Seven Keys for Effective and Consistent Bible Reading
By Dan Franklin
Consistent personal Bible reading is one of the most important and meaningful ways for believers to draw close to God. Through God’s Word we see His heart, we hear His voice, and we receive His guidance. Without God’s Word we are left to wander on our own, doing our best to try to figure out God, life, decisions, and the world.
Most Christians will agree on the importance of reading the Bible, and yet a huge number of Christians struggle to read with any consistency. We are too busy. We aren’t sure how to do it right. We don’t get anything out of it. We have tried, but it didn’t take. How is it that something we believe to be so important is something that we so rarely do?
There are no magic tricks when it comes to consistent Bible reading. That said, there are some ways that we can approach Bible reading that will help us immensely. In this post, I will highlight seven keys to effective and consistent Bible reading.
Have a Plan
People who successfully lose weight and get into shape do so by having a plan. They don’t come to the breakfast table and say, “What should I eat today?” They don’t show up at the gym and say, “I wonder what exercise I should do?” They find success when they plan in advance. They get certain groceries and plan out healthy meals. As soon as they arrive at the gym they start into their stretches and then their cardio and then their weights. If you are cultivating new habits, it is unrealistic to do so without a plan.
If you want to read the Bible consistently, have a plan. Don’t wake up and then decide whether or not to read. Decide in advance when and where and what you will read. Pick a time, pick a place, and pick a reading plan. At LBF Church we put out a new Bible Reading Plan every three months. This is not because our plan is the only good plan. It is simply because having a plan is better than not having one. Plan to read through the whole Bible in a year. Plan to read the Gospel of John one chapter per day. Plan to read through the Psalms, three at a time. There are plenty of good plans. Choose one. Don’t simply hope that you stumble into good habits. Make a plan in advance so that each day you are simply living out your plan.
Read a Unit
I know some people who, for their Bible reading, simply open up their Bible and then read a specific verse at random. While God is certainly able to work through this method, I would not recommend it. First of all, I already advocated for a plan. Second of all, don’t simply read one verse or a couple of verses. Read an entire unit. When we read books and articles, we usually don’t stop in the middle of the author’s thought. We read a whole chapter, or at least a whole paragraph. That way we get the author’s complete thought.
When reading the Bible, read a complete thought from the author. This often means reading an entire chapter. If not a whole chapter, however, this probably means at least that we read an entire paragraph. This allows us to experience the context and flow of the passage, instead of just looking at one verse out of context. When you read an entire unit, you are reminded that the Bible is not a magic book with spells and tricks. It is literature. It is a God-inspired book that is written with human methods. Read the whole psalm. Read the whole chapter. Read the whole thought. Read the whole unit.
Read for a Message, not for Nuggets
When I was growing up, I heard a lot of people talk about “nuggets” that they picked out of their Bible reading. They meant that they were treating their Bible reading as if they were panning for gold. Much of what they read did not connect with them, but then they would seize upon one meaningful part of the passage, and they would take that away as God’s message to them. Again, God certainly works through this method, but I don’t recommend it. We are not panning for gold when we read Scripture. It is all gold! We are not called to sort through the meaningless parts in order to find something valuable. It is all God’s Word!
Inspired of panning for nuggets of gold, read for the author’s message. When you read a psalm, it is surely a good thing if you pick up a specific point that is meaningful to you. However, it is a much better thing if you pick up on the author’s message. If you read an entire unit, and you look for the author’s message—his main point—you will be gaining deeper insight into God’s message through His Word.
Look for the Intended Application
Scripture is meant to impact our lives. This means that we read passages in order to look for practical applications for our lives. Look for how God is calling you to think, how He is calling you to act, and how He is calling you to change your behavior. If we read an entire unit, looking for the author’s meaning, then we will be much more likely to come across the way that God intends for us to apply His Word to our lives. Don’t read while trying to generate application for your life. Read the Bible looking for how the author of that particular passage intends for his readers to apply the passage.
Don’t simply read the Bible in order to gain knowledge and understanding. Read the Bible in order to draw close to God. Being your Bible reading time in prayer, asking God to guide you and to open up your heart to what He is going to say. Pray along with way, giving thanks and asking for understanding. And pray afterwards, asking for God to lead you as you look to live in light of what He has said.
The Bible is not an easy book to read. It was written long ago in foreign countries and in different cultures. There is no shame in using resources for help. Use a study Bible or commentaries or a Bible program. Get help in understanding what confusing verses mean. None of us is equipped to read the Bible and understand everything without help. Avail yourself of the great resources that have been passed along to us by men and women who labored over God’s Word.
The person looking to lose weight and get into shape will not do so in a week. They will do so through persevering. Don’t simply read the Bible and expect it to be easy. Persevere. Persevere when you’re tired. Persevere when you don’t feel like reading is making any difference. Persevere when you’re busy. Persevere because you trust that God will not allow His Word to come back to Him without accomplishing what He intends. Don’t give up. Read the Bible consistently is something that you will never regret. It is worth your perseverance.
If you’re interested in growing in the area of personal Bible reading, sign up for a four-week class called How to Read Your Bible. The class begins on Tuesday, April 25th. Sign up here.