I don’t read through the Bible every year. I know that’s probably an unexpected confession from a pastor, but it’s the truth. I previously tried on multiple occasions but always seemed to fall just short, or worse, succeed yet not remember a word of what I read. A few years ago, I decided to make some devotional changes that have been extremely beneficial.
First, I surrendered my ego-based need of saying I read through my Bible every year. In all honesty, it had become a source of dishonesty. I didn’t exactly go around bragging that I had finished another round. but I also wasn’t quick to confess I hadn’t. Reading the Bible had become more of a merit badge than an accurate metric of grace. Honestly, I was more concerned with what people said about my spiritual habits than I was about what God thought of my heart. When the Spirit made me aware of that, I knew something had to change.
Second, I had to relearn what time in the word meant. I approached time in the word as just that, time in the word. Though I wasn’t always consistent when I read, I had a certain mentality about how many chapters were required. I tried my best to do right, but it all still felt so wrong. When I sat down to read in the morning, it was a legitimate struggle to stay awake, yet I felt I had to do what I was supposed to do. Therefore, I got into the Word without giving it any time to get into me.
I’m not saying reading Scripture was fruitless. I just personally realized that, though I was doing what I was supposed to do, I wasn’t getting what I was supposed to get. I was checking a box, but the word wasn’t changing my heart. Yes, Scripture promises that God’s word will not return void, but I was still left with a void. I began to recognize that I was consuming large portions of scripture, but I wasn’t digesting anything.
That realization forced me to ask myself the question, “What gives? If the word is alive, why can’t I hear its voice?” I slowly realized that the problem wasn’t that the word was being silent, but that I was in too much of a rush to hear what it was saying. I was trying to complete my assignment without any time for assessment. As the old saying goes, I was trading quantity for quality. I was reading my self-assigned three chapters, but I wasn’t really taking anything in. The Lord had to retrain me to understand that time in the word consisted of more than just reading. It consisted of meditating. The reason I was getting so little was that I was investing so little. I was trying to swallow without chewing. It was that realization that led me to my next change.
Third, I quit biting off more than I could chew. I decided to read less and get more. This, of course, isn’t an excuse to read one verse in the morning and be one your merry way, feeling you have done God some excellent service. I mean, I traded in large portions of Scripture for a few verses that I could think, study, and pray through. In the spirit of transparency, I sometimes still read several chapters at a time. At other times, I may settle on one paragraph. It has been tremendously helpful for me to learn to read until the Spirit speaks and then stop there until He is finished.
When some specific phrase or thought catches my attention, I often find it an excellent place to stop and meditate. Asking questions like, “What does this mean? What does this teach me about God’s character, and what implications does it have on my life today?” has been hugely beneficial. By God’s grace, I am now finding that I can recall what I read in the morning because, unlike a rushed breakfast that I bit into while on my way out the door, it was something I took the time to taste, chew, and enjoy. Trust me, it is far better to have a small meal you genuinely enjoy and are nourished by than it is to have a buffet you can’t remember.
We are now entering the second month of this new year. My encouragement to you as your brother, your pastor, and your friend is, get in the word and give the word time to get in you. Find a system that works for you. When you open the word, you are opening a window into the heart of God. That is a privilege not to be rushed or taken lightly. Therefore, have a pen and notepad ready. Please write down the things you learn, make notes of the verses that spoke to you, journal how they apply to your life and circumstances, and revisit them throughout the day.
I promise, if you open the word, God will speak.
You probably will not hear an audible voice. Yet, make no mistake, if you are reading the word of God, you are hearing the voice of God. If you make one change this year, let it be giving the word the time it needs to change you.
In Christ Alone,