How’s your Bible reading during this time of COVID-19? An informal poll Our Daily Bread Ministries did recently showed that many believers in Singapore still managed to continue their reading of the Bible even though COVID-19 upset their routines. Some, however, shared about their struggle to keep their daily devotion going.
Perhaps some of these reasons offered by people who read the Bible less may sound familiar:
1. “The Bible is Boring”
Some people find the Bible rather archaic and irrelevant to the pressing issues of their lives—like keeping their jobs, parenting, fighting disease, and coping with the stress of modern living, especially amid COVID-19.
Perhaps, however, they are not reading the Bible in the right way. Is it because some of them are reading the Bible as a daily ritual, or in occasional spurts of renewed determination?
Rodney “Gipsy” Smith, a British evangelist, was once told by a man that he had received no inspiration from the Bible despite having “gone through it several times.”
“Let it go through you once,” replied Smith, “Then you will tell a different story!”
Perhaps we’ve read the Bible many times over, and find re-reading familiar passages something of a chore. Let’s remember, however, that we read the Bible not just for information, but to be transformed. After all, why do some of us read our favourite books over and over again? Is it because we find that these books continue to speak to us and inspire us? The Bible can do far more than this.
2. “I Have No Time”
This is a common problem for many of us who live in a busy world and who are constantly hurrying from one task to the next.
We need to decide, however, what is important in our lives. If we see God as the most important and lasting reality in our existence, will we give Him priority and time? Will we value reading the Bible, in which God has revealed himself?
Jesus reminds us that “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). The Bible is spiritual food that sustains us on our earthly journey. If we miss feeding on it regularly, our souls will starve, and we will become spiritually sick. If we have no time for God, it will hurt us more than we can imagine.
Perhaps we need to re-prioritise our daily schedules and give up some things in order to create space and time to read God’s Word daily.
3. “I Don’t Understand What I Read”
Before we go on a holiday to a new country, we may try to read up on it. Initially, we may have very little idea about the place. But as we keep reading and building our knowledge, the picture will become clearer, and the details more interesting.
Likewise, if we start and maintain a daily habit of reading the Bible and meditating on it, we will increasingly appreciate its message. We will begin to better grasp who God is, what He is doing, and what living in His kingdom is all about. The more we read His Word, the more we will understand Him.
Reading the Bible, however, is not like reading the daily news. To truly understand it, we need God’s help. In Luke 24:13–34, the two dejected disciples on their way to Emmaus did not recognise the risen Christ when they first talked to Him. It was only when He “explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (v. 27), that their eyes were opened. Later, they recalled with wonder, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (v. 32).
Imagine if this were to happen to us when we open the Bible! All of us can enjoy the presence of Jesus as we read His Word. The Holy Spirit will guide us and give us understanding of God’s Word (1 Corinthians 2:10–12). The Bible is not just an essential guide book for life, but also God’s love letter to us. Reading it in His presence, with His help to understand it, is a most wonderful experience.
4. “I Just Don’t Have the Discipline”
Anyone who does not have any discipline at all will not be able to manage life. All of us exercise some discipline at some points of our lives. We make sure we get up so that we get to work on time, we make sure we send our kids to school, pay our bills, watch our credit card spending, and do our groceries. We make all this part of our daily or weekly routine because they are essential tasks; without them, our lives will be messed up.
In the same way, we can make our reading of the Bible part of our daily routine. Set aside time each day (in the morning, preferably) to turn to God’s Word. Try to do this at the same place (your desk, dining table, or a porch bench). It is said that a habit takes about 30 days to develop, so if you persist faithfully for a month, you will find it easier to keep your daily appointment with God.
You could also make a covenant with fellow Christians to read the Bible daily and make yourself accountable to them. Share with the others what God has been saying to you through His Word, and listen to what they have heard from Him.
If we read the Bible deeply and regularly with a view to putting into practice what we discover, we will grow spiritually. As Jesus taught us, those who hear God and put His Word into practice are like the man who builds his house on a rock: it will withstand the worst storm, unlike a house built on sand (Matthew 7:24–27). The secure house is a life that will endure beyond this world.
Reading the Bible: Some Tips from Great Men of God
Experienced and faithful practitioners of Bible reading have some practical advice on reading the Bible. John Wesley, who founded the Methodist movement, offers these tips:
- Read the Bible slowly and worshipfully, with unhurried reverence. The early hours of the morning and quiet hours at night are most suitable. Prioritise and build in time for Bible reading each day.
- Read a chapter carefully at each sitting, or less if need be. Quality is more important than quantity.
- Read the Bible systematically and comprehensively. Follow a Bible reading plan so that we can become familiar with the “whole will of God” (Acts 20:27).
- Read the Bible with a singleness of purpose—to know God’s will. Learn to compare Scripture passages, which will give greater clarity.
- Read the Bible prayerfully, so that we can be instructed by Christ and His Spirit.
- Read the Bible with the clear intention to put into practice what we learn.
The Bible is like a precious mine with countless gems that await our discovery. If we are committed to reading it and digging into it, we will discover eternal treasures that we will never lose.
Martin Luther, the great reformer, once described how he read the Bible with passion and determination:
“I study my Bible as I gather apples. First, I shake the whole tree that the ripest might fall. Then I shake each limb, and when I have shaken each limb, I shake each branch and every twig. Then I look under every leaf. I search the Bible as a whole like shaking the whole tree. Then I shake every limb—study book after book. Then I shake every branch, giving attention to the chapters when they do not break the sense. Then I shake every twig, or a careful study of the paragraphs and sentences and words and their meanings.”
As the apostle Paul urges us: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly.” (Colossians 3:16).