This is the fourth entry in a series of posts by Brian Hardin, author and founder of Daily Audio Bible. In his previous essay, The Benefits and Blessings of Reading Scripture, Brian looked at the rewards of regular Bible reading. Here’s his latest essay, drawn from Brian’s book Passages: How Reading the Bible in a Year Will Change Everything for You.
Why is it so hard to read the Bible? I mean, we want to. We like the idea of it, but when we crack open the big book, we’re lost. We have no real context for it, and randomly opening to a page and throwing down our finger hoping for a mystical revelation doesn’t usually work well.
We feel like we must be failing as good Christians because we simply don’t understand the Bible, and we can’t find the time to figure out how to approach it. It’s supposed to speak to us and guide us, but once we get beyond the verses we memorized in Sunday school, we’re simply lost.
How do we actually get anything out of Bible study? If we’re going to attempt an answer, we must put away the idea that the Bible is a rulebook we’re supposed to measure up to or that it’s so cryptic we need a Master of Theology degree to unlock it. Conversely, it’s not a book full of dainty little promises from a God who more resembles Santa Claus than the Lord Almighty.
The Bible is a book about life. Our lives don’t come to us in prepackaged bites, and neither does the Bible. Life comes at us in drama, intrigue, and emotion. Life comes to us as a story. We must approach the Bible as a story—the story of God and of God’s people throughout history. What makes it dynamic and present today is that the story hasn’t ended. We’re each a part of the living, breathing story of God’s passionate relationship with humankind, and we each have a place in it.
If we’re going to grow into the maturity God has designed us to have, we must modify our thinking. We must begin to think in terms of wholeness, connection, and integration—about the proverbial forest as well as the trees. This is a stark contrast to modern culture, which has us parsing life into small, disconnected elements that we can arrange and rearrange to fit our circumstances. We experience this in the spiritual life when we divide biblical texts into sound bites rather than use the Bible as the baseline authority for life.
Think of it like this. Most of us desire nutrition that contains what our bodies need to remain healthy and vital. But the ideal is harder to achieve than the realities of life. Often we find ourselves settling for what we can get at a drive-thru because we’ve come unprepared to deal with what steals the day. Proper nutrition requires a complete commitment, and it requires the space in life that it takes to plan for and prepare these foods. In truth we have time for whatever we desire the most. If nutrition is nonnegotiable, it will be a reality in our lives. Spiritual nutrition works the exact same way.
The Bible was meant to be read in good-sized pieces. All of us probably know a variety of promises that the Scriptures offer. Plenty of verses comfort us when we’re facing a struggle or encourage us as we take a risk. If we make these verses quaint, one-size-fits-all anecdotes for life’s challenges, we’ll be plagued by questions about why they don’t always work. If we really desire to have the life Christ offers us, we must make reading Scripture in context—with space to breathe—a priority of our lives.
In order to have the relationship with Scripture that we sincerely desire, we must take a leap of faith and carve out time to breathe it in, to allow God’s Word to speak to us. When we take this step, God will invariably show up.
Watch for the next post in this series later this month! In the meantime, you can read more of Brian’s writing in Passages, or follow his work at Daily Audio Bible. You can keep up with him each day at his blog, Twitter feed, or Facebook or G+ pages.