How to get something out of Bible reading
As Christians, most of us know that reading the Bible is an important thing to do, even if we don’t exactly know why. But what are we supposed to do when we read the Bible and nothing seems to happen? We don’t learn anything new, we don’t find a Tweet-worthy line, we don’t get anything out of it, and it doesn’t seem like it’s really doing that much for our lives. What’s going on here?
Part of this problem arises from the reality that many of us have a really low view of the Bible, “we don’t realize what we have in our hands when we hold an English Bible.” Most of us don’t realize the thousands of years of preservation of ancient manuscripts and copies of manuscripts in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek that have been carefully organized and meticulously compiled into a single leather-bound book that is translated into our language for us. We can actually read the very words of God, that he breathed out through his apostles and prophets so long ago (2 Tim. 3:16, Eph. 2:20, 2 Pet. 1:21). This should blow our minds. Our heavenly Father has spoken, and speaks to us lovingly and directly when we open our Bibles.
Another part of the problem is that we are selfish and individualistic and think everything should always be all about us. Our consumeristic, instant-gratification culture teaches us to give up on anything that doesn’t yield immediate, visible dividends to our lives. But God wants to work on our hearts, which is many times a slow and largely invisible work. Over time though, as we let the words of our Father speak to our hearts, he transforms us from the inside out. We can absolutely “get something” from reading the Bible, “we get God himself, revealed in his word, which is what we truly need.”
“We can absolutely “get something” from reading the Bible “we get God himself, revealed in his word, which is what we truly need.”
With this beautiful reality considered, here are a few thoughts toward fruitful personal Bible reading time, and some questions to consider:
1. Pray before you read
In Psalm 119:18, the author says, “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law”. The Psalmist is praying to God to be able to see something in the word; to “get something out of it” if you will. Something deep though; the beautiful treasures of God revealed in his word. To behold God’s glory, to see God for who he really is, to learn about his ways, to be instructed by his truth, and to be changed and conformed to his image even more.
- When you sit down to read the Bible, do you pray?
- Do you ask God to open your eyes and help you to see his word for what it is?
- Do you ask him to teach you, convict you, transform you, and comfort you?
2. Meditate on what you read
In Psalm 1, the “blessed man is the one whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (v.2). It describes him as a “tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season” (v.3). To be nourished by God and grow as a Christian and bear fruit in our lives means we must plant ourselves by the word of God, and meditate on it day and night. To “meditate” on God’s word is to think deeply about it, repeating and rehearsing what you’ve read in your mind and heart as you consider all that it means for you.
- Do you meditate on what you read, or do you just skim?
- Do you journal about what you read, and make comments or questions as you go?
- Do you memorize verses, passages, or books of the Bible?
3. Be consistent
In Isaiah 50:4, the perfect Servant of God says, “He awakens me morning by morning; he awakens my ear to listen as a disciple”. We know from the New Testament that God’s Servant in Isaiah is Jesus Christ; the perfect disciple. Jesus, even though he was God in the flesh, would rise early in the morning to pray and listen to the words of his heavenly Father (Mark 1:35). As disciples of Jesus, we need to imitate his early “morning by morning listening” to God, that is the heart of discipleship.
- Do you rise early to start your day by hearing from God?
- Are you consistent with your time in prayer and the word, “morning by morning”?
- Do you need to reorganize your schedule in order to make this discipline a part of your daily morning routine?
Read your Bible
Having a “quiet time” with God in the morning requires discipline, but is more about the gracious initiative of God, who is willing to meet with us over a cup of coffee at the kitchen table and speak tenderly to our hearts. By humbly praying before you read, deeply meditating on what you read, and consistently practicing this discipline, we can expect God to bear much fruit in our lives. We are moved by his Spirit to learn truth, be convicted of sin, confess struggles, repent, worship, and glorify God with our lives.