"Boys, it's time to clear the table off for dinner!" I chimed. Three boys, lounging on the couch, engrossed in a TV show, didn't budge. "Boys, did you hear me? Hello?" I said a little louder. They didn't blink. They didn't respond. They did nothing. So, I walked directly in their line of sight, my body between them and the TV, and repeated my request. They looked at me dazed, completely unaware I had been trying to get their attention for several minutes now. Then, they slowly slumped off the couch and toward their chore.
This is not an unusual scene in our home. Not only for my kids but also for myself. Only recently, the beck and call I've been too distracted to notice is not one asking me to attend to my chores, but one from the Lord asking me to attend to my soul. See, I've been faithfully reading my Bible day in and day out for years. It's become a familiar routine, I almost do it without thinking anymore. It's just simply part of my day. But, though the routine was familiar, I was finding that what I was reading was going in one ear and out the other. Some days, if you would have asked me 15 minutes after I completed my Bible reading what I had read about, I doubt I would have been able to tell you. I started to want more out of my Bible reading time. I wanted it to move me, build me up, and convict me of sin. I wanted my time spend in God's Word to change me.
I began to search for what it might look like to get the most out of my Bible reading time and I found the answer in James 1:21–25. These verses may be familiar to you; they mention the importance of being not only a hearer but also a doer of the Word of God. And they are so rich and profound. I can't help but share them with you, in case you, too, are craving encounters with God's Word that are more than ho-hum.
Here are steps James 1:21–25 gives us to get the most out of our Bible Reading Time:
- Rid and Receive.
"Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls." – James 1:21
James 1:21 tells us that the first step is two-fold. We must rid ourselves of the moral filth and evil that is all around and us and receive the Word with humility. We all live amidst constantly messaging telling us what to believe, how to live, and in what way to view the world.
If we want to let God's Word transform us, we need to start by peeling back the layers of what we believe and identifying which of our beliefs are contrary to God. We must humbly accept what the Word of God says, even when it is profoundly uncomfortable or in opposition to what we desire. We should open the Bible with a heart that says, "Lord, show me where what I believe is contrary to truth." The evil we need to rid ourselves us is anything that is unrighteous, that is anything that is not of God–whether it be big or small. And in its place, we should receive God's truth, which is able to save our souls.
- Be a doer.
"But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of person he was." – James 1:22–24
James 1:22 says that once we've received the Word, we must act on it. We must become a doer. Being a doer of what we read and receive in God's Word should be who we are. This verse also warns us that if we hear, but are not actively engaged in doing what God's Word tells us to do, we are deceiving ourselves. We have convinced ourselves that hearing is enough when in reality, hearing is just the beginning.
The next two verses, James 1:23–24, show us the difference between hearers and doers. If we focus on the action words found in these verses, we see that hearers see, go away, forget, and are deceived. But, doers look intently, persevere, don't forget, and are blessed.
- Focus and Perseverance.
"But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works–this person will be blessed in what he does." – James 1:25
The difference between the hearer and the doer is their focus and perseverance. The hearer listens to God's word briefly, then walks away and allows their focus to shift and sway in every direction. The doer hears God's Word and chooses to focus on it. They ask, "how does God's Word impact my time, money, decisions, relationships, and pain?"
Doers do the hard work of persevering in focusing on how the Bible transforms the way they live their entire lives. Put simply, doers allow God's Word, through the work of the Holy Spirit, to change what they think, feel, and do. While hearers view the Bible as a corner of their life that does not affect anything else.
Getting the most out of reading the Bible isn't about having the best study techniques so much as it's about allowing God's Word to change how you think, act, and live. For me, this has meant engaging in my Bible reading time with my heart and not just my head. It has meant asking myself, "What should I do in response to what I've read today?" And it's meant being ready to acknowledge it and repent when I'm living contrary to Scripture. I wonder, how might it impact your Bible reading time if you focused on being not only a hearer, but a doer of God's Word?