Most Christians know that Bible reading is essential for spiritual growth. Still, many of us struggle to open and focus on the Word, even in the face of doubt, sin and spiritual dryness. When Jesus was tempted to turn stones into bread in the wilderness, He replied to the devil, “Man shall not live by bread alone” (Luke 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3). For the Christian the Bible is supposed to be the daily bread, an indispensable source of life and sustenance.
Research also shows the benefits of regular Bible reading. LifeWay Research studied the spiritual growth of 4,000 people. They identified eight attributes of discipleship that consistently showed up in the life of growing Christians. Bible engagement was number one on the list. In “No Silver Bullets,” deeper analysis of that study demonstrated that regular Bible reading increased other spiritual disciplines too, such as obeying God, sharing the gospel and building relationships.
Despite biblical support and statistical research, many of us continue to struggle with regular Bible reading. Growing in God’s Word does not happen by discovering the one quick fix, the latest app or the new commentary. Rather it only happens through the daily grind of defeating distractions, opening the Bible and placing ourselves in a humble posture before God. Growth in discipleship and holiness happens when you develop the daily discipline to commit yourself to the Scriptures. Consistency is the most important factor.
“No Silver Bullets” noted that of all those factors that contributed to the growth of disciples, reading the Bible was hands down the most effective in all categories. That doesn’t mean deep meditation on Scripture or doing Bible study and research. Author Daniel Im wrote, “We’re talking about the simple act of reading the Bible on a regular basis.” This simple act works because “the Word of God is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12).
In other words, research indicates that you can experience drastic improvement in your spiritual life by merely reading the Bible more. I want to help you to read better so that you can experience transformation. Here are some practical ways to grow in consistently reading the Bible.
1. Choose what you will read.
How do you develop consistency? First, choose what you will read. Find a reading plan, or simply focus on one book of the Bible. The plan itself doesn’t matter as much as choosing a place to get started.
You might also find it helpful to use some resources. One of the best tools is a good study Bible. My favorites are the ESV Study Bible and the CSB Study Bible. You might also complement your Bible reading with a devotional commentary or sermon series.
2. Cultivate regular habits around your Bible reading.
The three most important elements to build your Bible reading habit are time, place and practice. Set aside the same time of the day to read God’s Word. Whether morning, lunch, evening or a combination, the best times will be when you can attach it to a preexisting habit, such as a meal. Once you set that time, keep it like any other appointment on your calendar.
Another helpful element is designating a place to do your reading. Go to the same room and sit in the same spot. Find a place that will be ideal for concentration and that can be special. In other words the spot that you sit and watch Netflix every night might not be the best choice.
Lastly create a routine practice. It could be hard to develop consistency if you read five chapters of the Bible on Monday, pray for a few minutes on Tuesday, read two psalms on Wednesday, watch a sermon on YouTube on Thursday and so on. The basic disciplines to practice daily are reading and prayer. If you need variety, you might also choose a Bible reading plan or curriculum, memorize sections of Scripture or listen to the Bible.
Write down what your routine practice will be. Create a pattern to follow every day. So when you sit down in your regular place at your regular time, you follow your routine practice.
I recommend that you always begin and end with prayer. You begin with prayer to draw your attention to God’s presence and to open yourself to what He has for you in His Word that day. You end with prayer to talk to Him about what you read and how you can apply it to your life.
3. Engage multiple senses in your Bible reading.
You might find it helpful to insert some small details during your devotion time to increase your focus and attention to God’s Word. Research shows that habits are formed by the pattern of cue, routine and reward.
Help yourself grow in consistency by creating tangible cues. For example, one of my mentors prepares for his time in the Bible by preparing his morning coffee. Years of making coffee prior to prayer and Bible reading have helped him form a habit.
Your cue could be preparing coffee or tea with breakfast. You could engage your sense of hearing by having soft music playing or by preparing with music and then turning it off to focus on the Scriptures. Some friends of mine light a candle when they begin their devotion time and blow it out when they finish.
One cue that I recommend is turning your phone on silent or leaving it in another room. Your smart phone has been designed to keep you distracted. Do whatever it takes to eliminate that distraction during your devotion time.
No matter what cues you choose, remember these two points. First, keep it simple. Your goal is not to discover a complicated or mystical fix that will grow you in discipleship. In fact, the more simple and ordinary, the better. Choose something that is already a part of your everyday life and assign it this new significance.
Second, choose whatever will help you focus. If music is distracting, then don’t use music. If you find yourself sleepy and mentally fuzzy after eating, then do your devotion on an empty stomach. The goal of all of these tips is to create an environment where you are mentally focused on the Word and spiritually open to what God has to teach you.
4. Share what you are reading with others.
One of the best practices for not only growing in consistency, but also in understanding is to discuss the Bible with others. You might do this in a small group Bible study. While many people benefit from curriculums, structured plans, and homework, you could also simply choose a book of the Bible to read with friends.
The Bible is the Christian’s daily bread. Are you feeling weak? You might be spiritually malnourished. Implement the suggestions from this article today. Start small with one thing that you could do, that you would do, that would deepen your experience in God’s Word. Take one step every day, and you might be surprised at what God does in a month, a year or a lifetime.
Copyright 2019 Aaron Shamp. All rights reserved.