Written by Tylah Robinson for Arana Hills Church of Christ’s newsletter 6 August 2017
Imagine, if you will, someone who declares they are a massive Harry Potter fan. They have seen every movie at least twenty times, can quote along without subtitles, and blitz every Buzzfeed quiz captioned ‘Only true fans will pass.’ But what if they had never read the books? “Outrageous!” I hear you say, “They aren’t a true fan!” And I couldn’t agree with you more!
What then does this say about Christians who haven’t read the Bible? We can recall the memory verses, listen to all the sermons, know every worship song off by heart, but if we haven’t read the book are we even really Christians? Of course we are!! Faith doesn’t depend on whether we have read a book or not! But this does raise the question: “How much importance do we place on reading the word of God?”
For me, it never used to be important, until someone told me there was a talking donkey in the Bible, and I said ‘Please, if there was a talking donkey in the Bible, I would know about it, I’ve been a Christian for twelve years.’ It was then I realised that actually, I hadn’t read that part before (Numbers 22 if you’re curious). Even more, I hadn’t read any of the Old Testament! And when I sat and really thought about it, I realised I had only ever actually read one book of the Bible. At this point, the next sermon I heard was on Psalm 119. If you really want God to stir in you a hunger for His word, go read that (disclosure: it’s the longest chapter in the Bible). And so, I got hungry.
God prompted me to just read straight through. No highlighters, no notes, just read. I ploughed through the first five books in three weeks! Then life took over. I started reading less and less each day, to the point where I would go months without reading anything. It started taking me months rather than weeks to finish books. Come December 2016, I had only gotten to Ezekiel 18 months after starting this venture. I needed another kick up the butt.
But no matter how I tried, I couldn’t get into that same rhythm I had at the start. So rather than depend on a desire to read, I changed my approach to discipline. Not the kind with punishment, that would be silly, but a pattern. I made a new year’s resolution to read at the very bare minimum one chapter per day. Some may say it’s clique to have a resolution, and I would be one of those people. They never work, every time I’ve done one I last maybe four months maximum, then finally give into the ‘I love my body the way it is’ and go back to stuffing my face full of chicken McNuggets. But this one I was, and still am, determine to keep.
So far it is still going! Eight months in, woot! Sure, it’s a struggle some times. I very regularly find myself in my warm bed, all tucked in, eyes closed on the brink of sleep when I remember I haven’t read that chapter today. And so begins the inner battle, ‘Nah, it’s fine, tomorrow I’ll just read two chapters,’ ‘But you know you want to be in His word daily,’ ‘But it’s so cold,’ ‘But Jesus!’ This final remark always wins the argument. Dreary eyed and hardly taking in a word I’m reading. I read a chapter on my phone, still plugged in at the wall on the lowest brightness setting, but still stingingly bright.
But then there are also the good days. Like when I actually have some spare time that I use to sit out in the sun, birds chirping, physical Bible in my hands, and I read through pages and pages, messaging people as I encounter passages that they would like, or just highlighting ones that stand out, and reflecting deeply upon what I have learnt. These are the ‘good days,’ but just because I don’t have time in my busy schedule to sit down and read ‘properly,’ should this prevent me from spending time with God daily?
What is the point of doing things ‘daily’? If we read his word, pray or worship just to get things out of it for ourselves, then we will only consider that time spent successful when and if we actually get stuff out of it, right? This then allows us to use the excuse ‘I don’t have enough time to get deep enough to get anything out of it today, so I just won’t do it at all.’ My goodness, imagine if I had this approach to spending time with friends, I wouldn’t have any! I think then that the ‘successfulness’ of time spent with God daily shouldn’t be determined by whether we get stuff out of it. If it were, then there wouldn’t be any point in reading about how far you can poop from a tent (Deut. 23:10-13). But there it is, in the very word of God. But seriously, just because something doesn’t seem relevant to you doesn’t mean that by reading it your life won’t be richer. Especially when it’s the word of God.
It’s true that the more you do things the more it becomes a habit. At first it was a struggle to make myself read even a chapter a day. But now, I find myself wanting to read more than that, praying more easily without a specific need, worshiping from a place of deeper understanding. Sure, some days I still do less because life gets in the way, but that bare minimum means that I am still making time for God each and every day, something He is more than deserving of. Though sometimes I don’t tangibly see how doing this impacts my day-to-day life, I do notice how not doing it does. When I go even a day without spending time with Him, I notice that my day sucks more than it should, my temper is shorter, my patience thinner and my joy in the Lord harder to find. But when I make it a daily routine to read and pray, I become more aware of Him walking with me in my journey. And this is something I need on the daily. Spending time with God daily is a success when we spend time with God daily.