Last December, after a time of prayer in which I was seeking direction for the coming year, God impressed upon me the need to be reading my Bible more regularly. How could I know Him, truly and intimately KNOW Him, if I wasn’t digging into His Word daily? How could He, the Potter, model me, His clay, if I wasn’t seeking His face? And so it began.
I’m the mother of two young children, and the wife of an amazing, godly husband. For some of you, that’s probably not a huge feat! But for me, well…it’s a challenge…Every. Single. Day. You see, I’m an introvert. I had no idea how much of an introvert I was until I got married nearly six years ago. My days went from having too much time to myself, to suddenly having to share my time with my husband. I literally went from having at least five hours a day of “me time”, which was often used for reading, or exercising, but almost always involved at least some Bible study and prayer, to having (and wanting!) to share my time with my new husband.
Not quite a-year-and-a-half after I was married, a sweet Christmas present, in the form of my beautiful daughter, arrived a month early! A month! I wasn’t even finished work yet, never mind feeling psychologically “ready” for her arrival. But there she was. A pre-Christmas blessing. Seventeen-months later, along came my son. And since then, carving out time for myself every day has become a real challenge. Maybe it’s because I’m an “older” Mom? Or maybe it’s because I’m an introvert who was single well into her mid-thirties, and got used to having plenty of “me” time. Whatever the reason, the first thing to go by the wayside after having my son was my personal time with the Lord. Sure, I’d read my Bible in fits and spurts, and I’d have the best intention to follow a devotional guide daily. You know, the ones where there is one key verse, a paragraph or two to help you apply it to your life, and a short prayer at the end. But even then, my time with God was sporadic at best.
So last December, when I felt God calling me to something more, I groaned inwardly. Ok. Maybe I groaned outwardly a little, too. And I might have shaken my fist at Him. I asked God what He had in mind. In the days and few weeks that followed, I started to feel led to embark on a journey that I hadn’t done in many, many years: Read the entire Bible from start to finish, in one year.
To some of you, I’m sure this doesn’t seem that challenging. If you’re one of those people for whom this comes naturally, I aspire to be more like you! But for me, a person who has often started new years with good intentions of following a Bible-reading plan, but then gotten sidetracked quickly by the endless lists in Numbers, the idea of reading the entire Bible through in one year seemed daunting. But then, everywhere I turned, it seemed like there was some confirmation that I was, indeed, supposed to do this. So…not one who often likes to take on a challenge alone, I sent out an email to the ladies’ Bible study group I’m a part of, and a few other ladies I knew who might be interested, and dared them to come alongside me to read the Bible through in its entirety this year. Some accepted the challenge. Some didn’t. But I’m so glad I did because I’ve learned so much. SO MUCH in the few months since I started reading His Word chronologically.
First, as one of the women from my ladies’ Bible study group pointed out on a Wednesday morning a few weeks ago, the Word of God does not return void.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11).
As John Piper, a well-known theologian, put it so aptly, God’s Word is the very SEED of life. He says: “When he draws near to you in his Word, he wants you to feel the way your brown backyard would feel when the rain starts to fall on it. He wants you to feel the way a Minnesota cornstalk would feel when the moisture starts coursing up through the stem and pushing out plump, yellow kernels of corn, or the way the farmer would feel when there is plenty of corn for feed and for planting next year's crop. And he wants you to remember those cool, fall mornings at the breakfast table with the smell of fresh toast whetting your appetite.”1
We are to drink in God’s Word. To desire it with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. His Word IS the rain that waters our souls. It IS the food that nourishes are bodies. And that which is planted, and tended with care, will not come back empty.
Second, because God’s thoughts and my thoughts are very, VERY different, I need to be digging into His Word to know His thoughts.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
In some ways, these verses need no explanation. Most of us are very aware of the sinful nature of our thoughts and actions. Left to our own devices, our selfish desires take over, often leaving behind a wake of destruction. We see this in the news and in our own lives every day. In the murder of a local woman two weeks ago. In our neglect or fear of the homeless person begging for money downtown. In the quiet-nudging of the Holy Spirit telling you to spend that money you would rather use to buy the red coat you’ve always wanted, to instead use it to meet the needs of a poor women in a laundry mat.
God’s thoughts aren’t my thoughts, to be sure. But reading His Word regularly is slowly opening me up to saying and doing things differently. On days when I’ve had little sleep because of children waking up overnight, His Word reminds me that I can choose how I respond. I can choose to stay in my head, snapping at every little thing the kids do to seemingly try to annoy me, or, as Galatians 5:16 says, I can choose, instead, to walk in the Spirit and not gratify the fleshly tendency to be angry, short-tempered, and lacking compassion.
I can look the other way when I see someone hurting, or I can take to heart the story of the Good Samaritan. I can question God, telling Him I’m not good enough for whatever it is He’s called me to do, or I can remember Paul, whose heart God turned from persecuting Christians, to ultimately, dying for them. My thoughts are not His thoughts. His ways and His thoughts are so much higher, and so much more worthy of striving toward.
Third, starting the day with God’s Word and prayer is ideal. It really is. The Psalms testify to this:
Psalm 5:3 says, “O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice”.
Psalm 143:8 says “Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”
Mark 1:35 says this: “And rising in the early morning, while it was still dark, he [Jesus} departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed”.
Those of you who know me well will know that I am not a morning person. Not in the slightest. So do I faithfully read God’s Word and pray every morning? No. Do I read His Word and pray most mornings? No. So why would I say this is something I’ve learned? Because I can tell you that there is a noticeable difference in my attitude between the days I commune with God early in the day versus the days I commune with Him later in the day, or not at all. Setting my heart and mind on God’s Word at the start of the day gives me a glimpse into His perspective, rather than my own. When I wake up with thoughts racing and start planning for how I think my day should go, almost without fail, something happens to throw off my “schedule” and sets me into a mood that is inconsistent with my calling as God’s child. But when I start the day reading even one or two Scripture verses, or a whole chapter, all of a sudden my mind has a focus other than myself and my plans. It’s so much easier to hear His voice before my own voice and thoughts kick in in full tilt.
And remember that verse from Mark I mentioned previously? Even Jesus needed time alone with God. When did he do it? In the morning. In this specific instance, the Bible says that he was healing people until late the night before. Yet…he still got up “very early” to take time to commune with God. How much more, then, should I?
One final lesson I’ve learned from this Bible reading journey is that no matter where I am, reading one verse, or one chapter, or reading whatever I can for 5 minutes makes a difference. Truth be told, I’ve been behind in my Bible reading more often than not since January 1st. But there are a few dear souls who are on this journey with me, from whom I’ve received great amounts of encouragement and wisdom. One of those women has said, over the years, that sometimes reading one verse is all she can do, and that’s ok. That’s freed me up to have days when one verse is all I can handle. But usually….usually one verse spurs me on to another, and then another, and pretty soon, I’ve read a whole chapter and walk away feeling lighter.
I’m trying to make a point of reading God’s Word throughout the day, in the breaks that come between kids’ activities and doing housework. And when the needs of my children are endless, or housework calls, even that few minutes alone with the Lord, be it in the bathroom, the garage, or the laundry room, are what keep my roots grounded in Him. And that’s really what God wants for us: to ASK of Him, to SEEK Him, to KNOCK on His door, and thus, to KNOW Him. “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).
Praise God that His Word is easily available to us, and that all we need to do is read or listen to it. If I can encourage you to do one thing, it is this: Read your Bibles. Read them often. Read them with a heart that is seeking. Wear them out. You won’t be disappointed.
1Piper, J. (1998.) The Great Invitation: God’s Triumphant Word. [Online sermon transcription]. Retrieved from http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/the-great-invitation-gods-triumphant-word