I highly doubt that if you asked anyone who professed to be a Christian, “Is it important to read your Bible?” you’d get any other answer than, “Yes, of course it is.” The natural follow-up question is, “Then is it important to you?” and this might get some different answers. This question is another way of asking, “Do you make Bible reading a priority?” Notice this isn’t asking how often you read, or how much you read, or how many times you’ve read it through, but do you make it a priority, something that is important and needed in your life. What’s the difference you may ask? I believe the difference is truly the difference maker in developing good Bible reading habits.
Quantity vs Quality
Ask a young kid if they’d rather have 30 pieces of candy from the dollar store or 1 fine dessert from a world class baking chef and the chances are they’d say the 30 pieces. In their mind, more automatically equals better.
It could be the lowest quality candy in the store but most likely, because there’s more of it, they want more, because more is better in their perspective. What would you pick? Being married to a culinary school graduate myself, I guarantee you every time I will pick the world class desert. At this point in my life, I prefer quality over quantity.
True, the one dessert will not last as long, meaning it will take less time to eat in its entirety, than the 30 pieces (one would hope!). But it will actually last much longer in other ways. The experience of tasting the wonderful flavors on my tongue for the first time, chewing and every bite adding to the deliciousness in my mouth, the pleasure of even swallowing and tasting the amazing texture and flavors disappear down my throat, and the anticipation of another amazing bite then create a whole experience of the dessert, which in turn create memories. Memories of the first time I had it, who I was with, where I was, maybe even how much it cost but was worth it will all be ingrained much more than say, the time I passed through the check out line, payed a buck and every so often threw a piece of candy in my mouth on a whim. (Obviously I’m a dessert guy, I admit it!)
So how does this relate to Bible study? Well, first let me admit that I do believe that even if you don’t feel like its making any difference, reading your Bible makes a difference. Think of it as having surgery. Most of us don’t know exactly what the surgeons do whey they operate, yet it helps us. The Bible by virtue of being God’s inspired, living, & active Word can make a difference in you, even if you don’t quite feel it, understand it, or know it.
But its better obviously to develop good habits that help us to get as much out of it as we can, and for those who struggle with Bible reading, may I suggest you start with the dessert over the candy, or quality over quantity. How? Here are three suggestions to get you started, and they’re all meant to be used at once.
Pray to Read
This may sound obvious to those who have been Christians a while, but think about it – do you really stop and pray before reading your Bible? As in praying for your Bible reading? If we believe that God, the same God who wrote Scripture can also grow our hearts in His Word, why not ask Him to? Indeed, the Spirit is in the Word as well as in a Christian, so why not ask for God by His Spirit to help us understand, grow, remember, and obey the Scriptures They wrote? It makes sense, but I know for a fact its a highly underutilized tool.
Before your next reading, pray for you to get something out of it, that you discover and explore what God wants you to learn from it, that you’d remember and retain, that you’d remember it when you need to…what you can pray for is endless. Intentionally pray for your reading, and it doesn’t hurt to pray after either. You probably won’t be able to memorize it immediately, but your reading will change.
Read to Think
This may sound a little odd, but hear me out. This is the quality bit I was talking about before. Because our Bible is divided into paragraphs and chapters often we feel like we have to read a chapter for our reading to “count.” Not only do some chapter divisions come in horrible places, but especially for beginner Bible readers some of those chapters are long! Thus don’t read a set amount, but what what you think you should read.
What I mean is start and read what you think you’ll be able to think about the rest of the day. Read until a thought occurs to you that hadn’t. Read until you’ve come to the natural conclusion of a story in scripture and think about how that can apply to you. Sometimes this might be four or five chapters for some, others it might be four or five paragraphs, still others it may only be four or five verses.
Let me ask you – what’s the value of reading something you don’t remember as soon as you stop reading it? In starting to develop your reading discipline, read what you’re sure you can retain & think about the rest of the day, and then stop! Let it soak, let it simmer, and let God work with it in you.
Think to Know
Especially in starting out, I suggest you start with a passage of Scripture you’re familiar with and that’s fairly easy to read. The Book of Mark is a good start. Why? Not only is it the shortest gospel, but its about Jesus (of whom I’m sure you’ve heard) and many churchgoers who have yet to develop a good reading discipline have heard many of the stories in Mark already through sermons or Bible classes. Thus you’re familiar with it already, but are you?
Think to know, in conjunction with the previous tip, means that you read something you THINK you know, but look for things you may have missed or hadn’t noticed before. When you find something you hadn’t seen or realized before, stop, and think about it the rest of the day. What will happen is that next time you read it you’ll be looking for those thing you realized, and those things by virtue of letting them soak in your mind will stick better than other things you thought you knew.
It’s OK to be skeptical about trying something new. And in truth, something here may not work for you. But we’re not done, this is the first post in a series of posts about how to develop a good Bible reading habit. So give these a try, see what you think, let God work, and if nothing else, wait for the next post.
Bible reading as a discipline is one of the most rewarding disciplines along with prayer a Christian can have. I will be praying that if you’re seeking to develop yours that these posts will help you. Feel free to contact us for with questions or to talk about developing this discipline or others. I’m praying for you. Grace to you.