Someone – relatively new to Christianity – started to read the whole Bible. After some time I received the question how to keep inspired in reading the Bible. Below I share my answer, since it may be helpful for others as well.
I am really glad and thankful to read that you have started this year to read the whole Bible. In this you are an example for many Christians. And yes, I understand that then you will be confused frequently, not understanding what the passage wants to communicate, how we must understand the Word of God, not feeling excited as you were when you first discovered the Gospel in all it’s beauty and strength. However, I strongly recommend you to persevere and to continue. A few things that may be helpful in this:
- Let your Bible reading be embedded in your prayer life, in your walk with God. Let me explain what I mean. Imagine a couple that has fallen in love and wants to spend time with each other to get to know each other better. How will you spend this time? It might be an idea to grab the old photo albums and look at them together. By looking at all these pictures, you learn more about the one you have fallen in love with, the things he went through, his character, choices, deeds, journeys etc. However, the photo-album is not the one whom you have fallen in love with. It is a means to learn to know your loved one better. This means to me: I will start my day in prayer. I will give thanks to God, I will tell Him that I love Him and thank Him for Who He is, what He has done for me and those kind of things. Then, so to say, I will tell Him I want to spend some time in reading His word to get to know Him better, and asking the Holy Spirit, to show me, to learn me, to tell me something about Him, that I didn’t yet know, or that I should know/learn/see better/more. And then I start reading my Bible; thinking it over for a while, trying to pick up something from it that I will try to remember that day. It is indeed good to try to formulate a lesson, a message, something you picked up from this Bible passage, even when it is not covering the whole passage. The Holy Spirit uses our reading and meditating upon the Scripture to teach us. I use to have a notebook at hand and try to write down something that I saw or learnt from the passage.
- Continue Bible reading also through the duller, less exciting, more offending times and passages. Why? You could compare it to food. Or to a life of partners who love each other. Imagine you have not had any food for days. And then a feast is prepared for you, wonderful, delicious food, cake, pastry and so on. You would really enjoy it and love it. However, we know that we couldn’t have such meals daily. However – though our daily bread might not be as exciting, we continue to eat, because we know our body needs this food and flourishes when we use proper, good food. We do not continually wonder: since I am not very excited by my food this morning, is the food good? No, we trust and know it is good for us. The same with partners who love each other. When their relationship continues for a longer time, not every day will be as exciting as the early days. But this does not mean that their love for each other necessarily has diminished. In the same way it is a good habit, a good practice to read from your Bible after praying and to think over what you have read.
- Cohering with this: in my life I have seen and learnt that there is a great reward in continuing to do this, even when there are many times that there is a lot in a passage that we don’t see, don’t understand, don’t feel. God’s purposes with us and His plan’s for the future are huge. They are too great to grasp at once. No one can build a huge cathedral in one day. It takes years, decades to build a wonderful cathedral; and it is built stone after stone. Looking back, I am grateful to God that I learnt from my parents the practice of continual Bible reading. For now I know and understand something for instance about Moses, David, people of God, law, sin. And when I come to the Gospel again, I see and understand depths, riches, treasures, I couldn’t see, grasp or enjoy before. Compare it to a great, wonderful movie. A movie, lasting three or four hours. When the climax comes in the end of the movie, you are incredibly exited. When others would see this climactic part of the movie, they would also be excited, but not as much as you – since they missed the preceding story. Watching the whole movie indeed takes time, patience, perseverance. But there is a great reward in doing so
- Part of the frustration in reading the Scripture and not feeling excited, feeling we don’t really see the beauty, the treasure, the glory that is in it, is also that we are humbled during our reading. To give an illustration: recently I did a computer game with my son; he was very good at it and I wasn’t. I felt frustrated. Everyone wants to do things that you are good at, that you can feel that you are a winner in. But reading the Bible, especially reading the Old Testament can often make you feel stupid or blind. It can seem others are better at it and then there is the temptation to give up. Others use this experience to denounce the Old Testament and to judge it as if it is a book filled with wrongness. However, the proper attitude to read the Bible is humbly asking God for His help, Spirit and insight. We don’t like this perhaps. However, the Lord will surely reward us when we continue to search for lessons, for glory, for insight, with this attitude
- You told me you do the project together. Wow! That’s really wonderful. Perhaps you can have a what-app group to share at times something about what you were learning or seeing. I have often felt excited when I could have a conversation with someone who was reading and studying the same Bible book as I was reading at that moment. The Spirit of God is given to us as body of Christ. Often you will see that others saw and learnt things you didn’t see or learn. But also that you have seen and learnt things that are helpful to others.
- Besides of this it can at times be inspiring to read or hear what others saw, wrote or taught on the Bible book you are reading. There are good resources available to help us understand the Bible.
- Last but not least: the great promise for those who receive and keep God’s word in their hearts, is that they will bear fruit (Psalm 1, Mark 4). By reading and meditating upon the Bible we show that we treasure God’s Word. And God will use this, to let it transform your life to bear fruit for Christ. So: be blessed in persevering to read your Bible!
Pastor Jos Slager