A recent news article tells the story of a woman called Sharifa Muhando, who was caught reading her Bible by her Muslim husband. Disturbed by her devotion to the Word, he denied her food and then left her in a national park with wild animals in Western Uganda.
Stories like these make us wonder how much those of us who are not liable to be persecuted for reading the Bible value God’s Word.
According to Lifeway Research, while most Americans have a positive view of the Bible, more than half hardly ever read it. A third of Americans never pick the Bible up on their own.
If it is true that the Bible is God’s Word. If it is true that the universe was created by his Word. If it is true that all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, and correcting in righteousness that the man of God may be equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
If all this is true, how come we give so little attention to the Bible? And if we do give so little attention to it, why are we surprised that we have so little grasp of the truth?
The ancient Christian leader Jerome once said, “Let sleep find you holding the Bible, and when your head nods let it be resting on the sacred page.” Assuming we are convinced in theory that we should give attention to God’s Word, how are we to do so in practice?
It is said that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Little happens in life unless it is deliberate. Certainly, adventure and excitement occur in the spontaneous. Don’t hear me downplaying fun.
But while the fun must be there, the reality is that most of our lives are so busy (or so distracted) that if we do not plan to read the Bible, our Bible reading will be, at best, haphazard.
When people ask me about how to have regular devotional times with God, I am sometimes tempted to tell them never to do another devotion again. I don’t “do devotions.” I ask God to speak to me through his Word.
There is an excitement, reality, and relational vigor to the wonder of being able to hear from God. It begins with prayer. “Lord, what do you have to say to me today?”
The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17), and reading the Bible is enlivened by the Spirit of God, who breathed out his Word.
There is a spiritual dynamic to reading the Bible. I once heard that Billy Graham would say that he kept on reading the Bible until the Holy Spirit underlined what it was that he wanted him to hear.
While listening to God’s Word is listening to God and therefore is a spiritual exercise, it is not all subjective.
There is an art and skill to reading the Bible well. It takes time to develop. There are wrong interpretations of the Bible as well as right ones. Context is a key tool.
As is learning to spot the different types of literature (sometimes called “genres”) in which the Bible is written. There are many online tools that can help you develop skills as a reader of the Bible. But practice is key.
Pride or lack of it. We need to come to God’s Word with humble hearts, ready to hear what it is that God wants to say to us. Ready to be corrected. Not judging God’s Word by our preferences but letting our preferences be shaped by God’s Word.
Probably the greatest reason why we give less attention to the Bible than we should is because we don’t want to hear what it is that God is actually saying to us.
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Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the Senior Pastor of College Church in Wheaton and the President of God Centered Life Ministries. Come and hear more about the power of God’s word at The Word Conference 2023.