“Read your Bible, pray everyday, and you'll grow, grow, grow.”
So goes the children's song that many of us grew up with. We know that the key to spiritual growth involves reading the Bible and prayer, but if we are honest about it, most of us don't really know how doing that leads to growth. Is doing so a magic formula for the Christian life? How long do I have to do it for? What happens if I don't want to do so? These are all things that we struggle with as we grow from the comfortable environment of our childhood songs to face the harsh reality of life and our own sinful hearts. In this series, we hope to take a step back, to understand why we ought to read our Bibles and pray.
The Motivation to Find Motivation
All too often we find ourselves questioning why we do the things we do. Case in point. We've all struggled with something abstract like calculus/covalent bonding in school, and have often thrown our hands up and asked in frustration “Why do I need to study this? How on earth is this going to be relevant to me in the future? It’s not like I’m going to be a _____ when I grow up!!!” We ask this thinking sincerely that “if I can find a reason to study this, maybe it’ll be more bearable.” - and rightly so.
Few things are more discouraging and infuriating than being forced to do something we not only dislike, but are not very good at. It's all the more frustrating when others around us tell us that “it’s for your own good”, “you’ll understand next time”, “that’s what students do”, or the all too familiar “just do it, you have no choice”.
Few things are quite as damaging. When was the last time you looked at that same subject of study that was forced down your throat and thought “oh man I sure miss that”? The sour taste left in our mouths leaves us resenting the subject, so much so that we want nothing to do with it during its study, and cannot wait to throw it all away after the season of studying.
Likewise, we sometimes find ourselves asking - “why do I need to read the Bible?” (do we even ask at all?). Like covalent bonding, we're not very good at it at all. This question has been asked by many a Christian, both young and old, but most of the time we find answers similar to what we hear in response to our calculus woes - “it’s for your own good”, “you’ll understand next time”, “that’s what Christians do”, or even “just do it, don’t question”.
Few things are quite as damaging.
Why We Ask Why
As Christians we know we’re supposed to read our Bibles, we know it’s good for us, and we know we should. Yet we cannot help but ask - why are we supposed to? How do we know it’s good for us? Why should we?
On the surface, the reason we look for the why in our actions is because for the most part, our actions are sustained by the why. We stop doing what we do because we lose sight of the why. But we lose sight of the why because over time we realize that we don’t actually want to do those things. The heart of the issue is not that we ask why because we need a reason to continue - rather, we ask why because we don’t want to continue.
Why else do we last all of two months on our resolutions every New Year? Why else do we look for reasons to study the things we’re worst at, but hardly ever think about why we study the things we’re great at?
The reason we ask why we need to read our Bibles is simply because deep down, we don’t really want to.
The Greatest Commandment as a Framework
How then shall we respond?
Perhaps we have been asking the wrong question all this while. Instead of “Why should I read the Bible?”, a more accurate question would be “Why should I want to read the Bible?. We begin with a commandment - the greatest one, no less.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. - Matt 22:36-38 (ESV)
Before you write this off as the same old reason you’ve heard from your teachers and parents - that it is a commandment - notice that this commandment is bound up with the chief goal of loving God. The greatest commandment is that we should love God with our whole being, not that we should read the Bible.
Where does Bible reading come in then? The chief goal of loving God is the basis of why we should want to read the Bible. By reading the Bible we love God with all our heart because it is a daily reminder of our sin and His grace. By reading the Bible we love God with all our soul because we were made to know God. By reading the Bible we love God with all our mind because we read for maturity and mission.
In the next three weeks we will look at reading the Bible in the context of each of these - the heart, soul and mind. We pray that through this series you will not only find reasons to read the Bible, but find reasons to want to read the Bible.
Posts in this series: