Tips to Start Reading the Bible on a Regular Basis
After writing last week’s post about reading the bible by “spiritual cramming”, I was hoping that nobody would feel condemned or have that feeling of “yeah, yeah, I hear that all the time.” Those same thoughts and feelings are all too familiar for me so by no means do I want to impose them on others. My hope is just to encourage people to start somewhere and to make having a regular quiet time a routine. I really just want to share about it and encourage others because of the difference it’s made it my life. Let me share how I got started…
When I first started reading the bible regularly it was really out of desperation and despair. It was the summer before my sophomore year in college, and my boyfriend of 3 years had just broken up with me. I’m pretty sure he was cheating on me too because not too long after our breakup he was engaged to the girl that he swore was just his “friend”. I was devastated. It seems a little silly now, but I truly was in pain then. Side note: Never minimize or make light of the pain somebody is feeling because their hurt is very real and very consuming to them in that moment. Even though it seems silly and trivial now (and I’ve gone through MUCH worse since then), it really was a pivotal moment in my life.
During that time I was an emotional hot mess, and I couldn’t sleep. I started reading the bible at night along with a devotional book (My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers) to find some comfort and to help me get to sleep at night. It honestly was the only way I could get to sleep and to deal with the anxiety and panic attacks. I often fell asleep reading the bible, and then I would later feel guilty about it. I had a thought come to me though. I now know it was God talking to me—though I didn’t know it at the time. The thought was, “What better way to fall asleep than by spending time with me?” It was true. I could have fallen asleep watching TV or listening to the radio, but instead I did so by reading the bible or praying. It really did give me peace.
My regular bible reading continued for the next few years. To be honest, I’m not really sure why it stopped or how I got out of routine after that. Looking back over my journals I think I began to get more intermittent with my reading schedule, skipping days here and there. I think this made it easier to slowly fade away from the routine and then to stop it completely. I see this same process in people who stop attending church. It’s usually never their intention to just stop, and they still know that going to church (or reading the bible) is the right and best thing to do. That slow fade and lack of intentionality just gets the best of people. It’s sneaky.
I didn’t pick back up on a regular, daily bible reading routine until January 2010 when one of our pastors, Kirby Andersen, did a wonderful message on “Power for Lasting Change”. I wasn’t really going through a difficult time or anything like before. However, I think God had been working on me for a while about getting back into a regular reading habit. Pastor Kirby’s message empowered me and gave me a practical tool to do so (I first learned about YouVersion in that message). I realized that if I was ever going to have a regular habit of reading the bible, it was up to me to be intentional and very purposeful about it. I had to make the choice (Deuteronomy 30:11-20). I also learned that it’s not always about will power—that sometimes we have to tap into God’s power (Romans 7:18-25).
“I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway…Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.” Romans 7:19, 25 (NLT)
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (NLT)
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13 (NLT)
If I was going to make reading the bible a lasting change and stick to it, I would need God’s help. I would need help getting up earlier in the morning (more on how I do that here). I would need help understanding what I was reading so I pray and confess these verses to help with that:
“Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Luke 24:45 (NIV)
“The revelation of Your words brings light and gives understanding to the inexperienced.” Psalm 119:130 (HCSB)
I would need help with the desire to actually WANT to read my bible, especially when I didn’t feel like it. I needed God to work on my heart. And He did. Here I am 6 years later where reading the bible is STILL a part of my daily routine, and I’ve never been stronger. That daily time with God has developed my relationship and friendship with God into a bond that’s closer than any human relationship I have. This relationship and knowledge/understanding from my reading has gotten me through the darkest times of my life. It’s helped me to help other people and has even led to teaching now. I don’t regret for an instant any of the time I have spent and sacrificed to read my bible regularly. It’s been worth every moment. I could probably spend a year’s worth of posts on the benefits of reading the bible, but I think I will spare you. For now. 😉
Has my routine been perfect with no setbacks? Yes. Just kidding. No, sometimes I struggle on the weekends because I’m out of routine. Sometimes I oversleep. Sometimes I just flat-out don’t want to, and I give in to that feeling (usually regretting it later because starting my day right always makes me feel better). However, when I get off track, I just pick it back up, and God’s okay with that. He meets me where I am. On the days I miss my morning reading, I try to read later in the day, supplement with a podcast, or listen to the audio bible as I’m doing chores or driving. I don’t try to read double the next day…because I know I won’t. I just pick up where I left off. I try to remember that even though there are seasons in life that are so busy and tiresome, if I prioritize my time with God, He’ll help to make all the other stuff work out!
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33 (NLT)
Take Some Practical Steps to Start Reading the Bible on a Regular Basis:
- Be intentional and purposeful. Make the decision today that you’re going to start a regular bible reading habit.
Tap into God’s power—Ask God to work on your heart. Pray: “Lord, please work on and soften my stubborn heart. Put a desire in me to want to read the bible and to please you by spending time with you. Give me the power to do the right thing even when I don’t feel like it. Please help me to make this a regular habit and to stick to it.”
“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Philippians 2:13 (NLT)
“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT)
- Start or get signed up for a bible reading plan. YouVersion.com or the Bible app have some excellent plans on a variety of areas. You can choose plans by topic, book of the bible, or even a short verse of the day plan. You can even sign up for reminders or e-mail delivery. I also love the option to “Catch Me Up” if you fall behind on your reading plan, which shifts the dates forward. Another thing I love about YouVersion/Bible app is that it also has several translations that are audio versions. So you can actually listen on the go. No more excuses for not having enough time to sit down and read. Watch the 30 second Bible app video below (or click here to watch on YouTube if you’re reading from e-mail).
- Decide to not be too hard on yourself if you have a setback. If you get off track, just pick it back up. Also, don’t overwhelm yourself by saying or thinking “Tomorrow I’ll just do double.” If you can, try to add in something later in the day that fits with your schedule like listening to an audio sermon. If not, don’t stress about it. Just pick up where you left off, and realize that God is not mad at you. He just wants to spend time with you and help you, so the sooner the better!
- Get even more tips on reading the bible and having a quiet time by reading 10 Steps to an Effective Quiet Time.
I hope you feel encouraged and empowered to start reading the bible on a regular basis without feeling condemned or guilty. I promise you that if you stick to it, you won’t regret it, and it will change your life for the better! You can also read more helpful tips via YouVersion on 7 Ways to Feed Your Bible Habit.
What are some of your reasons for not reading the bible on a regular basis? Maybe we can help each other out! Post a comment below to get or give some encouragement. (Click on the post link to join the conversation if you’re viewing through e-mail.)
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