For much of my life I've heard the phrase "the Word of God does not return void" as an encouragement to get in the Word even when I don't feel like it. I can see how it's valuable to get in the Word consistently. My problem is that sometimes when I get in the Word I don't feel like anything is different afterward ... like I was a void the Word fell into. I just finished reading, prayed, and that was it. I feel like I'm doing something wrong. When I expectantly come unto the Lord what expectations should I have so the Word doesn't return void?
I've been reading the Bible for some 30 years now, and the same thing still happens to me. You're not alone, and you're not doing anything wrong, but maybe I can give you some ideas to enhance your reading and study of Scripture. Keep in mind, though, that you can't always gauge the results of spending time reading the Bible by the immediate feelings you have when you're finished. Yes, sometimes reading Scripture is like putting a bag of popcorn in the microwave — something leaps off the page right then and you're immediately satisfied. More often, though, it's like planting a seed or making a long-term financial investment. The results can be slow, but they are sure and deep.
First, remember that reading Scripture is to be a spiritual experience, and by that I mean that we are to consciously submit ourselves to the teaching of the Holy Spirit as we read and study. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will teach us in all things (John 14:26), so I always begin my time of reading by praying for the Spirit's guidance, and I pray it sincerely, because I know that if I am to learn anything, the Holy Spirit will have to teach me. The Spirit is Who makes the words more than ink on paper; He makes them "living and active" as Hebrews 4:12 says.
Second, from a practical standpoint it helps when I actually understand what I'm reading. It's difficult to stay interested if I can't follow what's being communicated. That's why I suggest you find a translation that makes that task a little less difficult. There are several biblically sound, theologically accurate modern translations available, and many of them have "Student" versions. You may also consider picking up a copy of The Message, a paraphrase that make it much easier to follow and understand what's being communicated, and, at least for me, make it much more interesting.
Third, a routine can become a rut if you're not careful. If you find you're getting bored with your Bible reading, maybe you need to change your routine a bit. Try a change of location; work through a devotional or topical study on an issue that interests you; team up with someone and study with them; or read through a book in the Bible and get a discussion group going with some friends.
Fourth and finally, remember that you have an enemy who is striving to keep you from growing spiritually. The devil, Jesus said, seeks to steal, kill and destroy you. Peter said the devil prowls about seeking to devour you. And Paul said we battle not against flesh and blood but against the devil's schemes against us. So whenever we open the Bible and begin praying for our hearts to change, we should expect a fight over it. Don't run from the fight; engage it, knowing that God has given you the weapons to win. And don't be too concerned that after reading the Bible you don't feel as if anything has happened. Tiger Woods doesn't feel good about every golf shot, especially the ones that go in the water, but he doesn't stop swinging. Stay at it. God will be faithful to make sure the seeds you are planting will grow and bear fruit.
Copyright 2006 John Thomas. All rights reserved.