Holy Spirit. Reading Jones is a great Rx for anyone afflicted with shallow faith.
A helpful format
Each day’s devotional is numbered consecutively. There is a short printed Scripture text; then the devotional writing takes about one-half of the page. At the end is a bold type one sentence summary or theme sentence which is followed by a short prayer. Then there is an affirmation which is a personalization of the message of the devotional; a take-home sentence to help the reader make the message a part of their day. Finally, the writer lists two or three longer Scripture references which the reader can look up to enrich the devotional more. Usually at least one of them has been referred to in the text above.
Examples of thoughtful and pithy quotes
On the Trinity: “God the Father is God for us; God the Son is God with us; God the Spirit is God in us…The Father’s love, the divine intention; the Son’s approach, the divine invasion; the Spirit’s coming, the divine indwelling.” (p. 142)
About divine guidance: “If we do not have guidance, then it is probably withheld for one of two reasons: we are untrained, or we are unwilling.” (p. 175)
On the example of Jesus: “There is no situation conceivable where his spirit is not the norm for that situation. He is the universal conscience of humanity.” (p. 183)
On the joy of a committed life: “Joy comes as a result of inner harmony. When there is no civil war within, when everything is under a single control, Christ; when everything is directed toward a single end, his will—then joy is a natural concomitant.” (p. 307)
About words and actions: “Christianity…is something that you believe in enough to act upon. Your deed is your creed—the thing you believe in enough to put into practice. You do not believe in what you do not practice.” (p. 331)
I highly recommend this book for daily devotional reading. It will enrich your spiritual life, prod your thinking, and encourage you. You will have a better understanding of salvation and you will be challenged to follow Christ more deeply by E. Stanley Jones’ insights.