According to a recent Barna Group study, 62% of Americans want to read their bible more. So why don’t we do it?
According to the same study, nearly half of bible readers (47%) say that their number one frustration is never having enough time to read their bibles. But is time really the issue? After all, we have time for all sorts of other activities—watching TV, playing games, reading other books. Why can’t we find time to read the Bible?
There are a few reasons that Christians don’t dedicate their time and energy to studying God’s Word.
- You don’t believe that it will make a difference.
- You would rather let their pastor deliver the Word of God to them.
- You haven’t prioritized bible study in their daily routine.
Let’s look at each one of these in more detail.
1. You don’t believe that it will make a difference.
One of the reasons that Christians fail to dedicate their time and attention to God and His Word are that they don’t believe that it will make a difference. This can take a couple of different forms. First, you may not believe that the bible is actually the Word of God. You may say you believe it, but your actions don’t match up with your words. Second, you may not believe that reading the bible will actually change anything, putting them in the category of things that are “nice to do from time to time, but not necessarily important enough to make a difference.”
Each one of us experiences these at some point in our Christian walk, and we occasionally fall back into them in different seasons of our lives. When we find our attitudes slipping into one of these frameworks of thinking, we need to remind ourselves of the words of David:
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. — Psalm 63:1
The bible tells us that the Word of God gives us life (Proverbs 3) and it was through the Word of God that He created the universe and everything in it.
2. You would rather let a pastor or celebrity deliver the Word of God to you.
A second trap that Christians fall into regarding bible study is that they are content to let a pastor or celebrity study, interpret, and apply the word of God for them.
For the new Christian, this is normal. They have just started to understand the Gospel and they are learning to navigate the Word of God, so they need the guidance of a more mature Christian as they grow.
But for the maturing Christian, relying on your pastor’s Sunday morning sermons or your midweek bible study isn’t enough to nourish your soul. Paul writes to the Corinthians regarding his teaching, “I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it” (1 Corinthians 3:2). Relying on a pastor or celebrity to spoon-feed the Word of God to you is like a mother feeding an infant child. Real maturity doesn’t take place until you learn to study, interpret, and apply the scriptures to your own life.
A related danger is doing extensive reading in extrabiblical Christian works while neglecting the bible. You may get some good teaching on biblical ideas, and the author may use scripture to back up his thoughts, but it is a poor substitute for the Word of God in your life and it will fail to provide sustainable spiritual nourishment.
Much of the benefit of reading scripture comes from two places:
- The experience of interpreting and understanding the Word of God, and;
- The application and conviction of the Word by the Holy Spirit.
First, as we read the bible, we start to have questions. “What does the author mean by this? How does this New Testament idea connect to this Old Testament concept?” As we wrestle with the study and interpretation of God’s Word, His Spirit reveals to us the specific applications of His Word to our lives and the lives of those around us. This is something that you simply cannot achieve through listening to a pastor’s sermon or reading a book outside of the bible.
3. You haven’t prioritized prayer and bible study in your daily routine.
The third and most devastating reason that Christians don’t spend time in prayer or in the Word of God is that they simply don’t care enough to make prayer and bible study a priority. In the midst of thousands of interests and activities competing for our attention, deliberately setting aside time to commune with God through His Word and through prayer becomes more and more difficult.
Satan loves to use our busy schedules as a tool to distract us from our spiritual disciplines—and as we saw above, he is succeeding. Fewer and fewer Americans are reading God’s Word. Fewer and fewer Americans are spending time in prayer. Of our young adults in college and those who have recently graduated, just one in three pray on any given week and just one in four read their bible once per week or more.
Christian, we must be diligent to prioritize our prayer and our study of the Word. To do that, we must root ourselves in our need for communion with God.
How to make time for bible study
Studying the Word of God is a vital discipline in the life of a Christian. We cannot grow and mature in Christ (the Word, John 1:1) without immersing yourself in the Word.
- Pray. Prayer and bible study go hand-in-hand. One can never truly grow in either discipline without the other because each discipline supports the other. Studying God’s Word reveals the will of God, while prayer releases the power of God to do His Will. When God speaks to us through His Word, it produces in us a desire to speak with Him, and as we speak with him, He points us back to His Word.
- Add personal bible study to your calendar. Your calendar reflects your priorities; you schedule what is important to you. We schedule work, meetings, dinner dates and coffee with friends, small group bible studies. You’ll never make bible study a priority if you don’t intentionally set aside time for it.
- Start a bible reading plan. Bible reading plans give you a structure to break up your bible study into manageable chunks, and usually provide a tool for tracking your progress. Free electronic tools like Logos Bible Software provide this functionality, or you can find a printable plan to keep in your bible from Blue Letter Bible or other online resources.
Effective bible study starts with baby steps; God blesses obedience, and small steps in the right direction build upon one another as you cultivate a discipline of personal bible study.