Are we done talking about New Years resolutions until 2021? How we all doing? A popular new years resolution for people in general and Christians in particular is to read the Bible more regularly. And for good reason! No book has been read, studied, printed, and distributed in the history of the world more than the Bible, and there is no ancient text that remains as stunningly relevant and applicable to everyday life than the Scriptures.
The next step for most is to find the best Bible Reading Plan, of which there is no shortage of options. You can read straight through in a year, or 90 days, or even 30 days (!). You can read through chronologically, or you can do a plan like this one that includes readings from both the Old Testament and New Testament each day.
So far so good, but then a common problem often arises. The initial burst of motivation has waned, the time we dedicated to it starts to slip away, and if not careful, we get so far behind that we eventually give it up altogether. As we get ready to flip the calendar from February to March, the Bible Reading Plan often gets allocated to the bottom of the junk drawer.
There could be many reasons why this is the case, but I suspect one in particular is prominent. We can get so fixated on what we want to read, but don’t pay enough attention to how we should be reading the Bible each day. And when we don’t understand how we should approach the Word of God, we get confused and bored and eventually start reallocating our time away from the Bible.
So, the question remains – how should we approach our Bible Reading? Enter Richard Greenham. My guess is you haven’t heard of him, because he was born in 1542 and pastored a small congregation in a little English village five miles northwest of Cambridge. His lasting legacy lies within his published works, including “A Profitable Treatise, Containing a Direction for the reading and understanding of the holy Scriptures” (titles were pretty rough back in the day). In short, here is a 500-year-old excerpt of his book on eight ways to read Scripture:
1. With Diligence. We must be more diligent in reading the Scriptures than anything else – more than men dig for hidden treasure. Diligence makes rough places plain, makes the unsavory tasty.
2. With Wisdom. We must be wise in the choice of matter, order, and time. Scripture reading must follow some semblance of order, for a whole Bible makes a whole Christian. And a portion of Scripture should be read each and every day.
3. With Preparation. In desiring to learn of God, we must approach with a reverential fear of God and His majesty, with faith in Christ, and with sincerity.
4. With Meditation. This is as critical as preparation, for while reading may give some breadth, only meditation will offer depth. Meditation makes that which we have read to be our own.
5. With Conference. The godly must share with others what they learn from the Scriptures, not in a proud manner but with humility.
6. With Faith. As Hebrews 4:2 says, faith is the key to profitable reception of the Word. Through reading the Word by faith, our faith will be refined, as old is tried in the fire.
7. With Practice. Practice is the best way to learn, the more we put the Word into practice in the daily obedience of faith, the more God will increase our gifts for His service.
8. With Prayer. Prayer is indispensable in the reading of Scripture. It must precede, accompany, and follow our reading. In short, if the Bible is to get into us, we must get into it.
Last year, Lifeway Publishing released the results of a massive, 10-year long study of Christian Maturity and Discipleship. Do you know what the number one activity for spiritual growth amongst believers? Bible engagement. Those who engaged regularly in reading and studying the Bible showed the most growth in every other area of discipleship.
Having the desire to read the Word of God is vital, having a plan on what and when to read is instrumental, but knowing how to approach the Scriptures is the key for long-lasting, sustained value in the Word of God. I pray these eight, 500 year-old tips from a small town pastor in England will serve you well, and equip you to grow in the faith for God’s glory.