Christians know this is an important discipline to have. We acknowledge that the Bible is God’s Word, and through it He reveals truth and wisdom to us. This is why we know Bible reading is vital to our life of faith.
Yet, reading the Bible doesn’t come easy. Even with all the different translations and reading plans that are available to us, reading the Bible still feels like a chore. I think teachers and preachers do a disservice to the Church Body when they enthusiastically claim that reading the Bible is not a chore for them, because they love God’s Word. The implication is that if reading the Bible is difficult for you, then you don’t love God’s Word.
Let’s be honest. Reading the Bible doesn’t come easy to the majority of Christians. It is something that they have to work at, something they have to schedule, and something that they do on an inconsistent basis. If that is you, let me tell you that you are in good company. There is a reason that Bible reading is a spiritual discipline: IT DOESN’T COME EASY!
It doesn’t come easy because the enemy doesn’t want us to know what God has actually said. Like the very first deception he gave to Eve, he wants to be able to twist God’s Word. Since Satan is set on us not reading the Bible he is going to throw all sorts of distractions at us to keep us from reading the Scriptures. These distractions can be good things, like the needs of our children, or they can convenient things, like wanting to rest after a day of work. Whatever the distraction is, the end result is the same: we don’t read the Bible.
I believe that we will make time to do things that we find valuable. When it comes to reading the Bible, we may intellectually understand that it is something important to do, but that does not mean we have personally experienced its value. This is why we can easily be distracted from actually doing it: we don’t fully understand its value.
While I do not hold the magic cure for ending distraction and improving people’s desire to read the Bible, I do have a few thoughts on how we can make Bible reading a more valuable experience.
5 Keys for effective Bible reading
- Thoroughly – We are to read the entire Bible. The Old Testament is just as profitable as the New Testament. The Gospels are just as essential to our life of faith as are the Epistles. Reading the entire Bible helps us see the big picture, the grand narrative, of Scripture. In order to do this, I would encourage you to read through the Bible a book at a time. Many of the read through the Bible in a year plans break the readings up into portions from the Old and New Testaments, as well as readings from the Psalms and Proverbs. What this does is that it prevents us from really seeing the entire narrative or theme of each book. By reading through an entire book, we are in a better position to see how the different elements all fit together.
- Humbly – We need to approach our Bible reading with the understanding that we need to be taught and guided. Too often we come to Scripture with our agenda and our theology, through which we interpret what we read. In our superior attitude we miss hearing the truth that God has for us. Humility, the proper understanding of ourselves, is essential to getting the most out of God’s Word.
- Expectantly – We come to the Bible expecting to hear God’s voice. This doesn’t mean that we will hear God’s audible voice, but it does mean that we should expect God to communicate to us through what we read. It could be a word that leaps off the page, it could be a thought that we can’t get out of our head, or it could be reminder of a truth long forgotten. However God chooses to communicate to us, we should expect God to reveal more of His truth to us when we open the Bible.
- Prayerfully – We need to pray in connection with our Bible reading. Part of our prayer needs to be for God to give us wisdom and guidance as we read. We should also pray for strength to apply the truth that we learn. Another important way to be prayerful in our Bible reading is to turn a passage of our reading into a prayer. The truth we discover in the Bible should be fuel for our prayer lives, and help align our thoughts and desires with God’s will.
- Meditatively – We come to Scripture to ponder its truth. Because we have easy access to the words of Scripture, we have lost this important discipline. The early Church did not have daily access to the Scriptures. They had to memorize what had been written, and then they would reflect on that truth. I think this is an important step in our spiritual formation. We need to intentionally think about the truth of Scripture: what it means, the implications it has for our lives, what it reveals about God, and the insight it gives about the world. Meditation is to Scripture what digestion is to food. When we digest the food that we eat, our bodies extract the nutrients we need, and those nutrients become the building blocks for our bodies. The food we eat literally becomes a part of who we are. Through meditation we take Scripture and extract the truth we need, and we ponder it as it slowly influences our thoughts and actions. That truth becomes part of who we are.
It isn’t enough to acknowledge that reading the Bible is a good idea, we have to do it. This requires us to experience the value of it. Approach your Bible reading with at least one of these 5 keys, and let it make your time in God’s word more effective and more valuable.