Hi, friend, I heard you set a goal for the new year to read Scripture more faithfully. That’s great! A commendable goal. But I also understand that now you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed. You want to be in the Word, but you’re just not quite sure how that’s going to work. I get it. And if you don’t mind, I’d like to offer you a couple of pieces of advice. I’m sure I won’t answer every question, and I’m not even going to try to tell you what or how much to read. Instead, let me try to anticipate some problems, assuage some worries, and add a word of caution.
First, you need to remember that you are at war and you’ve been given one offensive weapon: the Word of God. Now that you’ve chosen to hone your skills with your sword, you can expect more opposition from the enemy. I’m not sure what it will be for you, but just when you have established a routine, some circumstance or another will arise that tests your resolve.
It might be a round of sickness that lasts long enough to throw you off your schedule and take all the wind out of your proverbial sails. Or it might be a houseguest who keeps you up late at night, making it difficult to get up in the morning. Or maybe a family crisis will take you away from home and throw off your good intentions. If it’s not one of these situations, it will be one of a zillion other possibilities. But know this: the obstacles will come. The question is how you’ll weather them.
To weather the obstacle, begin by recognizing it for what it is. Identify the circumstance as a tactic of the enemy to derail your progress in knowing God through His Word. Next, give yourself some grace. You’re not a failure for missing an entire week or two in the Word. God is not in heaven shaking His head at you and wondering why He ever chose you as His child. Remember, the God of grace has already paid for your sins and knows your weaknesses. Remember that you are a beloved child of the King because you are united with Christ, not because you bat .1000 on reading the Bible every day. So give yourself some grace, get off the mat, and get back in the fight.
Don’t Get Discouraged
Along with the circumstantial obstacles, you’re also sure to encounter seasons of discouragement. You may read long portions of Scripture and wonder what they have to do with you and whether your time would be better spent elsewhere. You may go for days without feeling that you’ve gotten anything from your time in God’s Word. You may then assume that somehow you’re doing it wrong.
Discouragement is normal. As you continue your journey through the Word, you’ll encounter great men of the faith like David, Jeremiah, and Elijah, all of whom grappled with discouragement. The prophet Jeremiah wrote an entire book of the Bible dedicated to the topic. We call it Lamentations. In the middle of that poem of lament, the prophet wrote these attitude-altering verses:
Because of the LORD’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for his mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness!
I say, “The LORD is my portion,
therefore I will put my hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:22–24)
When the inevitable times of spiritual darkness descend, recall the faithful love and mercy of the Lord. They will carry you through. Keep reading, push through the darkness. Instead of listening to the voice in your head, listen to the voice of God in His Word.
Play the Long Game
We tend to think of reading God’s Word like a vending machine. Just as I expect to receive a bag of M&M’s when I put money in the machine, so I anticipate experiencing some kind of spiritual accomplishment each day I spend time in the Word. But that’s a bad analogy. God’s economy rarely works on our timetable. Spending daily time in the Word isn’t about getting a “word for the day” or a spiritual boost that will carry you through until tomorrow. Of course, some days you will finish your time in the Word convicted and changed in some tangible ways. You’ll walk away encouraged and refreshed. But many other times, you’ll close your Bible and wonder, “What good was that?” or “What did I just read? That totally went over my head.”
When those days come, remember, you’re playing a long game. Rather than a vending machine, think of a farmer’s crop. While the farmer may not see a vast change from one day to the next, with the proper conditions, change will occur. The corn will grow, whether the farmer’s eye sees it or not. Likewise, putting yourself under the teaching of the Word will just as surely yield a harvest. It won’t be as instantaneous as the bag of M&M’s, but it will be much more valuable.
Resources, Not Replacements
We are fortunate to live in an age of information. Have a question? Google it. Want to learn how to do something? Find a tutorial on YouTube. Have an interest? Subscribe to a podcast. A veritable cornucopia of information is available with a swipe of our finger. The world of Christian resources is no different. We have free access to sermons by gifted preachers, commentaries by brilliant theologians, podcasts by engaging teachers, and videos by gifted ministries. I regularly avail myself of these rich resources. I encourage you to do the same. If you’re not sure of which ones to choose, talk to a pastor or a trustworthy friend.
But hear my word of caution as well. Don’t forget that sermon series, podcasts, and conference messages are resources. They are not intended to replace your time in the Word. Don’t settle for secondhand information. Take the time to wrestle with the Word yourself, even if it’s clunky and feels unprofitable. When you’ve gone down deep and come back to the surface with your head spinning, that’s the time to turn on a sermon. But don’t just fill your podcast queue and tell yourself that’s the same thing as reading the Bible. It’s not. And while you will definitely reap some benefit from those, the true blessing comes from spending time in the Word for yourself.
A Final Word
So there they are: my two cents for the one setting out on a journey of Bible study for the first time (or the first time in a long time). But I have one more thing to tell you. The work, the patience, the struggle of Scripture reading is worth it. A thousand times over, it's worth it. Dig in. You won't regret it.
Need another resource to help? In A Place of Quiet Rest, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth shares from her heart and life how a daily devotional time will forever change your relationship with Jesus. She offers practical advice to overcome pitfalls you may encounter, and she gives encouragement—and tools—to enable you to seek after God for a lifetime.