Reading time: approx 6 mins
Less than 12% of Christians read their Bible daily according to a study on Bible engagement (Bible Engagement in Churchgoers’ Hearts, Not Always Practiced) https://lifewayresearch.com/2013/11/15/bible-engagement-in-churchgoers-hearts-not-always-practiced-2/. At first I found this statistic shocking, but upon reflection I can see why in our fast-paced and relentless society it can be difficult to find the time to be still and connect with God through his Word. Most believers and followers of Christ would agree that reading the Bible is powerful, that it’s an important part of the Christian life and an essential way God has chosen to reveal himself to his people. So what’s getting in the way?
Ok, time for a transparent moment, can we talk about the book of Leviticus? When I first tackled reading the Bible from start to finish, I wasn’t sure I would make it past Leviticus! Genesis and Exodus I could deal with but when I hit the book of Leviticus the detail, the repetition, a culture that was alien to me, I thought wow this is hard. Reflecting on this struggle highlights three of the key barriers that I believe stop people from reading the Bible, they find parts of it boring; they find parts of it hard to understand and they don’t know where to start. The final barrier that I mentioned at the start is finding or rather making the time.
Well, I made it past Leviticus, and now I appreciate it and realise it’s not merely a book of the Bible I need to ‘get past’. I know the transforming power of God at work through His Word personally. The Bible says God’s word will not return void (Isaiah 55:10-11). That’s why I am so passionate about encouraging believers to pick up and dig into God’s Word, Leviticus and all.
In this post rather than focusing on the barriers, I want to merely acknowledge them and instead focus on five strategies we can use to overcome the obstacles that stop us from reading the Bible. So that we can tap into the truth, wisdom and power of God’s Word.
1) Read the Bible in community
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)
I believe this is one of the most essential strategies because God is a God of relationship. Reading the Bible in community whether this is part of a formal Bible study at your Church, small group or with your friends at a coffee shop provides so many benefits. It provides accountability; the opportunity to learn from others who have different perspectives and experiences; it helps the Bible come alive through discussion, and it helps to develop and deepen your relationship with other believers. Plus it provides you with plenty of opportunities to put into practice what you are learning since fundamentally the Bible is all about relationships, our relationship with God, ourselves and others.
2) Start small
Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…
Zechariah 4:10 (NIV)
It is ok to start small when it comes to reading the Bible, don’t put it off because you don’t have an hour to spare each day. You could start with ten mins and build from there. One of the things I noticed when I had been reading and studying the Bible for a while is that I developed a hunger for more. You can start with ten mins, and then suddenly you begin to crave more time and you build from there. Reading one verse that you put into practice is more beneficial than reading all 66 books and doing nothing with what you have learned. Reading more of the Bible to understand the context and the full story of God’s plan is important but this will come over time. You walk a mile one step at a time; the most important thing is to begin.
3) Get the right tools
Study and do your best to present yourself to God approved, a workman [tested by trial] who has no reason to be ashamed, accurately handling and skillfully teaching the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15 (AMP)
Before I was baptised, I attended a 6-week course on what it meant to be a disciple. I remember my Pastor advising me to get the Life Application Study Bible. It was a wonderful investment and has been a great tool in helping me to understand the Bible, the context, the characters and the history. God’s Word needs to be handled with care. It is easy to take things out of context and miss the intended point. It is easy to impose our desires, attitudes and perspectives on the Word of God, so having tools that help us to understand it is extremely important. I will be dedicating a blog post to the tools available so look out for that soon. I do need to emphasise that this is no replacement for prayer and asking the Holy Spirit of God to give us revelation; both are needed.
4) Choose an area of focus
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
A number of people I have spoken to have mentioned that the Bible is so vast it’s hard to know where to start. My advice is to start with your area of need. If you are struggling with low self-esteem use a study Bible or online study aid to look at everything the Bible says about your identity. If you are feeling down or discouraged take a look at what the Bible says about managing your emotions or the hope we have in Christ. If you are struggling to make a decision study what the Bible says about making wise decisions. The Bible is like medicine; you can target the areas of your deepest need.
5) Stick with it
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
No matter where you start or how long you spend reading the Bible each day you are going to need what I like to call ‘stickability’ the ability to stick with it. Stick with it when it feels boring, stick with it when at first you don’t understand, stick with it when you don’t feel like it, stick with it when it gets hard. Pray and persevere because the benefits of delving into God’s truth far out way the cost. Making the time and sticking with it will allow you to reap the rich rewards of knowing and loving God more deeply.
These five strategies are not an exhaustive list, and I would love to hear what strategies for reading and studying the Bible have worked for you? What advice might you give to someone who is just starting out or a new Christian? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.