Building Strength for the Journey Through Bible Reading

August 19, 2014

 

          When I was younger, my family attended an event at the Nassua Coliseum in Long Island, New York.   It event ended around 10-11 o’clock p.m., and the plan was to drive to a hotel in New Jersey to get some sleep before we toured New York City the next day.   However, our plans changed when my Dad missed the exit he was supposed to take and our tour of the city started earlier than we’d planned (and without a tour guide).   

 

           The only thing was that our unplanned tour didn’t lead us toward the common tourist attractions.   Instead, our naïve little family from the country spend the next 4 hours driving through the various Bureaus of New York seeing places and things that we’d never seen before.   (Imagine the Beverly Hillbillies meet Jamaica, New York---now you’ve got a good picture.)

 

           We were lost!   Remember this was before GPS and cell phones were even invented.  There was a brief ray of light when we saw a group of police cars parked together and thought we could stop and ask for directions.   We were wrong.  Apparently, policemen in certain bureaus of NY get very nervous when cars pull up directly beside them in the wee hours of the morning.  They were not happy!  

As the clock crept past midnight and into 1 a.m., then 2 a.m., I think my parents would have given anything for a map, a GPS, or even a friendly police officer who would give us directions for how to get back on the right road. Since we didn’t have any of these things, we just kept driving around and around trying to find our way back to the hotel.   (We did finally arrive around 3 a.m. ---although I still don’t remember how!)  

 

           What did I learn from this event?   Directions are important!  Keep a map in your car so you don’t end up in dangerous situations for which you are totally unprepared!  

 

            Come to think of it---that’s not a bad motto for life.   The only thing is that life, no matter how dangerous it can be or how unprepared we are to face its challenges, doesn’t come with a roadmap.  

 

           Or does it?

 

            Thankfully, the answer is that “Yes, it does.” That’s why it’s so important that we read the Bible every day.    Essentially, it’s our owner’s manual for how to successfully navigate the roads of life.  

 

            It’s simple.   The Bible is the Word of God.  

 

            As the Creator of the universe, God understands how the universe works.  

Graciously, He has shared these keys to successful living with us in His Word.  When we read His Word and apply these keys to our lives, we will prosper and succeed spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and even in our practical lives.  Essentially, the Bible tells us how to live life the way God intended it to be lived.    It’s our roadmap, our GPS, our tour guide to this crazy unfamiliar territory called life.  

 

            Psalm 119 is a beautiful Psalm describing all of the benefits that can be derived from the Word of God.  

 

            Psalm 119:105 tells us that the Bible gives us direction in a dark world.  

“Your Word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

 

            God’s Word helps us live pure lives.  

 

     “How can a young person stay on the path of purity?   By living according to Your Word.”  (Psalm 119:9) 

 

           The Bible helps us to avoid sin.  

I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.”  (Psalm 119:11)

 

           The Bible gives us strength in times of sorrow.  

“My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to Your Word.”  (Psalm 119:28)

 

          The Bible helps us to be wise rather than simple.  

“The unfolding of Your Words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”  (Psalm 119:130)

 

          The Bible directs our footsteps and keeps sin from ruling and ruining our lives. 

“Direct my footsteps according to Your Word; let no sin rule over me.”  (Psalm 119:133)

 

           That’s just the beginning!  Here’s a challenge:  Read through the entire psalm and make a list of all the ways that the psalmist says God’s Word makes a difference in our lives.  Then read Psalm 19 and do the same thing. 

 

           But let’s be real and honest with each other.   Obviously, if you are reading an article about Spiritual Disciplines, you already know that reading the Bible on a daily basis is important.   Most of us do not struggle with the question of “Why should I read the Bible?”   Instead, we struggle more with actually doing what we know is right. 

 

          The other day I read some interesting statistics from a 2012 LifeWay Research poll.   They polled more than 2,900 Protestant churchgoers and found that while 90 percent "desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do," only 19 percent personally read the Bible every day.

 

          The Barna Group gives us the reason the number is so small when they report that on the whole Americans say they want to read the Bible—62% wish they read Scripture more—they just don't know how to make time.   We’re simply too busy with life's responsibilities (job, family, etc). 

 

          I have to admit, this is an area where I’ve struggled throughout my life.   Since I was a child, there have been times when I’ve been red-hot and passionately committed to reading the Bible.   There’ve also been other seasons where I simply didn’t make Bible reading a priority.  Although I knew it was important, I put it at the end of the list of “things to do”.  As we all know, the things that fall into the “I’ll get to them when I have time category” rarely get done.  

 

          So I get how easy it is to fall into the excuse of “too busy to read the Bible.”  However, just because I understand it, doesn’t make it right.   Because whether it’s you or me or the 90% of Protestants who wish they read the Bible more, reality is that when we say “I don’t have time to read the Bible” what we’re really saying is that reading the Bible and learning God’s ways isn’t as important to you as the other things in your life.   It isn’t a priority, because we always make time for our priorities.   

 

         There’s a story in the book, “First Things First” by Stephen Covey that illustrates this point perfectly:

 

          It’s the story of a time management expert who was speaking to a group of business students.    As he stood in front of the group of high powered over-achievers, he said, "Okay, time for a quiz."

 

          Then he pulled out a one gallon, wide-mouthed Mason jar and set on the table in front of him. He then produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is the jar full?"

 

             Everyone in the class said, "Yes."

 

            Then he said, "Really?"

 

            He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel in and shook the jar, causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the space between the big rocks.

 

           Then he asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?"

 

           By this time the class was on to him.

 

           "Probably not," one of them answered.

 

            "Good!"  he replied.

 

           He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand.  He started dumping the sand in the jar, and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel.  Once more he asked the question, "Is the jar full?"

 

           "No!" the class shouted.

 

           Once again he said, "Good!"

 

           Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?"

 

           One eager student raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things in!"

 

           "No," the speaker replied, "That's not the point.  The truth this illustration teaches us is this: If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all.”

           

           That’s basically where the rubber meets the road when it comes to the truth about the spiritual discipline of daily Bible reading: If we don’t make it a “big rock” or a top priority in our lives, it won’t happen.   Consequently, if we don’t read the Bible, we’re forfeiting all of the benefits we can derive from reading God’s Word. Ultimately, because we won’t know God’s will and God’s ways, we won’t walk in them, and we’ll make choices that will reap bad consequences in every area of our lives.  That’s why the best choice any woman can make in life is choose to daily read the Bible so she can learn God’s principles as they are laid out in the Bible and apply them to her life. 

           

            Here are some tips I’ve learned to help us practically make this choice: 

 

  • Accountability. 

      The biggest thing that helped me stick to my daily Bible reading during a time in life when it was a struggle was a friend or family member asking, “Did you read the Bible today?”    That’s why I suggest finding an accountability partner and checking in with each other daily or weekly.  Encourage each other to make Bible reading a priority.   Maybe you could even read through the same book of the Bible together and discuss it.   Accountability is a powerful tool---use it!   

 

      Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”  

 

  • Choose a Biblical translation that you can understand.

      The King James Version is not for everyone---neither is the NIV.   Choose a version that is readable for you and this will make the Bible reading process more productive and enjoyable.   

 

  • Choose to read the Bible in a different translation once in a while. 

      This tip is for those of you that have read the Bible so many times it’s beginning to feel a little monotonous.   A great way to shake things up is to try a different translation for awhile.   You’ll be surprised how adding just a slightly different flavor may re-spark your enthusiasm.  

 

  • Choose to read smaller portions from different sections of the Bible.

      I learned this from my Mom who would read a portion from the Old Testament, a portion from the New Testament, and a portion in Psalms every day.   She encouraged me that following her pattern would help me avoid my pattern of avoiding Bible reading when I arrived at the genealogies or Leviticus.  

She was right, her way really did help!  Why?   Because even though I might be reading through one part of the Bible that was a little tedious, I’d also be reading another part that wasn’t.  Even this year, I’m committed to a Bible reading plan that gives daily portions from both the Old and New Testament.   Variety is the spice of life!

 

  • Commit to a Daily Bible Reading Plan.

      Personally, I signed up in January for a Daily Bible Reading Plan with www.biblegateway.com.    Every day, they send the passages I’m supposed to read to my e-mail box.  I’m happy to report, that we’re in July and their daily reminders have helped me keep up with the plan and I’m on course to read through the Bible again this year.   Other Bible reading plans are available online, in books, or through your local church.  The important thing isn’t which plan you choose, but that you choose a plan and stick with it.

 

  • Download the Bible App

      Here’s an interesting statistic:  Of adults who increased their Bible readership last year, one-quarter (26%) say it was due to having downloaded the Bible onto their smartphone or tablet.  

 

      Let me just add a whole-hearted “Amen!” 

 

      Because while I was at first skeptical of reading the Bible on your phone (granted, I’m a skeptic of most technology) I’ve recently come to realize that this is an amazingly valuable tool against the excuse of “I’m too busy to read the Bible.” 

 

      Why?

 

      Well, because we all have downtime.  We’ve all got those blocks of time when we’re waiting in an office, waiting in line, or waiting for someone to arrive. 

      

     What if rather than using these blocks of time to check out Facebook or play Candy Crush, we’d use this time to read the Bible?   Can you imagine the impact it would have on our day, our lives, and even the world around us?   This is a great way to prove that Bible reading IS a priority in our lives without sacrificing any of the things that we really MUST do.   In today’s busy society, this is one of the best APPS you can choose because it will produce the greatest rewards in your life. 

 

  •   Just Do It! 

       When it comes to the topic of daily Bible reading, there eventually comes a point where we need to stop making excuses, take a cue from Michael Jordan, and “Just Do It.”   Start somewhere.  Commit to a Bible Reading Plan.  Determine that reading God’s Word is important in your life, put it at the top of your priority list, and make time to do it.   It’s when you make that decision that you’ll start reading God’s Word, building spiritual muscle, and finding strength for the journey.  

 

 

 

 

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