Regular Personal Bible Reading: Importance and Blessings
The vital importance of Bible reading
I am sure there is not a person in this world who does not like food! You have to be really sick not to want food! People simply love food — all kinds of food. You don’t have to watch Master Chef Australia to see that! Just skip one meal and you know how vitally important food is to your body!
Well, I can hardly exaggerate: as important as food and drink are for your body so important is God’s Word (Scripture, the Bible) for your soul! If you stop eating you will get weak; eventually you will die! If you skimp yourself with Bible reading, your soul will, by default, start following worldly ideologies and values. Eventually, if the Lord, in His grace, does not prevent it, you will perish without Him! Indeed, as food is for the body, so is Bible reading for the soul — exactly what the prophet Jeremiah, by God’s grace, discovered. In total agony, because of the pain his people were suffering, Jeremiah cried out to God and, when God’s words came, Jeremiah said, “I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight...” (Jer. 15:16). Jeremiah’s starving soul simply “slurped” up the quickening words of God!
Don’t we see the same craving in a dying man? He does not want earthly treasures – has no use for them. He just wants spiritual nourishment – God’s Word! Is that not also why we sing, “As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after You...?” (Ps 42). Surely our Lord was right when He said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4 & Deut. 8:3).
Why is the Bible food for your soul/spirit? Well, because it is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible is simply God’s breath in written format! Come to think of it, before God’s Word got to the stage of being written down, it was simply the words of God coming with His breath from His mouth! God’s Word was literally God’s breath — it carried the Spirit of our Creator! Is it any wonder then that the Bible is food for the creature’s (your and my) spirit?
In what way does it feed your soul? Well, 2 Tim. 3:16-17 says the Bible “is useful for teaching (telling us what is right), rebuking (telling us what is not right in our lives), correcting (telling us how to get right), and training in righteousness, (telling us how to stay right) so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”1
This agrees with the words of 1 Peter 2:2, which tells us that “the pure milk of the word” causes us to “grow in respect to salvation.”
Some people might perhaps say, “Well, I needed the Bible when I was younger; but I can do without it now that I’m older.” How wrong they are! Adults need the guidance of the Word just as much as children! After all, don’t adults face temptations and don’t they have to make many vital decisions, among others, also leading their children? Whether you’re old or young, without spiritual food you will have no spiritual health and growth!
Our Lord Jesus knew this! Did He as a human child not have to memorise Scripture like any other Jewish boy? And He knew God’s Word is the only way to defeat the devil’s lies (Matt. 4; Luke 4:4, 8, 12). And were His often-repeated words, “Have you not heard?” not a way of exhorting his listeners to study the Scriptures? Christ simply knew, “Your Word is truth!” (John 17:17).
The vital importance of personal Bible reading
I’m talking to the churchgoer now: Yes, you hear the Word in church every Sunday! And yes, you may even read it regularly with your family, but don’t forget your personal quiet time — time at which you read God’s Word! You see, it is marvellous (even necessary) to have fellowship with God’s people on Sundays, and similarly, it is important to participate in family devotions, but ultimately, when you meet up with Christ, it will not be on the faith of someone else that you will enter the kingdom of God. It will be just you and Christ and Christ and you! So, why not now cultivate that personal relationship with Him? Why not take regular time to be alone with God for personal devotions?
Our Lord did it – He took time off to be alone with His Father. We read, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35, NIV). And Luke tells us Christ did it regularly, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16, NIV). Well, if Christ craved to be alone with His Father, then who are we to neglect personal time with God to hear His voice (reading Bible) and pray to Him? You simply want to know Him personally! After all, you and I are Christ’s bride! Don’t brides want to have a personal relationship with their grooms? Martin Lloyd-Jones, that very influential twentieth-century preacher, said of God’s Word, “The more we know and read it, the more it will take us into the presence of God. So if you want to set the Lord always before you, spend much of your time with regular daily reading of the Bible.”2
When to fit it in? I cannot prescribe a time for you. Everyone knows best when personal devotions will work for him: morning, noon, evening, or night — choose for yourself!
You say, “I’m too busy.” Well, it doesn’t have to take much time! Besides, the few minutes you lose from your busy schedule will return to you with dividends even if you have to do with Scripture what some people do with their food – “dashboard dining!” Well, if that’s the case, take hold even of such little time! A little Bible reading at a time is not to be despised — it may just be like manna: an ongoing daily portion which will sustain your soul.
So don’t become downhearted if your reading gives you only a little “harvest.” The other day, I had read only three verses when I discovered a “gem.” I was reading Matthew 5 when verse 3 “hit me for a six” (to use cricket terminology). I must say I was reading in another language – Afrikaans. I have found that reading in another language (or even just another English version) helps spotting things you may miss when you read in your familiar version. Well, this time I was truly blessed by the way the Afrikaans Bible has rendered the words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit...” It said, “Blessed are those who know how dependant they are on God...” I realise that this way of translating the words of Matthew 5:3 does not cover the full width and depth of what it means to be “poor in spirit,” but even if it did only partial justice to the original intent, I was blessed!
Time-proven tips for personal Bible reading
Here are some tips that have helped many a godly person:
Make time: Just as we schedule times to eat our physical food, so we must do for our spiritual food. Choose a slot in your schedule and corner of your world, and set it aside for you and God. It helps if you can make it the same time every day, for this way you will remember it.
Pray before you read: This will prepare your heart to hear what God wants to say to you rather than you looking for your own idea. After all, reading the Bible prayerfully is reading it carefully. And remember the words of Matt. 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Do not close until: Don’t close the Bible until some message “hits” you; until you know at least one thing God would have you do in response to your reading. It may be a doctrinal insight, or a habit to begin or to break, or a prayer to offer, or a conversation to initiate, a letter or e-mail to send, a phone call to make, or a spiritual discipline to practice. Thus, read the Bible for application, not merely for information. And because something may “hit” you after only a few verses of reading, it means that, at times, you will choose depth of reading over quantity.
Hear means obey: Eight times in the gospels and eight times in Revelation Christ says, “He who has an ear, let him hear...” Also the Apostle Paul, through the Holy Spirit, writes, “Faith comes from hearing the message...” (Rom. 10:17). Quite often in the Bible “hearing” means “taking in” and “obey.” In other words, what has “hit” you as you read will only be meaningful if it has an impact on your daily living. Remember our Lord’s parable of the seeds sown on different soils (Mark 4:1-20). You want to be the soil that bears fruit!
What will help you hear (i.e. obey)? Two things: praying over the points that “hit” you and meditating on them during the rest of that day. That will rekindle what you have read.
What does meditate mean?
The Hebrew word used in the following quotations from Scripture means, among others, “to reflect on something while muttering.” In other words, it is to audibly say to yourself, through the day, the words and meaning of what has “hit” you in your personal devotions.
- The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8).
- Ps 1:1-2 “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
Why meditate on Scripture? Well, is it not true, as someone has said, “The Bible is not a newspaper to be skimmed but rather a mine to be quarried”?3
What else does meditate involve? It certainly involves asking questions, for example: “What does this discovered ‘gem’ mean for my personal walk with God; for my family; for my marriage; for my finances; for my work — the amount of time at work, etc.?”
It also involves praying as you meditate.
It may even involve jotting down a few mind-joggers. Indeed, some believers have found great benefit in keeping a small booklet (call it a journal, if you wish) in which they write every day’s personal gleanings. This means these meditations can with very little search-effort be looked up again and be meditated on again and again. This way, quite a number of Bible verses can, over time, become ingrained in your memory.
Well, this is what you will discover if you get into an ongoing personal Bible-reading habit: as 2 Tim 3:16-17 promised — Scripture will become useful to you as you are being taught, rebuked, corrected and trained in righteousness! Changes will be seen and experienced in your life — not to become proud of, though, just glad! Once this happens, that will be your gauge that you have the most prized blessing — the presence of God in your heart and life! By God’s grace, you will then become a personification of James 1:25, “But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.”
Indeed, through regular personal Bible reading, the Word of God will become for you a “lamp to your feet and a light for your path” (Psalm 119:105) for every situation you’re in. It is my prayer that you will be thus blessed!