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Enjoy Your Bible

Rev Matt Jacobs

July 2024

On the way up to Sydney, there’s a billboard that says Read your Bible! I don’t think I’m alone in saying that it doesn’t excite me to go and read my Bible. I just feel like I’m being berated.

This might surprise you, but not many of us are great Bible readers. Busyness, tiredness, and guilt often get in the way of regularly reading God’s word. In our services, we sing things like “Your word is life and it’s love and it’s freedom for us,” (‘Your Word’ by Liv Chapman, Alanna Glover & Philip Percival) but perhaps feel the twinge that those sentiments aren’t reflected in our lives.

I’m not writing this to place even more guilt on you. What I want to do is acknowledge that we’d all like to feel closer to God, recognise that the means he has given us to draw closer to him is to read our Bibles and remind us that it’s actually enjoyable.

It’s no secret that I enjoy running. I’ve been having a proper whinge lately about an injury that’s kept me from running. My Physio tells me I’ll be able to run again soon, but that I’ll need to ease back into it. I won’t be in sub-20 minute 5k shape (let’s be honest, I haven’t been that fast in years). I’ll need to be careful. Slow and steady. Build up carefully. One step at a time.

There’s some wisdom there, when it comes to enjoying the Bible. Think of it as  a spiritual ‘couch to 5k’ program. It starts with just picking up a Bible, having a read, and then doing it again tomorrow. One step at a time. You might only manage to read a few days each week; the point is, that’s better than nothing and it’s building towards something  greater.

But what about enjoying God’s word? I think there are at least 3 things to remind ourselves of when we sit down to read:

Delight, not guilt. It’s not a duty we perform to try and impress God. David describes the Bible as ‘more precious than gold, much sweeter than honey’ (Psalm 19:10). So let’s drop the guilty feelings, and remind ourselves that we get to listen to God when we read his word.

Expectation. Paul writes that the Scriptures are ‘God-breathed’ (2 Timothy 3:16), that is, they’re God’s own words, spoken to us by his Spirit. We can expect that as we read, God will speak to us. Not in a mystical sense, but in a profoundly normal way, using all the normal tools of comprehension. For example, when we’re reading Ephesians, we are reading what God said by his Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, to the church in Ephesus, about Jesus and life in him. We get to listen in on that communication, asking questions like, “how does this word to those people then, transform my mind today?”, “How does this word make me more like Jesus?”

Humility. Because it is God’s word we’re reading, it’s not always going to make me feel great. Sometimes it will convict and confront me. It will teach, rebuke, correct, and train me in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16 again!). And that’s a great thing! Because when it reminds me of my sin, it will always, always remind me of the extraordinary love of God, shown to us in the Lord Jesus. This is part of what makes the word precious and sweet.

Having the right mindset, habits and resources that work for you will go a long way towards enjoying reading the Bible regularly, not as a mere ritual or intellectual exercise but as an opportunity to hear God speaking through people to others about Jesus, for our benefit.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Some Bible reading tips for learning to enjoy your Bible!

Variety! Read short chunks slowly. Chase up the cross references if you’ve got one of those Bibles. You’ll begin to see exciting connections that span across all 66 books.

Read large chunks quickly. My first lecture at Bible college was a 15 minute introduction to Mark’s gospel, then 45 minutes of quiet reading — all 16 chapters in one go. I’d never done that before, and it was thoroughly exciting! Most New Testament books can be read in under an hour. Old Testament narrative rewards patient reading through longer chunks, seeing how themes develop.

Lately I’ve been listening to a podcast that reads the Bible in chronological order. I get to engage a different sense (hearing, rather than sight), and it’s been full of pleasant surprises: like hearing about David fleeing Absalom’s rebellion in 2 Samuel 15, followed by Psalm 3; David’s prayer on the run.

Pair it with another habit. If you normally spend 10 minutes drinking a coffee and scrolling on your phone each morning, that’s a great opportunity to spend the time reading God’s word, and far more beneficial than social media. My own preference is to read a paper Bible, rather than the Bible app on my phone; I’m far too prone to distraction.

Resources. There are lots of good things to aid our reading out there: commentaries, YouTube videos, journaling Bibles and more. Everyone on staff can recommend their favourites. One I think everyone should read is Richard Chin’s How To Read The Bible Better, from Matthias Media.