Episode 4: How to Start Reading the Bible
The Bible isn't a book just for pastors or the super educated. The Bible is for everyone, and God wants you to read it for yourself! This podcast episode will give you information on how to read the Bible and where you can get started.
It's something we hear all the time as Christians: we should be reading our Bibles. But what if I have no desire to read my Bible? What if rather than all the comfort and joy I'm supposed to be finding in it, I'm actually bored and unimpressed? What if when I read it I feel overwhelmed and intimidated by it? What if I find I never have the time to read anything, let alone read the Bible?
These are real, honest questions and I'm sure many of us have felt some, if not all, of these thoughts at some point in our lives. So what is a Christian to do? If the Bible is truly the most transformative, incredible book ever written (related page: Why trust the Bible?), then how do we overcome the obstacles that hinder us from reading it?
5 practical ways to Beat the struggle to get into God's Word
1. Make it a life-giving priority.
We feed our bodies each day because we understand that without good nourishment we will get sick or even die. We get up and go to work each day because if we lose our source of income we have no way to pay the bills. We give priority and time to the things that are essential because we realize that we cannot live without them.
The same is true for God's Word. We need to start giving our time in the Bible that same, essential status in our day.
Satan is the father of lies and he exists in this world to distort the truth of God. Without realizing it, we are bombarded 24/7 with messages on TV, music, the Internet, at work, or even when talking with family or friends, that are filled with Satan's sneaky lies: Money will bring us happiness, sexual pleasure is everything, your worth is found in what you have, loving someone means letting them live whatever way they want as long as they are happy. If we aren't in the only source of TRUTH, the Word of God, we will not be able to see the lies and attacks, and we will fall for them.
In addition, God's Word shows us our mission, our purpose, our joy, and helps us see how amazing God truly is. There is no replacement and no shortcut. If we are enjoying and meditating regularly on God's Word, it will shape and guide every aspect of our lives. If we are not, our hearts will be shaped and influenced by the things of this world.
We may not always feel like going to work or eating healthy foods, but we do it because we know it is necessary and good for us. Let's take the same approach with the Bible.
2. Ask God to give you a love for it.
We are all sinful and the sad reality is that at the core of who we are is a natural desire to reject God. Is it any wonder then that our natural inclination is to not want to read the Bible? Of course not!
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none who does good.
The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one. - Psalm 14:1-3
All of our natural inclinations are to turn away from God and reject him and his Word. If we are going to love the Bible and the truth found inside of it, we need to pray and ask God to give us that love and desire for him. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts can we develop a love for God's Word.
Don't be ashamed to confess to God that you have a lack of interest in reading the Bible. Be honest with him about this struggle and ask him to change your heart. This is a request that pleases God, so we can be confident that he will answer.
The amazing thing is that the more you start diving into the Bible, the more and more you will crave it.
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God. - Psalm 42:1-2
3. Realize you don't have to be a scholar or pastor to understand the Bible.
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. - Acts 4:13
The apostles were ordinary men, yet, filled with the Holy Spirit they were able to understand the rich depth of the Words of God. The same is true for us as Christians. We all have the ability to understand the Bible, not because of our brain capacity or knowledge, but because of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside each of us.
Before you start reading the Bible, ask God to open up your "ears to hear and your heart to understand" through the power of the Holy Spirit at work inside of you. Then go confidently into his Word, continually praying and asking for wisdom and discernment.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ. - 1 Corinthians 2:10-16
Finally, don't be afraid to seek out a God-fearing man or woman to whom you can bring your questions when they arise.
4. Find someone to keep you accountable.
It's hard to do anything on our own: overcome addiction, parent children, train for a physical challenge, or maintain a workout routine. The same is true for the discipline of reading the Bible. If you can find someone who shares your desire to develop the habit of reading the Bible, then you will be blessed by it. Whether that is your spouse, a good friend, a family member, a fellow church member, or a coworker, talk about your goal for making reading the Bible a priority and keep each other encouraged and accountable.
5. Don't give up.
Many of the good things God designed for us do not come easy: raising children, staying faithful in marriage, forgiving our enemies, loving the hard to love. However, just because they are difficult doesn't mean they aren't worth fighting for. The same is true for your personal Bible time. It will be a challenge. You will be tempted to settle by using your time for lesser things like TV or time on your smartphone. But, don't exchange a cheap time-filler for the life-giving, truth-proclaiming, mission-rallying words of the Bible. There is no replacement for it, and no better use of your time.
t is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you need to be super smart to read and understand the Bible. The only thing we require is the Holy Spirit who enables us to understand and believe it. We can and should go confidently into the Bible, asking the Holy Spirit to give us understanding and faith. Pray for God to help you understand his Word. Seek out other Christians who hold to the truth of the Bible who can help and encourage you along the way.
Ways to get started reading the Bible
Use a Bible reading plan. We recommend Robert Murray M‘Cheyne’s reading plan.
- Read the Bible chronologically.
- Read topically:
- Pick a word or phrase that you want to know more about (e.g. strength, faith, love, promises, anger, hope).
- Use a Concordance (many Bibles have them in the back) or an online Bible search tool like BibleGateway.com and type in your topic. Print off or write a list of passages on this topic.
- Read 2-3 passages per day and focus on what God is teaching you through those passages.
- Old Testament/New Testament
- Starting at Genesis and reading all the way through the Bible can get tricky, especially with books like Numbers and Deuteronomy. Instead, try reading a short section of the Old Testament, followed by a section of the New Testament.
- Passage by passage
- Pick a Bible passage that brings you comfort or joy.
- Read it every day for one week and see if you can memorize it. Write it on an index card or post-it note and stick it places you see every day. See how much of it you can write by memory each day, without looking (including the reference).
- Look up key words from that passage to find similar passages.
- Pick one person that you want to learn about. Use a reference tool like BibleGateway.com to look up all the places the Bible mentions this person and write them down.
- Read short sections each day (a chapter or two).
- Make a list of personality traits for that character.
- What amazing gifts has God given them? How do they use them?
- If they made mistakes, what does God want me to learn from them?