After spending two days sharing about the benefits of reading through the Bible, I don’t want to give the impression that any particular Bible reading plan is better than another. There are many ways to mine the riches of God’s Word. You can study a passage, a book, a group of books, a word, a topic, or a doctrine. I’ve used many of these methods at one time or another in my life. All of them can help us to see the glory of Jesus Christ more clearly. Pursued rightly, they should cause us to be more humble, not more arrogant.
But in the past few years, as I’ve sought to take in and meditate on larger quantities of Scripture, it’s affected me in specific ways. Perhaps the greatest change I’ve noticed is a greater resistance to temptation. Spending more time listening to God’s voice in His Word has made it easier to hear Him at other times. The world, my flesh, and the devil are constantly seeking to persuade me that God’s ways are futile, hard, joyless, and confusing. I’m seeing for myself that’s not true. God’s Words are more and more becoming what I love.
Specifically, I’m finding I fear God more and people less. In many (not all) situations where I’d be prone to worry about what people think of me, there is a calm assurance that God’s opinion is the only one that ultimately matters. It’s been an unexpected benefit in an area of temptation I’ve battled for years. To a small degree, I’m experiencing Ps. 119:165: Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.
I’ve found it helpful to have three things nailed down as I pursue a greater knowledge of God through His Word.
A Place – Actually, it might be a few places. I have a chair that I typically use for my devotional time. But I’ve also had powerful encounters with God in a local coffee shop. As I sit under my headphones listening to instrumental music, I shut the world out and commune with my Savior through prayer and His Word. The point is to have a fairly consistent place you use to focus on hearing from and speaking to God. Having to decide each day where you’re going to meet with God can keep us from doing it at all.
A Plan – A plan should include a time of day and a specific idea of what we’ll do with that time. A reading plan serves us best when it lasts more than a few days, so we don’t have to keep coming up with a new plan. How much of God’s Word does He want you to read this month? This year? My plan right now involves Scripture reading (as I’ve shared), and using two prayer lists. I also might use The Valley of Vision or some theologically oriented book to get my mind going in the morning. A plan is meant to serve us. If you want to deviate from it to pursue a passage or topic, you can do it for a day or two, knowing you have a plan to come back to.
A Purpose – This may be the most important element in reading the Bible. We need to know why we’re doing it. Is it to impress our friends, learn a lot of Bible facts, or finish our reading goal? No. Our purpose is to better know the Savior who created and redeemed us for His glory, through reading, meditating on, studying, and applying His Word. If I want to live for God’s glory, which I was created to do, my life needs to be conformed as closely as possible to His thoughts, desires, will, and commands. That won’t happen unless I’m intimately acquainted with His Word.
I want to finish with a quote from a booklet, Reading the Bible, by a Welsh pastor named Geoffrey Thomas. I first found this in Donald Whitney’s outstanding book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.
Do not expect to master the Bible in a day, or a month, or a year. Rather expect often to be puzzled by its contents. It is not all equally clear. Great men of God often feel like absolute novices when they read the Word. The apostle Peter said that there were some things hard to be understood in the epistles of Paul (2 Peter 3.16). I am glad he wrote those words because I have felt that often. So do not expect always to get an emotional charge or a feeling of quiet peace when you read the Bible. By the grace of God you may expect that to be a frequent experience, but often you will get no emotional response at all. Let the Word break over your heart and mind again and again as the years go by, and imperceptibly there will come great changes in your attitude and outlook and conduct. You will probably be the last to recognize these. Often you will feel very, very small, because increasingly the God of the Bible will become to you wonderfully great. So go on reading it until you can read no longer, and then you will not need the Bible any more, because when your eyes close for the last time in death, and never again read the Word of God in Scripture you will open them to the Word of God in the flesh, that same Jesus of the Bible whom you have known for so long, standing before you to take you for ever to His eternal home. (Geoffrey Thomas, Reading the Bible, p. 22)
“Often you will feel very, very small, because increasingly the God of the Bible will become to you wonderfully great.” May that be your experience more and more in the days ahead.