"What has God been teaching you lately?"
I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, avoiding eye contact. I was hoping my friend would ask me an easier question, like what show I had been watching lately. I could've easily answered that question! Maybe she wouldn't notice if I started talking about Parks and Recreation instead. But I didn't have a good answer to her (much better) question. I felt too ashamed to say that lately reading the Bible felt like a chore rather than a delight. I felt stuck. I wondered what was wrong with me.
As I began to unpack the discouragement and frustration with her, I realized that my focus had slowly shifted off of God and onto myself. All my attempts to "fix" the problem only created a larger spotlight on me while pushing God to the periphery. And that shift in focus impacted how I was reading His Word.
When we go to God's Word with the spotlight on ourselves, we will fail to notice the bigger picture. In the grand narrative of Scripture, we must remember that we are not the main character – Jesus is. Otherwise, we'll miss the point of His story. The Bible tells us that Jesus sustains all things by His powerful word (Hebrews 1:3) and that all of Scripture points to Him (Luke 24:27). When we keep God as the main focus in our Bible reading, we will be able to see how His glorious plan of salvation unfolds on every page.
So how can we avoid a self-centered focus in our Bible reading?
Pray to God
I know this seems like a no-brainer but prayer is an often neglected step in our Bible study. Praying before, during, and after our Bible study can help us focus on God and what He has to say through His Word.
Look for God
We should always look for how the passage points us to God, rather than jumping ahead to how it points to us ("How does this apply to me?"). The Bible was not written to us, but it was written for us and for our benefit. Remembering this will help reorient our focus back to God. Here are some questions you can ask as you read:
- What does this passage say about who God is? Look for His character.
- What does God care about? Look for what He says or does.
- How does God interact with His people? Look for ways God is faithful even when His people are faithless.
If immediate application is all we are after, then reading a book like 1st Chronicles can be... tough. After all, the first nine chapters are a very long list of genealogies! If we seek to keep God as our focus, we can see how God cares deeply about the hundreds of people represented in these chapters. Their names are recorded in the Bible, after all! But as we read and see names like Abraham and David, it provides a glimpse into God's faithfulness. Through this genealogy, Jesus, God's promised offspring, would enter this broken world to save and redeem us. What a glorious truth to behold in a passage we might be tempted to overlook!
Reflect on God
Reflect on what He has taught you about Himself and how you should respond in light of what you learned. Even if you only have 10 minutes to read, you can reflect on God and what you learned throughout your day.
- Journal about what you read. Using The Story of Redemption journals would be a great way to record what you've learned.
- Write down a key verse or truth from what you read. Look at it throughout the day and meditate on it.
- Pray about what you read. Is there sin to confess in light of what you learned? Are there commands to obey? Spend some time thanking God for what he revealed to you.
- Share what you read. Talk to your spouse, roommate, or friend about what you are reading.
If reading the Bible feels more like a chore rather than a delight, you are not alone. The good news is that God's love for us doesn't change based on how many verses we read (or didn't read). We don't read the Bible to gain God's approval. We read the Bible to gain more of God – to know and enjoy Him more. Thankfully, we don't have to be Bible scholars or seminary students to know His Word. God is faithful to reveal Himself when we seek Him. God meets us right where we are.