Top of the list of things you can do to increase your peace and joy in these crazy times is to read the Bible.
Bible reading has become one of those legalistic “must do’s” that most of us have decided we don’t have to do any more. As Christians, we listen to preachers, whether in person or via streaming in the days since COVID-19, or we tune in to our favorite Bible teachers as they explain the Word to us. We might even have a favorite devotional book.
The trouble is, these ways of interacting with the Bible come pre-digested. The pastor, teacher, or writer took the time to study scripture, hear from God concerning the passages and to relay the message to us.
Think of it like someone you’ve encountered through a mutual friend. You’ve been introduced and, if asked, you’d agree you know them. Your buddy assures you that they have always been able to depend on this person in a difficult situation. Great, you think, but would you call that third person for help if you ran into a serious problem? Probably not. If you spend time with them, get to know them personally and form your own bond and friendship, you’re much more likely to turn to that one in time of crisis.
Jesus is described as “The Word” (John 1:1). Delving into the Bible for yourself is the best way to get to know what he is like and to form a personal relationship with him.
During the smooth sailing times of our lives, a second-hand knowledge of Scripture can get us through. We are lulled to sleep by the rocking motion of the boat and Jesus is the lullaby that assures us all is well. But, lullabies are generally played at low volume and are easily drowned out by crashing thunder and boisterous waves. Our faith in God’s ability to bring us through a storm is lost amid the cacophony. In that moment we need the loud, strong, and clear voice of God:
The voice of the Lord echoes above the sea.
The God of glory thunders.
The Lord thunders over the mighty sea.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic.
The voice of the Lord splits the mighty cedars;
the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon.
Job was a man who knew trouble. He lost his children, his wealth, and his health. His friends had nothing helpful to say and his wife insisted that he should curse God and die. Job had learned a few things about God by hearsay and acknowledged and served him as best he could, so he was baffled by his current situation. He never cursed God, but he did give him a piece of his mind.
Then God spoke directly to Job.
When Job got the story straight from the horse’ mouth, so to speak, everything changed for him. He saw himself and God in a whole new way. He told God, “I admit I once lived on rumors of you; now I have it firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry! Forgive me! I’ll never do that again, I promise! I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay or crumbs of rumor” (Job 42:5-6 MSG).
Too often we live on crusts and crumbs, starved for help and comfort from God. We don’t have to.
“But, the BIBLE!” I can hear you say. That’s a BIG Book! Where to begin.
Start where you are.
Do you listen to sermons or Bible teachers? Read devotionals? They give Scripture references. Take notes. Look up the verses. I like to write them out. When I do this, it slows me down. I am quiet and the Holy Spirit can show me things I have never seen before. Sometimes these things are profound, other times its more like, “oh, yeah, of course!” The Holy Spirit loves the Bible. When you open God’s Word, you will find Him at your shoulder, reading along excitedly, eager to point out the good stuff. So don’t be afraid, you’ve got access to the very best teacher.
Another tip is to find a translation that works for you. If the King James Version leaves you cold, try the Message or the Good News Translation. I like the New Living Translation. Using a Bible App is good because you can look at different versions to help you figure out the meaning. If you are looking up a verse from a sermon or devotional, read the verses around that one to check the context and get a more complete idea of what’s going on. Whichever is your favorite version, invest in a paper copy. During the snow and power outages in Texas last February, all alone in the dark with no heat or lights, cell phone dead, I was happy to have a flashlight and a hard copy of the Bible to get me through the night.
You don’t have to read the whole thing in one sitting. In fact, the reason legalistic Bible reading got such a bad rap is that we tried to push through a certain page count or reading plan instead of taking the time to find Jesus in there. Don’t do that. Just take whatever you are currently doing to the next level. Pray about it and make a commitment to know your Savior for yourself.
For motivation, try reading Psalm 119. In that psalm David extols all the reasons to love God’s Word and the its value for life. Psalm 119:37 (NLT) says: “Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word.” That’s my prayer for us both today!
Do you struggle with finding time to read the Bible? What tips have you found helpful?