From time to time, I experience spiritual dryness; going through seasons where I struggle. But today, while going through my daily discipline of Scripture reading, I came across a passage that totally ministered to me. It was as if God had inspired that Scripture to speak to my particular situation for that particular moment!
Now there are reasons why I came across that Scripture today. One is that God loves me and wanted to deliver to me a personal message. Another reason is that there are a lot of people praying for me and asking God to refresh my life. But the most important reason (important, because it has to do with my response) is because I was following a daily discipline of reading God’s Word. If I didn’t read God’s Word on a regular basis, my finding that passage would have been delayed. And if I don’t read God’s Word at all, there would be no way I would have found that passage. Regular, disciplined Scripture reading puts us in the position to hear from God.
Too many of us look at Scripture reading as a “band aid”: only when we are in times of trouble do we crack open the dusty pages of our Bible, frantically trying to find words of wisdom and direction that can soothe our souls. But, save a miracle from God that leads us mysteriously to the appropriate verse, we don’t find our “magic verse” and it often leaves us frustrated and disillusioned, leading us to the false conclusion that the Bible is irrelevant and outdated.
You may have heard the story of the man who needed direction from God, so he closed his eyes, opened his Bible to a random page and pointed blindly at a verse that said: “Judas went and hung himself.” That’s a little extreme, but it makes a point what could happen when we try to use the Bible as a “band aid.”
But Jesus tells us that Scripture is not a band aid, it is daily bread for our soul. “Man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God!” Jesus declared as He was tempted by Satan. We need to be in the Word daily in order to hear the voice of the Lord.
I can tell you that I have had many dull, uneventful readings of Scripture. For every epiphany (a fancy name for “God moment”) I have experienced through a Scripture reading, I have had a thousand ordinary, plain old “manna” type readings. But the effect of all those Scripture readings has helped me to recognize God’s voice when it comes, as well as renewing my mind.
So how can we get a steady diet of Scripture? Here are a couple of practical steps:
1. Set apart a time and a place to read the Bible. You don’t need a lot of time, but you need to establish it. Find a quiet place to read where TV, radio, newspaper or people cannot distract.
2. Read assigned portions of Scripture. Some choose a book of the Bible to read. I used to do this. If you do, start with a book that’s easy, like a Gospel or Psalms. Don’t start with Revelation or Ezekiel or Leviticus (perhaps later on). But nowadays, I don’t even choose the passage. I let the passage “choose” me. I utilize the Lectionary from the Book of Common Prayer. It systematically gives me Scripture passages that fit within the Church calendar year.
3. Be accountable with someone. Ask a friend to ask you each week how your Bible reading is going. Accountability helps with the follow through on our intentions. This can develop in a spiritual friendship, whereby you can share what God has been teaching you through your readings.
4. Spend time reflecting on the passage. I use the “lectio divina” method, where I read the passages four times and spend silent reflection after each reading (for more on Lectio Divina, click here.) If there’s something confusing or I have a question about in the passage, I write it down and look at it later. More importantly, I am listening for God’s voice in the Scripture. What is God saying to me? Is there something I need to do/learn/understand?
Is Scripture reflection a struggle for you or a delight?
What helps you in getting into the Word on a regular basis?
How have you moved from Scripture reading being a “band-aid” to “bread”?