Christians know that Bible reading is the life-line of the Christian. And from my decades-long experience of Christian living, I have heard every imaginable exhortation regarding this spiritual discipline.
Men, women, preachers, friends, family, books, biographies, radio, blogs, etc. Everyone has a point and a persuasive experience to share. Insightful. Motivating in some regard or another.
But I have also heard some Bible-reading advice that makes me cringe, such as – just read until you get something; or, it’s not necessary to read through the whole Bible, just concentrate on…; or, don’t just surface read your Bible, you must study it thoroughly, not leaving it until you understand it completely; or, some parts of the Bible might seem tedious or irrelevant to you, everyone deals with that. I have heard preachers and teachers actually refer to sections of their Bible as boring, making light of the words and names found within.
I find this to be in contradiction to what Psalm 12 and Proverbs 30 say about God’s Word: “The words of the LORD are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” And “Every word of God is pure…” It seems to me that if the Lord of Heaven chose these words to be recorded, then we should, at the very least, give honor to them and understand that, though we may be dull of spirit and foolish in understanding, we must reverence and search these words out the more diligently. We proclaim our own spiritual immaturity when we casually toss aside the worth, weight and value of passages we deem tedious, irrelevant to our particular lot in life. Might it not be that hidden in plain sight will be sustenance for the lowliest saint?
Perhaps I am being somewhat of an alarmist, but these statements can become someone else’s rule of thumb, blocking them from full exposure to God’s Word. Kind of like a spiritual sunscreen – only in this case it is not blocking out harmful things, but it is blocking out beneficial life-giving sustenance.
So, I wish to add to the spectrum of Bible-reading advice, fully understanding I share only my experience and view, yet hoping I can liberate AND challenge my dear loved ones to delve into the riches of all of the Living Word.
Here are five thoughts on the matter:
1. Just read God’s Word. Prodigiously. From the moment of salvation until the day you are called home to Heaven, gorge yourself on the Bible. Imbibe it any way you can. Read it by holding the Book in your hands. Listen to it while folding laundry, cleaning your house, driving to the dentist or lying in bed instead of counting sheep.
Don’t fret if you hear something you don’t understand. If you need to, keep a notebook and jot down the reference or word or whatever your minds snags on, and then keep going.
The objective is to immerse yourself in God’s Word. This will familiarize you with God’s Divine narrative. We must be conversant with every word, punctuation mark, phrase, character, principle, event. Every believer who has a copy of God’s Word in their native tongue should aim to know how the Bible fits together. This is facilitated by profuse, unquenchable Bible reading.
2. Mine God’s Word. Start digging in and searching it out. I promise you, you will NEVER run out of treasure. Ever. And because of that inexhaustibility, you will rob yourself of immense spiritual wealth if you are lackadaisical or haphazard or procrastinating about this.
There are probably a gazillion ways to start digging for the treasures of Scripture, but the primary exhortation here is to create, develop and maintain a hunger for mining Scriptural wealth. Don’t allow dullness to leave you a spiritual pauper.
3. Enjoy God’s Word. Oft-times I fall into ruts and routines, allowing pressures and demands to squeeze and wither my pleasure in the Saviour’s love letter. And since the Bible is this amazing love letter from the Creator God to our finite, mortal beings, this is absolutely tragic and senseless and unnecessary.
We cannot afford to live off duty’s demands regarding Bible reading. Imagine receiving a letter from a loved one. Would you not soak up every word and wish for more?
I have found it helpful to glean nuggets from the spiritual hunger-inducing stores left behind by other believers. These motivating storehouses from voices of the past have a generational effect on me; connecting me to God’s family members who are already with Him in glory, and reminding me that I pilgrim not alone or in isolation. Missionary biographies. Writings of other passionate lovers of the Truth. Great preachers, Christians, martyrs, authors.
4. Reflect on God’s Word. I, very often, fall into wrongful thinking regarding meditation and reflection. I tend to think of it as a “heart” exercise. But perhaps, while it begins in my heart, soul, and mind – it must not end there.
Meditation needs an outlet. A purpose. What is this reflection going to do in my life? I might be struggling in a relationship, or facing physical challenges, or financial insecurities, or any number of real-life situations that want to wash over me like a tsunami wave, and I must have the mind of Christ AND the power of Christ living out its victory in me.
Therefore, I need to seize God’s divine communications and appropriate them in my life. What good will it do me to know the Bible inside out, study and store its treasures in my being, find pleasure in the intimacy of this Book, if I do not allow it to transform me? Change me? Meditation and reflection is like personalizing the narrative to my life, making it real and transforming.
5. Utterly depend on the Holy Spirit when approaching God’s Word. If it were not so absolutely dangerous and foolish, it would almost be comical that we often forget Him in this spiritual endeavor, this tryst with the Lover of our souls.
“…the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God…” (I Corinthians 2:14). I am overwhelmed with shame (with just the times I remember) over how often I approach God’s Word without humbling myself to its Author – depending on Him to guide me, protect me from falsely interpreting His Words, illuminate His truth and then draw me into His Presence by the force and power of His Word. And I walk away spiritually anemic and unchanged, and distracted and carrying burdens never intended for me to bear. My face does not shine from my encounter.
I do take comfort in this though - never is any time in God’s Word wasted. And I know THE Comforter understands my infirmities and bears long with me. Gently, with infinite long-suffering, He reminds me that I need Him to quicken His Word in my life. Because my flesh deadens.
Reading God’s Word is a spiritual endeavor and we must train ourselves to prepare our hearts for any encounter with the Scriptures by acknowledging our complete dependence on His ministrations within us.
Schedules, plans, resources, conscious applications meshed with prayerful humility on the Holy Spirit don’t look the same for any one Christian.
Don’t think there is a magical one-size-fits-all way to get into God’s Word.
It’s dynamic, ever-growing and maturing and developing.
Because the Bible is about a Person with Whom we are to share in an intimate relationship.
It will be YOUR experience and it should be glorious.