Living truth behind hard facts
You’ve got to love good hard facts—like the fact that exercise is good for your mood, your energy, and your health. It’s good to know; who doesn’t want to be happy and healthy? But does that fact mean that I need to start hammering my body with an extreme workout routine (like all the cool kids are doing), or running ten kilometres a day? Maybe that would work for me. Or maybe it wouldn’t and I’d quit, deciding that this exercise stuff is really not my cup of tea.
On the other hand, maybe the story of how my friend was able to go from not exercising at all to joining a squash club and doing a moderate morning jog might help me to realize that exercise isn’t about forcing myself to do something I hate, or about people with beautiful bodies telling me to get off the couch, but about finding physical activity that I enjoy and forming habits that make me feel and look great.
It’s somewhat the same for spiritual disciplines. As Christians we have all heard (and most will agree) that we should read the Bible; the Bible itself makes this clear. But I will be the first to admit that sometimes lists of scripture verses or preaching pastors feel like a P90X coach requiring us to get in position for our next set of push-ups after we’ve collapsed in exhaustion and frustration.
While I continue to struggle with discipline, I have felt the benefits of consistent scripture intake. I’m hoping that the account of some of my struggles and successes will encourage you to look at how this good habit could fit into your life.
Little by little
I can remember one of my earlier attempts to step up my Bible reading, when I was in high school. I started reading Matthew, but felt that, since I was reading God's word, and reading about the Son of God, that I should be having an epiphany with each page turn, so I tried to meditate on what I read, and then tried to write a short essay about it. I don't think I had a goal about how often I would do this, but my plan was apparently not sustainable; I think I quit after a couple of months, and certainly before finishing Matthew.
It’s much better to start with something manageable; even the smallest reading done daily is better than sporadic scripture reading sprints.
Spice it up
Although I've had a lot of exposure to scripture over my life, and would agree that the Bible is God's word, I can't say that I've "read through the whole Bible" and I feel guilty about that. But I don't know how many times I've read Genesis, telling myself that this time I will read the Bible cover to cover! I don't think I ever got past Deuteronomy. There may have been multiple factors, but it's no secret that the part where God lays down the law for Israel is a dry patch for many good-intentioned Bible readers.
Try a Bible reading plan. I’m attempting one that has me reading passages from different parts of the Bible (law, history, poetry, prophecy, New Testament) five days a week, and that should get me through the whole Bible in a year. Try to find a system that works for you that keeps variety in your reading.
More than just reading
There isn’t much point in reading the Bible if we aren’t going to learn something, or if it isn’t going to make a positive difference in our lives. We believe that “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). And yet I’m frustrated at how I can read scripture every morning but not remember anything really striking when I think back later in the day. Maybe I have a bad memory; maybe it’s easy to fall into mindless reading mode first thing in the morning.
Regardless of the dryness that we sometimes experience, I think a daily scripture reading habit will make it much easier for God to speak to us. I’ve found that, with a bit more effort, I can increase the profitability of my daily reading. Leaving some time for meditation—really stopping to think about the words I read—helps me to notice specific ideas that the Holy Spirit may be trying to communicate to me. Journaling—even jotting down a couple short thoughts—helps me to remember what I was thinking and to easily pick up where I left off. And praying about what I hear from God through his word helps to kickstart the change that he wants to bring in my heart.
I hope these thoughts and experiences are encouraging for people who want to know God better. As I was writing this piece, I was disappointed to see myself turning it into a list, because I know your relationship with God is not a formula. I believe that beneath the cold prescription of regular scripture reading, beneath the hard discipline of opening your Bible each day, lies divine truth and power, and the pleasure of knowing a good God and so becoming more like him.