The most substantial and lasting change in my life is a direct result of many hours spent alone with the Bible. Sometimes I get asked about how to become more spiritually maturity, grow closer to God, or walk in freedom from sin. For me, the answer to all of these things is time in the Word. Yet I find so many people struggle to enjoy the Word of God. Some resort to skimming a few chapters or searching for that 1 verse that will bring good feelings. For some, it has become a dry and bland duty, void of any delight. Or worse, others resort to searching for verses to debate with others. This ought not to be the case for those who follow Jesus.
In light of that, let me give you some Word pictures (yes, that's an intentional pun!) to grant a fresh perspective for your time reading and studying the Bible.
1. HOUSE – Getting to know God
Visiting my home would tell you a lot about me. A 1000-piece puzzle rests unfinished on my dining room table, toys are scattered through the living room, and the hallway is crowded with guitar cases and CD boxes. Immediately you might conclude: someone is a musician, there are children in this house, and someone likes puzzles.
Now, if you came here in October, you would also see a stack of 700 king-sized candy bars on the dining room table. Bewildered by our sugary stash, you would likely begin asking questions. Soon, you'd learn of our annual ritual of attempting to shock trick-or-treaters with our generosity as we point to the shocking generosity of God through Jesus.
Reading the Bible is like stepping into God’s house. Everything is there because He desires for it to be there. If it is in the Word of God, which lasts forever, then it must be important to Him. As I read Leviticus, I am confronted with the reality that there is a whole book dedicated to different types of sin and their corresponding offerings. If it was important to God for this to be in His Word, I must conclude that our sin really, really, really bothers Him and that all sin, no matter how small, must be paid for.
The passages in the Bible that are the most confusing and most surprising actually tell me a lot about God. Instead of skipping or avoiding things you don’t understand, ask God why that particular passage is important to Him. Ask what it tells you about His character. Grow to love Him for who He is, not who you want Him to be.
2. ANCHOR – Renewing your mind
Have you ever played in the ocean at waist level? It’s amazing how you can be convinced you're standing in one place, yet look at the beach and realize you're umbrella is a quarter mile away! The current is so subtle you weren't even aware you have drifted. This is what it's like living in a fallen world. It is a current we live in. Materialism, selfishness, immorality, and mindless entertainment daily nudge us away from God. Add in our self-centered flesh and our enemy satan and there is a lot of strength to that current.
The Word of God is like an anchor. Each time you read it, you are putting your anchor in the ground and holding on. It keeps you from drifting. But without daily grabbing onto it, you will be miles away before you realize what happened. This is why frequent study and meditation of the word of God is so crucial. As Romans 12:2 states, we should daily "be transformed by the renewing of our minds" through His word.
3. GLASSES – Giving clarity
The first thing I reach for in the morning are my glasses. Sometimes before I get out of bed, they are in my hand. My glasses are crucial to help me do everything. Without them, I cannot discern who people are, what their facial expression is, and I bump into things. To look at a room through blurred vision is confusing. Is that an apple or tomato? Putting my glasses on is a simple step that helps me correctly respond to things that come my way because I can accurately see what they are.
Reading the Word of God is like putting spiritual glasses on. It helps me accurately discern the events of the day and my own responses. In stressful situations, I can quickly realize when my anxiety is related to self-sufficiency: assuming my life holds together by my own effort. Now that I know what's going on, I can repent, relinquish control to God and seek His direction. Without a good dose of the Word, a stressful situation can feel confusing and overwhelming (in other words, blurry).
Ironically, many people say they don’t have time for studying the Word. But I would argue, there is nothing that saves you more time than reading the Word and praying. This time grants fresh vision for what truly matters in each day, what you can let go of and helps you quickly and accurately assess unexpected situations.
4. CHEMO – Killing Sin
Imagine you have cancer and doctors suggested it can be cured through regular chemotherapy treatments. You begin your treatment, but do not feel different after the first treatment. Or the second. Or even after the third. So why keep going? Just because you don’t feel anything doesn't mean it's not working. Over time, it will slowly kill off the sickness in you.
This is what a steady intake of the Word of God is like. It slowly cures our pride, our selfishness, our hypocrisy, our apathy. Reading the Word of God may feel enjoyable. But at other times, you will close your Bible feeling the same as when you sat down. But that doesn’t mean your time wasn't effective! Every time the Word enters our mind, it is accomplishing something. God assures us, "My word will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it." (Isa 55:11)
A regular, steady, and substantial diet of the Word of God kills the pride in our hearts that leads to all other sin. Be committed to a steady diet of Bible reading, no matter how you feel.
5. VOCAB – Fuel for an active relationship
Anyone learning a second language knows that vocab is key. Sure, you can learn every verb and all the tenses. But once you hit the streets in a foreign country, verbs alone can't help you find a bathroom or get a cab. You need vocabulary! The more words you have in your memory, the more conversation you can have.
The Bible is vocabulary in our relationship with God. We don't read the Bible just to read our Bibles. We read the Bible to commune with God. So you may ask, why spend the effort? Yes, our God is bigger than the pages of the Bible. He can meet us anywhere, and can speak to us in many ways (dreams, the words of other people, circumstances, etc). But without a rich vocabulary of the Word of God, our interaction with Him is limited. But He is extremely clear that He does not change and that His Word is eternal(Is 40:8, Mal 3:6).
As I grow in knowledge of God’s Word, I quickly recognize His voice in my day to day. Sometimes circumstances will remind me of a passage I read. As I consider how to respond to someone, a story from the old testament will come into view. The more I study the Bible, the more living and active my relationship with God becomes. I am learning His language and understand Him better every day. Isn’t this what we all long for? A living, breathing, tangible relationship with the Eternal and Living God?
I hope these analogies encourage you and create desire in you to get into the Word! Which one of these pictures speaks to you the most? Were any of them new ideas to you? I'd love to hear from you!
Read the follow up post: Practical Strategies for Bible Reading