You might have read that title and thought, “What?? That doesn’t make any sense.”
I know, it does sound backwards . . . I mean, reading the Bible is how we become more spiritual, right? Here’s my point —
Reading the Bible doesn’t make you spiritual or change you in any way, if that’s all it is–just reading. If all you are doing is just chipping out 15 or 20 (or 5 or 45) minutes of your day to read your designated chapter or the Psalm or Proverb of the day, but you are not taking any action steps based on what you just read, then no amount of Bible reading is going to help you grow spiritually.
This reminds me of the passage in James chapter 1 where it talks about a man looking in the mirror and seeing a fault or error in himself, but then he walks away and straightaway forgets what he just saw in the mirror, and he was no better in the end for looking in the mirror in the first place (James 1:23-25). That guy read his Bible and saw where he needed to change, but he didn’t do anything about it.
And that’s just what I think we do a lot of the time. I know I have done it countless times. It’s so easy to be reading a passage, and something jumps out at me, an issue or concept that the Lord has brought to my attention for the purpose of making a difference in my thoughts, words, or actions. And I think, “Oh, yeah, that’s great! I really need to make that change in my life,” but the next minute I’ve laid down my Bible and started checking my email or Facebook or whatever, and the issue God convicted me of is long forgotten in the mists of the past–even though it was less than five minutes ago.
I don’t think I’m the only one with that problem. That’s why simply reading isn’t going to get you anywhere unless you purposefully apply the truths God has revealed to your every day lifestyle.
So then, how to get what you’ve read into your life permanently?
Here are a few thoughts of my own mixed with some things that I have learned about this recently.
1. Be intentional in what you read and why you are reading.
Come to your daily Bible reading and devotions with a purpose and intention of being changed by God’s Word. That also means that you usually aren’t going to sit down, randomly flip open your Bible, and start reading. Though I know God can and will work that way, especially in times of distress or sorrow, I believe that for daily, regular times in God’s Word, we should have a plan in place. Some examples are reading through the Bible in a year; reading the Bible chronologically; going through topical studies, either on our own or guided; word studies; character or book studies. There are lots of ways to read and study the Bible; we just need to be intentional and faithful in using one.
Being intentional also means that we will take some steps to make sure what we read will not fall on rocky or thorny ground, ie. a forgetful or distracted mind and heart. That leads into my next thought.
2. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your reading and illuminate your inner understanding as you read.
We can take all the effort in the world to pick out a great devotional plan and be intentional in sticking to it every day, but if we are not committing our time in the Bible to God and yielding our minds to the revelation and illumination of the Holy Spirit, then we will be trying to do it in the flesh, which isn’t usually very effective. Our minds and reasoning capabilities can be pretty great on their own, but they are that much better and more enlightened to God’s truth when it is His Spirit guiding and speaking to us through the Word!
Paul prayed for the Ephesian church, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:17-18).
And if you are asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten your heart, then He may reveal something new to you that you have never noticed before . . .
3. Read until God shows you something specific to apply to your life today.
I know it can be hard with our busy schedules to take the time we need to find that nugget of truth, but this is really important. All of the Bible is relevant and applicable, but when God actually points out a single truth to you in such a way that it really seems to jump out at you, then you know that that God literally prepared that truth for you, today. And it’s really important that we pay attention to those instances. It’s so cool to think that God can make certain things pop out to you that you hadn’t really noticed before, or noticed in that way before–because that means that He is illuminating your heart and giving you custom advice for that specific day or situation. So take the extra time to let what you are reading soak in, and seek for that moment when something really jumps out at you. Then, stop and focus on meditating on that verse or truth and how it applies to your individual situation.
4. Take some practical steps to remember and meditate on the truths God has shown you throughout the day.
In order to keep from letting that truth God has shown us slip right into one ear and out the other, we’ve got to be proactive in taking steps to keep it in the forefront of our mind, apply to our lives, and actually start changing our realities.
Several practical ways of staying focused on God’s truth constantly and applying it could be the following:
- writing a verse or passage onto an index card and keeping it next to you so you can take it out and memorize/meditate on it throughout the day;
- writing the passage down in a journal, and then praying about it and writing down thoughts of application or meditation that God brings to your mind — try personalizing the verse/passage and praying it back to God;
- making posters of Bible verses or passages and putting them up around the house where you know you will be frequently;
- (if you have the time) going through the verse and picking out key words to look up in a concordance and dictionary to get a fuller and deeper meaning of what the passage is saying — this is one of my favorite ways to study God’s word, and often the original Greek or Hebrew opens up a whole new level of meaning to a verse or passage;
- getting a Bible app for your phone or tablet, and using it to go back and meditate on a verse during the day as you have little breaks here and there
- once you have a verse or section memorized (or as you are in the process of memorizing it), personalizing it and saying it over and over out loud throughout the day to help cement the truth in your mind and heart.
But I know I’m not an expert at this, and I’m sure I’ve probably left out a lot of other great practical ways to remember and meditate on God’s Word, but these are just some things that I have personally done in the past and have helped a lot (I may just edit and add to that list up there if I think of any other great ideas later).
So yes, reading your Bible is awesome, and very necessary and crucial to your spiritual health and growth, but you’ve got to be focused and intentional about letting it change you.
This is something that I have by no means arrived at yet, but just thinking this all through as I’ve been writing this post has been a wonderful exercise for me. I hope that you will be challenged and encouraged just like I have to make your daily times in God’s Word exceptionally meaningful and productive in the future!
I would love to hear your thoughts or advice on how you’ve made your devotional times meaningful and productive — please feel free to leave your comment in the box below!
Thanks for reading!