This is part two of our several part series on how to read the Bible.
Part One: Don’t be scared! (Click here)
Part Two: The best things in life aren’t free!
Outside of the grace of God, most of the best things in life aren’t free. In fact, they take hard work. Tim Tebow came and spoke to the students, faculty, and friends of my Graduate University this past year, and he charged everyone in the room toward a better life affirming, “The things you want in life aren’t easy! Anything worth having takes time and discipline.”
The same is true as you begin to study God’s word. You MUST carve out consistent, focused, and substantive time as often as you possibly can.
What I find delightfully ironic is that growing to know God demands a certain degree of cross-shaped living. As Jesus gave of himself, so must you too!!! …if you want to grow spiritually. “Weigh the cost then carry your cross!” Jesus beckons (Lk 14:25-35)!
Q: Is discipline a Christian virtue?
When N.T. Wright, one of the most accomplished biblical scholars of our time, was asked his advice concerning how the average Christian should read their Bible, he quickly responded, “Frequently and thoroughly.”
You can do that. You can be frequent. And you can be thorough. So commit to it. Proficient study habits are dependent upon lasting commitment, daily discipline, and a heartfelt desire to understand. And certainly, any Christian worth his weight in salt would love to develop such bolstering traits.
So below are five thoughts that will help you cultivate the necessary discipline in your life to grow through studying the Bible. Check em out. Add any you think I missed.
(1) Do what is important in life!
Now there’s a novel thought, right? Actually do what matters! Excuse the blatant simplicity of this statement. I hope it doesn’t offend you. But in all honesty, we need to be told this. Evaluate your life for a second, and it won’t take you long to see that what we all want in life is often very very different than what we actually prioritize our time for.
- Write down three to five of your primary “values” in life. These are guidelines for how you think you should behave in light of what you believe and what you want to accomplish. Like, for example, a few of my personal values are: (i) In all things, love. (ii) Improve daily. (iii) Challenge the status quo. (iv) Draw nearer to God.
- Write down the reason why you believe these values are important and what end you hope they will accomplish.
- Compare these to the last five days of your life.
Chances are, for many of us, our actions and efforts are completely unrelated to what we profess as our values and hopes. And this means that either we are highly inefficient in accomplishing our hopes, or our values are simply empty illusions and deep down inside we really value other things (Side-note: this is one of Satan’s darkest tricks, that is, he makes you believe you value one thing while your actions indicate you value something entirely different).
So all the previous to say this: we need to be aware of how our values align with what we actually do. If we claim to be a Christian, there are a certain subset of values that come alongside of that (mainly loving God and others). And if I truly love God, then I will seek and desire to do his will, which has been accurately preserved in the Bible.
New Testament scholar, Dr. Robert Gagnon writes that for a Christian:
“The first consideration must always be what God wants. God calls us to live holy lives subject to the divine will and not according to our own desires. In my view, the Bible, though not the only witness to God’s will and not immune to hermeneutical scrutiny, is the single most important element for discerning that will.“
If you profess God is important, and want to align yourself with him, read and do the Bible.
The key to discipline is to pre-decide. Don’t wait and study when you have a second, or you never will. Pre-decide.
Organize your schedule around this important time. Designate a certain amount of your money toward the necessary resources it will require. And then make it known to anyone who may likely to impose that this is a non-negotiable part of your day.
(3) It’s all God’s.
When you make the decision to enter God’s family, you are declaring that God is king and Jesus is Lord of your life. And with this new allegiance, you hand over all that is your own to your king. Your life is now God’s. Your talents are now God’s. Your money is now God’s. Even your time is now God’s.
I call this having a kingdom-mindset. Namely, even though God has not come back and fully established his kingdom in fullness, he still is king. And, through Jesus, our sin and death has already been conquered.
So even though God’s kingdom is not yet fully established, we live everyday as if we truly desire that it was. We live as if we actually mean it when we pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth (right now!) as in heaven” (Mt 6:10).
Discipline is a very kingdom-minded virtue because, in essence, you are investing in the future you, right now in the present. You are making the necessary steps, today, to ensure that the future you is more equipped to be a kingdom-servant and a kingdom-light in the world.
(4) Expect change.
If you expect change, and read with an eye to be changed, you will be changed. And as you see the fruits of your study show up in your everyday life, it will ultimately make you a more eager and fervent reader.
Self-reflection, in and of itself, can be transformative. You could sit down with Shakespeare in front of you and be changed if you meditate on it long enough. But what makes the Bible so different is that it is actually the word of God. And God’s word is living and active, able to shed relevant insight on your life at the very moment you read it (Heb. 4:12), even though it’s thousands of years old.
(5) Be realistic.
In short, always keep this in mind and avoid getting discouraged.
Q: What else has helped you? What did I miss?
DISCLAIMER: None of this Bible reading stuff matters if you don’t do it.
To be continued…