Last week I was talking with a friend, and a topic came up that I’ve been thinking on ever since. Yesterday morning I woke up thinking about it, and I felt strongly that it should become the topic of my next post. Just an hour later my mom discussed it during our devotional time. Confirmation – this is an important topic. It’s a message that needs to be heard, yes, even by me.
My friend was sharing how her family has been so busy with travels and events and such the past few weeks, that their church attendance has been rather spotty. And as a result, she was feeling somewhat disconnected spiritually. Which led me to admit that I, too, was struggling – not because I wasn’t going to church, but because I was not being as diligent about spending time in the Word each day. We started to talk about that struggle, and I left feeling even more convicted to place a higher emphasis on Scripture-reading.
And that is what I would like to write about today. This post is mainly directed toward two groups of people – those who may not be used to the habit of reading daily, and those like myself who already know how to set aside that time but are not always diligent about doing so. To the first group, I hope you will be inspired to start the habit, and that you may find some practical tips for doing so. To the second group, I hope you will be convicted to become more diligent, as you are reminded of the reasons it should be important.
To those who have never made Scripture-reading a regular habit – let me assure you it is quite possible. I’ve always had trouble sticking to routines – I’m prone to starting something with enthusiasm, then quickly losing interest and dropping whatever it was I began. But when I was 12, I decided to set aside time every night before bed to read my Bible, and it became a habit that (at least for the most part) stuck. It stuck so well, in fact, that it eventually inspired my family to make it a household habit.
So how did someone who rarely sticks with anything actually make it a habit?
Looking back, I think I see three key ingredients to my success:
- Priority. It was important to me. It was a habit that I wanted to start. It wasn’t a rule imposed on me by someone else; it was a choice I made of my own volition. I knew it was important to God, and I wanted to know Him better, so it was important to me. This needs to be important to you, too. If it’s not – pray about it! Which leads to point #2:
- Purpose. I wasn’t just reading for the fun of it. I read because I was hungry for the things of God. I was earnestly seeking Him, and through His Word, I found Him. Also, as I read, I was looking for verses that I would like to memorize, and whenever I found something I liked, I wrote it down in a notebook. So I wasn’t just reading – I was paying attention to what I was reading. I was being purposeful.
- Practicality. Trying to get up early and read in the mornings never worked well for me. Too often I’d sleep in, or just get distracted by all the other parts of my morning routine. But evenings worked out perfect – hardly anything was ever going on. To set aside 30 minutes or more before bedtime was no problem. So it was a good time for me. You have to find the time that is the most practical for you. I know one woman who reads her Bible every morning before breakfast; what worked for her was committing herself to having her spiritual food before her physical food.
It really is like food. There’s a reason Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). I remember the pastor at my old church often commenting on how we wouldn’t want to go a whole day without physical food, but too many times we go days or weeks without our spiritual food. How many of us are starving ourselves spiritually? Reading just once or twice a week isn’t enough. The saying, “Seven days without prayer makes one weak” could also be applied to spending time in God’s Word.
Why should we place a high priority on reading Scripture? There are so many reasons, I hardly know where to start!
One reason is that Jesus placed a high priority on Scripture. He taught from it. He spoke it. He quoted it often. And we are to “be imitators of Christ as dear children” (Eph. 5:1).
The Bible is the ultimate Handbook, the sharpest Weapon, the dearest Love Letter, the greatest Story, the most accurate Compass, and the most absolute Truth. It teaches, convicts, encourages, and persuades. “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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16). It is “living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). It is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psa. 119:105). Whatever we need, its pages hold answers.
And as D. L. Moody wrote in the cover of his Bible, “The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.” It’s not easy to walk away from reading your Bible and immediately fall into sin – at least, not as easy as it would be if you’re weren’t just reading. On the flip-side, it may be hard to go read your Bible right after falling into sin. But that’s exactly when you need it the most!
I’ve heard variations of this quote often, and I’ve always liked it: “Bibles that are falling apart usually belong to people who aren’t.” On the other hand, if your life is falling apart, chances are your Bible is holding together pretty nicely. Let me ask you – if a stranger saw your Bible, would he be able to tell that you’d ever read it?
As we read the Bible, we draw closer to God. That in itself should be a powerful reason.
Imagine if you got together with a friend and they were the only ones who ever talked during the entire visit. If they never once asked you a question about yourself, or let you get a word in edgewise, you’d probably come away from that visit feeling like they really didn’t care about you. So how do you think God feels when all our conversations with Him are one-sided? If we’re the only ones talking, and we never are listening to what He has to say through the Spirit or His Word, then are we showing that we really care about what He has to say?
James wrote, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). Robin Jones Gunn said, “If you feel far from God, guess who moved?”
If you are feeling distant from the Lord, what are you doing about it? Are you seeking Him? Are you spending time in prayer? Are you spending time in the Word?
So maybe at this point you’re thinking to yourself that you really need to get into Scripture more. But maybe you’re feeling a little overwhelmed and aren’t sure where to even start. My friend expressed that feeling during our visit. The Bible is pretty big; it’s got 66 books in it to choose from! But don’t feel overwhelmed. If you’re a Type A personality like me, you may want to read it beginning to end, Genesis to Revelation. Or you could try a chapter a day from Psalms or Proverbs, or a New Testament book. You could follow a Bible reading plan – you probably have one or more in your Bible already. Whatever you pick, don’t just stay in one book forever. I highly encourage you to read each and every book in the Bible. Even the little ones you barely hear about, like Haggai and Joel and Habakkuk. Even they have beautiful verses and good lessons to be learned.
Not sure if you really have the time? Listen, if you have the time to read this blog post, you’ve got time to read your Bible. Maybe 30 minutes seems like a stretch right now – so how about 10? Or even just 5? It’s not so much about the quantity as it is about the quality. Ten chapters devoured at once but not reflected upon are not worth as much as ten verses read slowly and pondered. Trust me; I speak from experience. Spending time in the Word isn’t just an item on your checklist to check off – it’s time spent with our awesome God, wondrous Creator, supreme Lord, and dearest Friend.
Some of you may already be reading short devotionals during your day, like “Jesus Calling” or “Daily Bread.” There is nothing wrong with that, and if you’re doing it every day, that’s a great start. But I would also encourage you not to replace your regular Bible reading with devotionals. Going back to the food illustration, I’d say that reading directly from God’s Word is like having a square meal, while a devotional (which is mostly man’s words based on Scripture), is more like an appetizer or a snack. It’s only supposed to supplement the main course – not be the main course.
I could go on about this for a while, but I think I better call it quits and spend some time practicing what I preach.😀 Bible Time!
I’ll just leave you with one final question: When is the last time you had a full square spiritual meal?