A lot of people treat their time in the Word as an item on their to–do list that needs to be checked off. “I gotta get to the next chapter so I can be caught up on my Bible reading plan,” some might hurriedly mutter to themselves. What causes us to be preoccupied with simply finishing our Bible Reading Plan, and how can we better approach the subject of reading the Word?
Jesus warned the Jews in His day, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” (Jn. 5:39) The Word is what displays God’s character and nature so that we are driven to talking with, and encountering God.
Whenever I sit down in my quiet time with God I struggle with thinking, “Where did I leave off and how many chapters do I have to read to catch up?” It’s as if I think that God is more pleased with me cause I read 20 chapters today. Imagine if we had that kind of relationship with our spouse. Imagine if we read our spouse’s journal and then never really talked with them. Would you call that a relationship? In the same way we develop a relationship with our spouse — talking with, asking questions, growing in relational knowledge — that is the same way we grow in relationship with God.
Three practical ways to encounter God in His Word:
- Position your heart to meet with God. When we approach the Word in our times of prayer we should position our hearts to meet with God. The purpose of reading the Word is to get to know the One to Whom the Word points. Before you read, invite the Holy Spirit there to give you understanding of Who God is. We should approach our times with the Word as if we’re meeting a living Person.
- Ask God for revelation about what You’re reading. The Bible is full of scriptures that show God’s character, but there are also some that require a bit of searching out to understand the meaning. “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” (Pro. 25:2). If you feel God giving you revelation of Himself through a passage, pause and verbally thank Him for showing Himself to you, then ask for more understanding. Thankfulness to God tenderizes our hearts.
- Dialogue with Jesus: Ask specific questions. I remember the first time I read Matthew with the intention of talking with Jesus to know Him better. I remember reading Matt. 4:13, “And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea,” and asking Jesus “Why did you choose that city to start Your ministry in? Did you like that city? Do you like that it’s by the sea? Do you like the sea?” All of the sudden, my understanding of Jesus as a person became much more real — He likes things. Does Jesus enjoy looking out to the sea? Did He like the architecture in Capernaum? Was He nervous at all starting His ministry?
It’s important that we come to the Bible expecting to learn and grow in our relationship with God. In the same way we grow stronger in our relationship with our spouse or friends after a meaningful conversation, so we can grow with God. Our study of the Bible must develop into an active dialogue with the Person of God. Scripture gives us the “conversational material” but it’s up to us to open up our mouths and have that conversation.