Practical Helps for Bible-Reading, Part 2
Yesterday I shared with you some tips I've learned to help me immerse myself into God's Word. Today, I have three more to share with you.
1. Learn to dig, not just read.
Several years ago, I took a speed-reading class that taught me how to turn the pages of a book every four seconds. In novel-reading, on the other hand, I can leisurely dip into another world and forget that I'm reading at all. And then there's lazy-reading—the kind I use for pleasure when I skim a magazine or hop on Facebook.
I've tried all three kinds of reading—and many others—with the Bible. Let me save you some time from all my mistakes and hand it to you straight. None of them work. We can read the Bible every day of our lives, but if we're just processing the letters into words, it won't make any difference.
We need to adopt a new method of reading—a passionate, crazy, "every-brain-cell-I-have-is-on-right-now" kind of method. As far as I can tell (I'm still learning it, too), there are three basic components:
- Prayer. Because my mind and heart are so naturally inclined to wander, I need God to enable me to hunger for His Word. Before anything else, then, Bible-reading must begin with supplication—followed with the action of obedience. Only the Spirit can teach us to delight in our reading, and only He can provide us with the illumination, encouragement, and conviction we need.
- Study. If the word "study" sounds eerily like trigonometry, don't freak out yet. We all study the things we love—subconsciously memorizing details and going out of our way to find out more. If there's anything that it's impossible to be too much of a fanatic about, it's the Word, so let's scour the pages of our Bibles with relentless intensity. It's slow, careful, difficult work, yes. We'll break mental sweats as we grapple with certain passages. It might include whipping out a notebook and pencil or doing some research when we run up against a tough word or verse, but it's rewarded a hundredfold by our deepening joy. Let's not forget that the Bible is an unending feast, and the more we take of it the more we will be satisfied.
- Meditation. Quantity isn't everything; it's good to chew slowly and thoughtfully. When we read something that makes us go "wow," that's a good indicator that it might be time to stop for a while and start reflecting. And meditation on a verse lends itself naturally to memorization, which in turn produces more meditation as it takes the forefront of your mind during the following days.
2. It isn't over when you skip a day.
The year I became a Christian, I had a funny idea about reading the Bible consecutively. I felt like there was something special about starting a Bible reading plan on January 1st, and if my daily routine was broken at any point along the way, I'd lost. So I may as well quit. Discouragement at my persistent failures made my motivation vanish, making it difficult to resume again.
What will you do if you skip a day in the 30-day challenge? What if you choose to sleep in instead of waking up early before school or spend a Saturday kicking back and accidentally forget about it?
If our trust is in Christ, we've been forgiven for all our weakness and many failures. Don't despair if you fall. I'm not suggesting that we coast—we need to take the commitment seriously—but we can't forget about grace, either. The point is to cultivate a lifelong habit, and that takes time.
As you take off on this reading challenge, think about these words from Charles Spurgeon: "Beware of despising small beginnings. Some men never arrive at usefulness because they are not satisfied to begin in a small way, and proceed by a step at a time." We won't ever progress if we don't keep trying again—and again—every time we want to throw in the towel.
3. Enjoy! Really.
And why are we doing this again, ultimately? Well—to be happy!
Take a look at Psalm 1:1–3:
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
The one who delights in God's law and mediates on it is blessed. That simply means "happy," but in the fullest, richest, highest sense of the word. Getting in the Word will make us happy and contented in God Himself, who is the source and fountain of all true joy. I can't think of any greater motivation to pick up my Bible than that, can you?