Reading the Bible
An Impossible Task?
July 1, 2006 - “I know I ought to read the Bible,” someone wrote me recently, “but it’s too big. I guess it’s only for preachers and scholars.”
Perhaps you have felt this way.
by Billy Graham
The Bible is big—so big that even the greatest scholar will never exhaust its riches. But the Bible isn’t just for preachers and scholars! God wants to speak to you through His Word, and no matter who you are the Bible can come alive to you. You may never understand everything in the Bible, but you can understand something. Samuel was still a boy, but God answered his simple prayer: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9, NIV). Make that your prayer as well.
Why does the Bible remain a closed book to many? One reason is because we don’t realize how much we need it. If I suggested you stop eating for a few months, you’d ignore me—and rightly so. We need food in order to survive, and without food we’ll grow weak and eventually die. Yet many Christians are spiritually starved and weak because they ignore the spiritual “food” God has provided in the Bible. The Bible is not an option; it is a necessity. You cannot grow spiritually strong without it. Job said, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (Job 23:12, NIV). Is the Bible this important to you?
How can you discover the Bible’s message? How can the Bible become part of your life?
Learn the Bible from others. God has given some people a special gift to understand the Bible and teach it to others. The Bible says that “in the church God has appointed … teachers” (1 Corinthians 12:28, NIV). Listen carefully when your pastor preaches from the Bible. In addition, seek out a Bible class in your church or community where the Bible is faithfully taught. Also, check your local Christian radio station (if you live in a country that permits religious broadcasting); some of today’s most gifted Bible teachers are on radio. Investigate spending part of your vacation at a conference center devoted to Bible teaching. Many people find daily devotional books based on the Bible helpful. Although they may only examine a verse or two each day, God can use them to encourage you.
One of the most significant spiritual movements in recent decades has been the explosion in small group Bible studies. All over the world Christians are coming together to read the Bible and share their insights. The Bible says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another” (Colossians 3:16, NIV). Jesus promised, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20, NKJV).
Learn the Bible on your own. If you have never read the Bible, or you started reading it once but got bogged down, let me encourage you to discover the Bible for yourself. How can you do this?
First, come to the Bible joyfully. Bible reading shouldn’t be a burden but a joy! I vividly remember the day I received Ruth’s letter saying she had decided to accept my proposal for marriage. I probably read and reread it dozens of times that day. God wants to talk with us through His Word—in fact, it is His “love letter” to us. Why shouldn’t we come to it joyfully?
Then come to the Bible prayerfully and expectantly. Ask God to speak to you through its pages—and then expect Him to do so. This doesn’t mean that every time we open the Bible we’ll find something new; God may be underlining truths we already know. But let the psalmist’s prayer become yours: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18, NIV).
In addition, come to the Bible systematically. Some people open their Bibles almost at random or simply reread passages they already know. While God can certainly speak to us through any passage, we also need to remember that the Bible wasn’t written [to be read] that way.
Get in the habit of reading the Bible the way it was written: one book at a time. I often suggest people begin by reading through one of the Gospels, such as John, perhaps only a few paragraphs at a time. Later you can read Acts, which tells of the early Christians, or some of the New Testament letters. Psalms in the Old Testament—the “hymnbook” of the Bible—has blessed generations of believers, while Proverbs gives practical guidance for daily living. Psalms teaches us how to relate to God, and Proverbs teaches us how to relate to others.
Also, come to the Bible thoughtfully. In other words, be sure you understand what you are reading. Several years ago a woman told me that her grandmother reads a chapter of the Bible every day. Then she added, “But whenever I ask her what she’s just read, she can’t tell me. Reading the Bible is just a habit that doesn’t seem to make any impression on her.”
Focus on what the passage is really saying. What is happening in it? What is its central point or primary teaching? What does it say about God, or about Jesus, or about someone’s response to God?
Finally, come to the Bible obediently. James wrote, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22, NIV). Is God pointing out a truth you should believe, or something you should do? Is He revealing a sin for which you need to repent? Remember: God never leads us to do anything that is contrary to His Word. But the opposite is also true: God always leads us to do everything that is in agreement with His Word.
God gave the Bible to us because He wants us to know Him and love Him and serve Him. Most of all, He gave it to us so we can become more like Christ. Make the Bible part of your life—beginning today.
Bible verses marked NIV are taken by permission from The Holy Bible, New International Version, copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, Colorado Springs, Colo. Bible verse marked NKJV is taken by permission from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers, Nashville, Tenn.