In the last two editions of the bulletin, we highlighted several benefits of reading the Bible each day. Let us build on those thoughts by considering some objectives of daily Bible reading. What are some motivations that we ought to avoid? What are some motivations we ought to cultivate?
The goal of daily Bible reading should be more than merely checking something off a to-do list. In the interest of full disclosure, I am pro-list. I like to see my day laid out in front of me each morning. I love the satisfaction of being able to mark off tasks as I accomplish them. I will put Bible study on my list and check it off when I’m through. But if my major motivation for reading God’s word is just so I can mark it off my list, then I need to revisit my motives. It’s possible to scurry through a quick reading of a few verses, mark off daily Bible reading from your list, briefly feel a sense of accomplishment, and move to the next task without really benefiting from the exercise.
The goal of daily Bible reading should be more than seeing how quickly you can finish the entire book. If one is to benefit from reading the word of God, its message must be savored, contemplated, and applied. Speed-reading the sacred text to meet some arbitrary deadline will not help your spiritual growth nearly as much as slowing down and meditating on what you read. A lady approached a preacher one Sunday and boasted, “I’ve been through the Bible three times this year.” He countered, “That’s great! How many times has the Bible been through you?”
A proper goal of daily Bible reading is to know God more deeply. While one can discern certain characteristics of God through a proper assessment of the creation (Psa. 19:1-4; Rom. 1:20), there are some traits of the Almighty that we can only discover through our acquaintance with the scriptures. By reading the word of God, seeing how he has interacted with his creation, and studying his laws, we come to know that God is: light (1 John 1:5), loving (1 John 4:8), infinite in wisdom (Psa. 147:5), omnipresent (Psa. 139:7), holy (Psa. 99:9), just (Deut. 32:4), a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29), good (Psa. 34:8), faithful (1 Cor. 10:13), merciful (Eph. 2:4), longsuffering (2 Pet. 3:9), and gracious (Exo. 34:6). If our Bible reading doesn’t deepen our relationship with God, we’re doing it wrong.
A proper goal of daily Bible reading is to increase our understanding of ourselves. James compared the word of God to a mirror (James 1:22-25) that helps us to see ourselves as we really are. The scriptures can penetrate our hearts and reveal our innermost thoughts and attitudes (Heb. 4:12). By spending time each day in the word we can more easily remind ourselves of where we came from (Gen. 1:26-27), why we are here (Acts 17:27), and where we are going (2 Cor. 5:10).
A proper goal of daily Bible reading is to discover God’s will. According to Paul, no one knows the mind of God except the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:11). But the Spirit did not keep all of that knowledge concealed. He revealed God’s mind and will to “holy apostles and prophets” (Eph. 3:5), who in turn recorded those things for our good (1 Cor. 2:12- 13). By spending time each day reading the scriptures we come to know that God’s will includes: his desire for our salvation (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9); our sanctification and abstinence from sexual sin (1 Thess. 4:3); that we be grateful people (1 Thess. 5:18); and that we silence critics of Christianity by doing good deeds (1 Pet. 2:15).
A proper goal of daily Bible reading is to positively change our behavior. To know the will of God is important, but it is not where our goals should end. We should desire to know God’s will in order to put it to practice. Jesus said, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17). “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17). “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psa. 119:11). Paul prayed that the Christians in Colossae would “be filled with the knowledge of his will” (Col. 1:9), but this knowledge was to lead them “to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him” (Col. 1:10). May that ever be our prayer, too.