Most of us are busy people and do struggle with Bible reading. How can we have a meaningful time of Bible reading? Why should we do it?
Reading the Bible involves personal time with God. It involves sitting down, finding a personal space and finding time alone not just with an abstract divine being, but with a God who is also our Father. It is important to remember the person we are meeting in Bible reading! Bible reading is therefore not just an obligation – to know Him better, to understand His traits, characteristics and qualities. God desires to listen to us, and is more than happy for us to try to understand Him. This is why the Psalmist is able to declare this in Ps 86:11 -- "Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name".
Starting with this in mind changes how we think about Bible reading! We can take practical steps to guard and protect this precious time of meeting with the God who is Creator and also our Father. We can start the day by reminding ourselves that this is personal time between you and God, and also pray about it! Ask God to allow undivided attention to Him. Having 5 minutes of personal alone time will feel much more fulfilling than half an hour of time distracted with other things. If you think your phone is going to distract you while reading the Word, use a print version of the Bible instead.
If you think you struggle with understanding the Bible, one simple and practical step is to choose to read the bible everyday with somebody. It could be someone who is a mature Christian or even your fellow buddy who is also new to Christianity and wants to explore a relationship with Jesus with you. The advantage of a reading partner? It helps keeps both of you accountable. A simple "Hey do you want to read the bible now?" or "Have you read the Bible today?" really keeps you motivated to reading the Word. You can do it together physically or do it alone and then come together to discuss. Tell others as well! Tell your CG that you will be reading this particular devotional or this particular book. Frequent reminders such as "How is your Quiet time on this going?" from them will really keep you motivated.
We all have different preferences and different schedules. Some of us start work at 7 am or 8 am and thus might not feel to motivated to read the Bible early on. Some are simply not ‘morning people’ and would prefer to read the Word at night. Some people have really erratic schedules. Excuses might be given that we cannot really set aside a specific time because our schedule is very unpredictable or that we get very lazy to wake up or that we are simply so tired after work/school that all we want to do is chill. Indeed these are real struggles for most, if not all of us.
But, imagine with me that we are meeting this very important guest for the first time. One would imagine the hours put in planning this meeting, planning what to say, what to wear, choosing the right venue to ensure when the real meeting comes, everything goes smoothly. Is it not the same with God our King who is the most important person in our lives? Is the attitude that we have towards our King going to be so lacklustre?
One practical thing we can do is to plan ahead and try to anticipate. If you know you are going to be busy that day, set aside time with God earlier on in the day. If you know you are going to be tired at the end of the day because of certain work/school events, spending time with God in the morning might be better. Ask your accountability partners to remind you to read the Bible on this day when you know it is going to be a struggle for whatever reason.
Above us, let's not view Bible reading as a chore or something to tick off the list! If one has the attitude of meeting with the King and being at your best, your actions or thoughts will clearly reflect that.
Once again, we all have our favourite or comfortable place to read. It could be at home, on your way to work or school, or even at work or school. Wherever it is, pick a place where you can read comfortably and without distractions. Spending 5 minutes in a quiet place with undivided attention to God is much more fruitful than spending 30 minutes in an area filled with distractions.
Choose a spot that is ideal for minimal distractions – your room, a quiet spot in the office or pantry during lunch time. Sitting on your favorite chair, having a cup of coffee or tea or milo with snacks could you enjoy your time alone God and His Word.
A simple way to begin is to read a particular book from the bible in keeping with what your church is doing now. For example, you can study the same chapter that your pastor was preaching to you last Sunday. Reading and discovering the Word of God for yourself and how it applies to you is much more different than having a sermon read out to you. With that being said, it is also good to reflect on points that your pastor mentioned during church.
It will also be helpful to also journal and pen down your reflections while reading. Writing things down makes it easier to break down the passage or verses to identify what the characters are doing and to eventually derive the meaning behind the sentences and the ultimate big picture.
These days there are also many technological aids that can help us read and understand. There are Bible apps with Bible reading plans. There are also audio Bibles and audiobooks that can be listened to during commutes. Whatever it is, there are many ways to keep us reading God's Word!
Just do it
On busy and tired days, we may be tempted to skip a day and spend extra time with God the next day. But, let's not talk ourselves out of meeting with God. Don't give yourself permission to skip a day. Repeating a habit 21 to 28 days in a row is significant in forming an ongoing habit and it's always easier after a while. So it is with Bible reading!
Ultimately, let us remember how Scripture is "breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness " (2 Tim 3:16). A growing Christian cannot grow without the Bible. Even as the Bible is thousands of years old, the amazing fact that it can still be relevant in our lives. God never changes and the nature of mankind never changes so the bible is still relevant in what we say, do, think and feel. We can look at a particular text and be amazed at how it speaks to us at that particular time. More importantly, the more and deeper you get into the Bible, you will feel God speaking to you and the words tugging at your heart strings and hopefully that will transform not only your mind but your heart from within to be more obedient servants and children to our Father.
This was a talk given by Ng Jian Hui at our Fellowship Bible Reading Retreat 2018.