It is the start of a new year. For many Christians one common goal we have for the year is to be consistent in reading the Bible. This is because we recognize the Bible as God's word, and therefore it is an important source of guidance for our lives.
Many of us struggle with reading the Bible on a consistent basis. The result is that we feel guilty, and the sight of a Bible reminds us of the fact that we are failing in this most basic of disciplines, and we begin to avoid reading the Bible altogether.
When it comes to reading the Bible, I want to remind us that daily personal Bible reading is not commanded in the Bible. In the context of history, it has been relatively recently that so many people have access to a Bible that they are able to read every day.
We should take advantage of the great opportunity we have to read Scripture regularly, but we shouldn't feel guilty about not reading it daily. Spiritual formation has happened for years without daily Bible reading, so God can transform our lives, even if we miss reading the Bible every now and again.
The question I want you to consider is: Why should I read the Bible?
I think many of us would answer that question with, “To gain knowledge of God's will.” It is true that the reading of Scripture will give us a greater understanding of God's will, but how does that happen?
Andrew Murray (1828-1917), who was a South African pastor, wrote:
You need time to feed on the Word of God and draw from it life for your soul. Through His Word, His thoughts and His grace enter our hearts and lives. Take time each day to read the Bible, even if it be only a few verses. Meditate on what you have read, and thus assimilate the bread of life. If you do not take the time to let God speak to you through His Word, how can you expect to be led by the Spirit?
Meditate on the Word and lay it before God in prayer as the pledge of what He will do for you. The Word gives you matter for prayer and power in prayer. Our prayers are often futile because we speak our own thoughts and have not taken time to hear what God has to say.
The Best of Andrew Murray, Honor Books, p. 168
According to Murray there are two important reasons why we should read the Bible.
- Scripture is the truth we need for meditation. Meditation is the spiritual discipline of reflecting on Scripture. Meditation does to Scripture what digestion does to food: it makes it a part of us. When we eat a piece of food it is broken down, it is utilized for energy, and it provides the resources needed to develop new cells. In other words the food literally becomes a part of us. Meditation does the same with Scripture. We take Scripture in, we think about it, pray about it, allow it to shape our world view, and direct our lives. Meditation helps us move from just believing things about Jesus, to actually following Jesus.
- Bible reading gives us guidance in prayer. It isn't hard to find things to pray about. We have prayer lists filled with people in need, financial worries, health concerns, and global problems. It is important for us to pray about these things, but we need to pray for more than just the needs of life. We need prayers that reflect the worship and the agony of the Psalms. We need prayers that reflect Paul's prayers for spiritual wisdom and understanding. We need to pray for those things God says are important. Reading Scripture transforms our prayer time.
For our Bible reading to be the fuel for meditations and prayer, there are two important factors we need to remember.
- We need to be humble. We read the Bible to hear God's voice and His truth, but that is impossible to do if we are arrogant. A prideful attitude will lead us to question God's word and look for loopholes in His commands.
- We need the Holy Spirit to guide us to the truth. God has given us the Holy Spirit to teach us the truth and convict us of sin. This should take the pressure off of us to get the right interpretation of the text. We don't have to get everything right, but we need to be open to the Holy Spirit's leading.
It is important that we have a plan when we read the Bible. We need to know when and where each day we are going to read. These two factors help build consistency into our reading. A reading plan is also helpful, but don't think you have to read through the Bible in a year. The important thing is not how much you are reading, but taking the time to reflect on what you read. Journaling can play an important part in helping you meditate on a passage and incorporating it into your prayers.
I hope you will seek to be more consistent in your Bible reading this year. Don't be discouraged if you don't keep up, just start reading again. The most important thing is not how much you are reading, but allowing what ever you do read to fuel your meditation and prayers.