If I asked you, “What are your most important priorities?” my guess is that “God” would be at the top of the list. As Christian men, we want to honor our Creator and live according to God’s principles.
Once when Jesus was asked about priorities, he said this one should take the top spot: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:29-30, NIV).
Most of us struggle with putting God first in our schedules, particularly in the form of Bible reading. The Barna Group, a premiere research organization, reports that only 37% of Americans read the Bible once a week or more.
In the same report, the Barna Group also shares this shocking finding: ”Among those who say their Bible reading decreased in the last year, the number-one reason was busyness: 40% report being too busy with life’s responsibilities (job, family, etc.), an increase of seven points from just one year ago.”
Two truths emerge here: Most of us don’t read the Bible regularly, and that trend is increasing because we feel too busy. How do we counteract this trend and make time for Bible reading?
The answer is not just in managing your time better. It’s about changing your perspective on Bible reading. Here are five myths that hinder spiritual growth and how to address them.
Myth #1: Your Bible reading has to mirror what someone else is doing.
In the Christian community we tend to compare ourselves to others. If we see Joe reading the Bible a certain way or using a certain plan, we tell ourselves that we should be doing the same thing.
But Joe’s plan may not be what you want or need in this season of your life. It’s important to read the Bible in a way that fits your schedule and needs. We can certainly learn from others, but we should never blindly copy them.
Myth #2: Your Bible reading should stay the same from year to year.
One of the biggest enemies of Bible reading is boredom. Make some changes from year to year to keep things interesting.
A few suggestions to spur your creativity:
Read in a different version
Read on a phone or table rather than a printed Bible (or vice-versa)
Listen to audio rather than reading
Read with a partner or group
Share verses on social media
Share your progress with friends (you can do this with the YouVersion app)
Myth #3: Your Bible reading has to take a large chunk of time.
Having a meaningful time with God in his word doesn’t have to take all morning. This year I decided to read through the Bible using a plan from the YouVersion app. It only takes about 15 minutes from start to finish. (One of the great features of the YouVersion app is the “catch me up feature” that shifts the whole plan forward if you miss a day or two.)
At other times I’ve listened to the Bible on my 30-minute daily commute. (You can do this through the YouVersion app also, or with CD’s or mp3’s.) This doesn’t add any extra time to my day. You could do the same when you exercise or do chores.
Myth #4: Your Bible reading has to be in the morning.
There is a notion in the Christian community that the most spiritual people get up very early in the morning and spend an hour or two in Bible study and prayer. This is a construct that is based on legalism, not grace. If you’re not a morning person, you shouldn’t feel guilty about doing your Bible reading at some other time of day.
As men, we tend to think of everything as a task to be completed. But Bible reading is not about a task; it’s about a relationship with God. It’s about building our faith and knowledge, not just checking something off a list.
My wife doesn’t care when I say “I love you.” She just cares that I say it. The same is true for Bible reading. The act of doing it is more important than the time of day it happens.
Myth #5: Your Bible reading is the most important indicator of a spiritual life.
Bible reading is a key part of your spiritual growth, but it’s not the only part. What really matters is putting into practice what you are learning. If you’re reading about love, generosity, faith or worship, but don’t integrate more of these elements into your life, you have defeated the whole purpose.
In summary: The goal of Bible reading isn’t to complete a task, it’s to become more like Christ. Once we begin to destroy many of the myths surrounding Bible reading, we are free to read God’s word with joy and know that we are truly pursing the most important priority.
I challenge you to put first things first. Decide on a Bible reading plan and set aside a little time each day (no matter when it is) and watch how God begins to transform your heart and mind in 2015!
Photo Credit: Ryk Neethling