Profitable Bible Reading
Recently, I read a book about profitable Bible reading in which the author suggested, when you read the Scriptures, “Endeavor to learn something new from every verse before you leave it.”
In other words, make it my aim to discover something new from every verse I read? And stay right there in my reading until I can find something new?
Well, that sounds like a sure-fire way to get stuck. With that approach, I’ll be at a lasting standstill for most of my Bible reading from now on. I know the author means well and wants us to get maximum profit from our Bible reading, and not read casually or inattentively. But I think this suggestion is quite a bit over the top.
I must say, let’s get real here. For one, after you’ve been a believer for a few years, most days it’s going to be rare that you discover something new even in each chapter you read. You may wear yourself out making the effort, but the fact is, you’ve become pretty familiar with a lot of the Scriptures and may not be at all able to spot something new.
I’ll even go so far as to say, if you do find something fresh in every verse you read, well … I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you’re not reading it right. With that approach, chances are, you’ll be making stuff up. If you can find something new in every verse, your imagination is getting carried away and you’ll be seeing what really isn’t there.
May I suggest a few sounder, more realistic goals about what to aim for in Bible reading? A lot more could be said, of course, but my purpose is to state a few goals that are in contrast with the idea that somehow a Bible reader needs to find something new or fresh in every verse he reads. Or that it’s even of benefit to your soul to try. No — how about these goals instead:
1) Ask the Lord to show you what you need for today
That’s really more of your need than to see something fresh or new. Why, even if you do find something fresh in a verse that you didn’t see before, how long is that going to stay with you anyway? You know. It’ll slip out of your head in no time. Probably before the day is done.
But the Spirit of God is probably not really interested in enlarging your storehouse of Bible knowledge. He is interested in equipping you for a holy walk with God – today. Ask Him to show you how to walk with Him today. After all, as Jesus said in another context, “each day has enough trouble of its own.” Each of your days has needs of its own, that the Lord knows are coming. Ask Him to prepare you by your reading.
2) Ask the Lord to feed you
If a man’s wife cooks him a meal with healthy, nutritious, and tasty foods, is it really important to him whether anything in the meal is new? Isn’t he glad and thankful to have this food again, even if it’s something he’s eaten a hundred times before? And he enjoys it. Again. It may even be a favorite. Much like singing a hymn that you’ve sung a hundred times before, and you love it every time. You need not concern yourself with newness in what you digest from the Word – look to the Lord to feed and nourish you. That’s more of what you need.
3) Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to you — again
If you’re a saved individual, the Spirit of God has already revealed Jesus to you. But what do you need more than to keep seeing Christ? Even if it’s features about Him that you have seen before. So what? You need to see Jesus again and worship Him again. The Spirit seeks to glorify Christ, we’re told in the gospel of John. Even the things you know about Jesus, you haven’t seen sufficient glory in those beautiful, wondrous features of Him. Ask Him to show you Jesus, again and again.
4) Ask the Lord to show you something in the Scriptures that you can serve others with today
Something that will help you be a blessing to others. Some light with which you can encourage other believers today. Or something that will provoke you to pray for people in need today. Or something that will help you be more effective in bringing the gospel to unconverted people you will meet, today. Again, this is a much more worthwhile goal than “show me something new I’ve never seen before.” How about, make me a useful instrument of love to others? As Jesus said, to love our neighbor, “This is the Law and the prophets.”
Wait on the Lord to Shape Your Life with His Word
We all know that you’ll have occasions that you read the Word and none of the above will happen. You won’t experience any noticeable, felt edification at the moment. But you know that it’s still been worth your while to read and meditate on the Word. Often the effects and use of a reading are only consciously realized later.
When you’re reading and none of these benefits seem to be coming, you know what? Wait on the Lord to shape your life with His Word at the time of His choosing. And if you have time, keep reading until you have been fed. Years ago, I heard a young, new disciple say “I overcame this idea of getting my Bible reading done and then being satisfied that I did it, by taking a different approach. Now I keep reading until I don’t want to stop.” Not limiting yourself to the chapter numbers on a Bible reading plan or schedule. How about not quitting until you get something nourishing? Be like Jacob, refusing to go away until He blesses you.
Sure, there will be days that won’t work. You won’t have time to keep on reading. You have to get to work. The duties of the day press in on you. In that case, give thanks that you’ve been able to read the Word and know that God will produce fruit from the Word in your life, according to His will and in His time.
So, while more could be said, this is probably enough … for today.