In the competition for our free time the Bible faces stiff challenges today. It’s not as entertaining as cable television, not as emotionally accessible as a music video, and a lot more work than the latest novel. Furthermore, some of you are asking: “What’s free time? I can barely keep up with life as it is!” I can identify with all of these. Reading the Bible, for many of us, is neither easy nor convenient. Quite frankly, lots of Christians don’t read the Bible very much.
Why do Christians pull back from reading the Bible?
1. We pull back because the Bible is sometimes hard to understand
There’s a lot that’s strange to us in our own culture if we only go back about century (think “flappers”, or “23 skidoo!”). Now imagine going back four thousand years, to the time of Abraham, to a Middle-eastern culture, with a different language. Toss in the thick forest of mosaic laws, about 500 years later, and there’s a quite a bit we’re not familiar with. So while we can understand much of the Bible with a little common sense, some parts require homework to understand. People don’t always want to do that homework.
2. We pull back because the Bible doesn’t always seem as interesting as our other options
I hope no one is offended by my candor here, but I speak as one who loves the Bible and spends a lot of time in it. For me, a magazine, or a YouTube comedy clip taste like a bowl of chunky chocolate ice cream and the Bible tastes more like steamed broccoli or carrots. The Bible is good for me, even better for me, but, in the short run, it’s not usually as entertaining or fun as other pleasures of our world. That’s probably true for most of you as well. So it’s easier, for lots of us, as we face the stress of life, to grab for the ice cream pleasures rather than the broccoli nutrition (“I’ll read the Bible, but right now I want to finish my show.”).
3. We pull back because the Bible doesn’t always seem relevant
Why am I supposed to care about 600+ Old Testament Jewish laws? Or which King followed King Hezekiah? Or about eating food sacrificed to idols? Or even all that strange stuff in the book of Revelation? I’ve got a math test on Wednesday, health issues, a boss to please and taxes due next week. What does the Bible have to do with all of those things; with the real world? If the Bible doesn’t seem practical or relevant it’s understandable that we avoid it – life is just too short.
So it’s easy to go light on our Bible time. Yet I must tell you this: these challenges are worth facing if we want to draw close to God. How tight God and I become is directly affected by the quality of my time in God’s Word. In my experience, godly Christians are almost always people who value the Bible and commit themselves to study it and to obey it. In contrast, immature believers tend to go light on the Good Book.
Why is it so important to study the Bible?
1. It’s important to study the Bible because it’s God’s clearest, most direct communication to us
God speaks to His world in many ways – through nature, through other people, and through internal impressions, but, by far, His clearest word comes out of Scripture. The Bible gives us the big picture: who God is, who we are, what sin is and why we need a Savior. And it brings a lot of the smaller details into focus as well: how God wants us to live and what He’s promised to do for us. We live in a world filled with hazy, contradictory spiritual ideas. The Bible helps us to sort through them to find the truth.
2. It’s important to study the Bible because it pours God’s spiritual light and power into our lives
The Bible is more than just wise words. These are “living and active” words (Heb. 4:12); words loaded with spiritual energy. The Holy Spirit, their Author, speaks through them right to our spirits. Some of you know what I mean. It’s like a light switch being thrown on in a darkened room, or a medicine that soothes our wounds, or a cool drink that gives us heart to go on. The Bible provides a huge practical spiritual advantage. It’s meant to.
How can I get the most out of my Bible study?
1. I get the most out of my Bible study when I set aside a regular time
While it’s great to read the Bible whenever, serious Bible students often set aside a specific time? Why? One of your greatest challenges is maintaining your reading in the midst of life’s unpredictable demands and pressures. If you have a specific time set aside you can guard it more easily, scheduling around it. You can also build a habit, which is a crucial part of maintaining any spiritual exercise. And, it’s easier to focus on the Bible without distraction if you know that this time has already been booked for study and that’s not negotiable. If possible, choose a time when you have some energy and are less likely to be needed by others. Lots of us read our Bible early in the morning for this reason, though some of you laugh at this, since you’re brain-dead at that time of day. Find a time that suits you.
2. I get the most out of my Bible study when I aim for consistency more than for length
Which is better for you – to eat one monster meal every three days or three moderate meals every day? In the same way, you’ll get more out of Scripture if you spread the meals out on a more regular basis than if you just have an occasional big study session. We need fresh encouragement from the Bible every day.
3. I get the most out of my Bible study when I aim for quality more than for quantity
Here’s the challenge we face: the Bible is a long book, 31,102 verses, to be exact. You’ll want to read all of it. But, because it’s so long, it’s easy to race through it without really stopping to think about what you’re reading. So even if you do read larger sections, several chapters at a time, it’s important that you look more carefully at at least a few of those verses. This allows them to become more memorable and to have some impact in your life. This leads to the next tip:
4. I get the most out of my Bible study when I slow down
A slow rain soaks into the ground far better than a downpour. So many of Scripture’s riches will only be seen by those willing to slow their journey to a crawl. Read the verse once. Read it twice. Stare out the window. Learning to relax and focus around the Bible is a crucial skill. Use your imagination. Sense your feelings about what you’ve read. Think about it throughout the day.
5. I get the most out of my Bible study when I come with an open mind and heart
The Bible is powerful, but not overpowering. We’re free to listen or to ignore. Start your study by asking God to speak clearly to you and committing yourself to listen. The Spirit will shine His light into all sorts of dark corners if we let Him. I must warn you that this light will reveal both happy truths and painful ones. We need both.