“You have to try. Because if you haven’t tried, you haven’t lived.” – Bill Parrish (Meet Joe Black)
The topic I’m about to address has been very heavy on my heart and pointed out to me a lot lately. Reading the Bible on a daily basis is something most of us wrestle with (myself included). And even if we “read” it, it’s often merely the action of reading without attempting to dig deeper. At times our heart isn’t even in it but we feel a sense of obligation or we feel manipulated, “If I don’t do this I’m a terrible Christian and something bad will happen.” Well there’s truth in that ::smiling gently:: Matthew 5:6 says it best: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Pray for that desire in your heart. That you will have this urgency to read God’s Word because your soul needs to be enriched, comforted, convicted, loved and fed. It’s all a matter of the heart.
Below I’ve written out what I’ve been taught are five key components to reading the Bible. Please, don’t view this as a “to do” or “1,2, 3” sort of list.
Reading: Read through the Bible every year. This doesn’t mean you HAVE to start January 1st or you’re screwed. September to September is still 12 months last time I checked. Start now and you’ll still end a year from now. Heartlight’s Search God’s Word is a great resource to start off with, both with a daily Bible reading plan and other commentaries.
Hearing: Listen to good, doctrinal preaching. This doesn’t have to happen just once a week or reserved to just your home church pastor. I’d strongly encourage you to download some sermon podcasts and listen to them while going to work, sitting in rush hour traffic, during your lunch break, at night as your winding down, or even, if you’re daring, during a nice hot bubble bath. Some of the men I’d recommend off the top of my head that the Lord has richly used to show me more of Himself: John Piper, JR Vassar, Tim Keller, and Matt Chandler.
Hearing and knowing (not just with head knowledge but earnestly praying for and desiring heart knowledge) are huge components to the process of sanctification (becoming more Christ-like). I say these two things in reference merely in regards to INTAKING God’s Word. This is not the whole picture of Christian faith. Let me remind you of James 1: 19 – 27. Our intaking rightly and effectively God’s Word has a lot to do with being given the right heart, “eyes” to see, and action: “…receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only deceiving yourselves.”
Studying: Pick a book of the Bible. With pen and paper in hand, go through verse by verse. Yes, it sounds tediously daunting, but what’s that popular saying….”No pain, no gain.” Yeah. Use a good commentary by a theologian on that particular book you’re studying BUT (huge “but”) only after you have prayerfully wrestled with it.
Memorization: Memorize entire books (like James, 1 John, etc.) or large sections. I’d recommend starting with Romans 3:19 – Romans 8:39. You don’t have to memorize alone. Grab a friend and commit to and push each other to memorize Scripture together. This is also a great way to start doing the 5th component I’m about to mention: meditation. Wonderful discussions can stem through memorization and wrestling with verses. If you notice, all these components complement and intertwine with each other.
Meditation: As I was saying above, the other four contribute to and enable this. You will find this difficult (I do) in a loud and busy world. But, it is essential to abiding in Jesus and bearing fruits of the Holy Spirit. John 15: 1-8.
Dear reader, don’t go to extremes or let yourself become overwhelmed or crippled by what you perceive to be “impossible” to do. It’s not an instantaneous thing, so don’t be discouraged. Take steps toward it. A tree doesn’t blossom or bear fruit overnight. It’s good and means the Holy Spirit is at work in your heart if you feel inadequate (hint: you are…we all are…you’re in good company).
As the Nike motto goes, “Just Do It.”
Rachel B. Duke