Often in counseling, I will ask a simple question, “How much time are you spending in the Word? Reading? Meditating? Listening?” One common excuse from men, after confessing that they don’t spend much time in the Word, is this, “Well, I’ve never really liked to read.” I suppose I’ve heard that at least 20 times over the years. My response has always been the same, “Get over it, God gave you a book so that you would know Him and know how He wants you to live.” I usually say it nicer than that, but isn’t there is a logic to the fact that if God gave us a Book by which He reveals Himself, He expects us to read it and hear it?
The following brief thoughts are not meant to pressure you into reading the Word. Nor are they designed to guilt you into reading. My desire is that you would see the necessity of the Word, as well as the joy the Word brings.
We need God’s Word. We know the passages, Matt. 4:4; Psa. 119: 9, 11, 105; Josh. 1:8 and so on. Many of us memorized these as new believers. We cannot live without the Word. If we try, we will be walking on our own, in darkness. We need the Word because it is life. It is light. It is our oxygen, our food, our water. Brothers, resolve to read regularly, follow through on that resolve, and you will find that your hunger for the Word will grow.
Over the last few months, I have met with two young men, although both raised in Christian homes, neither were Bible readers. “I don’t like to read… I don’t understand what I am reading” is what I heard from them. For the one who struggled with understanding, I did two things: I read Philippians with him and showed him how to ask good questions and trace the flow of the text. I also gave him a good study Bible. He is pressing on reading on his own. With the other young man, I started slow, having him read one chapter of Proverbs every day. The last time we met, he was delighted with how much God’s wisdom was helping him in life. We all need God’s Word. We should realize how desperate we are for truth and the mind of Christ and how dangerous it is to live this life from our own perspectives.
We need familiarity with God’s Word, so we should read widely and then deeply. We want to read widely so that we are exposed to the whole counsel of God. We want to know the story line from Gen – Rev. We don’t only want to know a verse here and there; we want to know God’s story. Read widely. The best way to do this is to pick a Bible reading plan that takes you through the Bible in a year. Over the years, one of the most profitable disciplines I’ve ever developed is reading the Bible through every year.
Another great breadth strategy is to read a book of the Bible in one sitting. Start small. Don’t turn the game on until you sit in a quiet place and read through Ruth or Philippians or 1 John in one sitting. Do that a few times. Reading for breadth is an excellent way to increase your understanding of the Word.
But there is not only breadth; there is depth. Choose a book or a chapter and make an effort to read more deeply. This may involve memorizing. This may involve using Study Bible notes or a commentary. But own something for the year. Settle in on something, like John 3 or Romans 8 or Isaiah 40 or Psalm 23 or 119. Be like the Psalm 1 man who is planted by streams of living water. Make that smaller section your companion throughout the year, seek to master it and more importantly, be mastered by it. What would your Christian walk look like if you spent extra time in Romans 8? Memorized many verses or even the whole chapter? Read through a classic commentary little by little? Reading for depth effectively hides the Word in our heart.
We need the wisdom of God’s Word, so we should always read prayerfully. Psalm 119:18 should be our prayer as we read, “Open my eyes so that I may behold wonderful things from Your law.” We should not read as if we are jumping through a hoop or performing a ritual. We should want to be disciplined, but discipline and desperation are not opposites. I come to the Word as a desperate person, needing communion with God, a hungry person looking for food, a thirsty person for a drink, a foolish person looking for wisdom, a poor person looking for wisdom. So before I read, I pray. As I read, I pray. We need the help the Holy Spirit so that we can better apply the Word to my life. “Lord, open my eyes. Lord, soften my heart. Give me the wisdom to apply Your Word.” Our Father loves it when we pray as those who know we need Him.
We need to be men of the Word, saturated with its truth. There are no shortcuts. So read it. The time invested in God’s Word is always a good investment. We should read as if our life depended on it. It does.