This post originally appeared on August 24, 2007. It appears here in updated form.
I have had the opportunity to counsel a number of people with problems of a spiritual nature. People coming for counsel can be divided into three groups:
- those who are curious about something and those who have hypothetical questions,
- those who have worked through their difficulties mentally and just need confirmation;
- and those who are in serious straits. Those who are in serious straits have certain common traits.
Three simple questions
When a person in great difficulty comes to me for counsel I always ask certain questions — questions that are almost always answered the same way. They are simple questions. They can be answered “yes” or “no.” They are questions that if answered in the positive the person would never be sitting across from me pleading for help. The questions are:
- Do you regularly read the Bible on a daily basis?
- Do you regularly spend time in prayer on a daily basis?
- Do you regularly attend church?
I cannot recall any person coming for counseling, whose life is a mess, who has answered “yes” to any of these questions. People who do these things faithfully rarely need counseling.
In this blog entry I want to concentrate on the first question: Do you read the Bible on a regular basis?
- “I don’t understand the Bible” is a common excuse.
- “Times have changed,”
- “The Bible isn’t relative,” and
- “I don’t have the time,” are frequently given.
Reading the Bible is a basic discipline of the Christian life.
It is essential. It is God’s word to us. Ingestion of God’s word is as essential to our spiritual health as the ingestion of food is to our physical health. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness to turn stones into bread in order to satisfy his hunger Jesus responded, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God,’” (Matthew 4:4) Job said, “Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food, (Job 23:12).
King David of Israel, the psalmist, wrote the 119th Psalm. It is a paean to the Word of God. In verse 130 he says, “The entrance of your words gives light; it gives understanding unto the simple.” “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” the psalmist says in verse 105. Similar sentiments are also expressed in the 19th Psalm.
We need a daily diet of God’s Word to show us how to live. We must get it into our heads before it can get into our hearts. God’s word is perspicacious — insightful, clear, and wise. “For the word of God is quick [alive], and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart,” (Hebrews 4:12).
God’s Word is purifying.
“Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you,” Jesus said in John 15:3.
God’s Word is penetrating.
See Hebrews 4:12, above. While times have changed, man has not. That is why the Bible is always relevant, always timely, always appropriately wise.
Read the Bible as if God was writing it for you,
which is what he did. Read those portions that are more likely to give the greater benefit the sooner. “All Scripture is profitable,” said the renown Apostle Paul, but all Scripture is not equally profitable. If you have backslidden or find yourself growing cold towards God and spiritual things you will find the Gospels and the Epistles of greater immediate benefit than reading from the Book of the Revelation or plodding through the genealogies of Numbers and the books of the Chronicles. Do you find yourself perplexed about the meaning of a particular passage? The Holy Spirit of God stands ready to enlighten you. It is best to prepare your heart for the ministrations of the Spirit by offering up a prayer for understanding before you begin to read.
There are many things that vie for your time. Do not let them crowd out the important. We are commanded to put on the whole armor of God. What good is a soldier who disregards and neglects his weapons and neither uses or knows how to use them? The Bible is the weapon that we are required to arm ourselves with. It is the sword of the Spirit.
A person who claims to be a Christian and who does not regularly read the Bible is headed for trouble. The Apostle Peter tells us to “Desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,” (1 Peter 2:2) We need to make Bible reading a habit, just like we do with eating. In order to make it a habit we must first make it a discipline. We must read it in order to know the mind of God, in order to do the will of God, and in order to become more and more like God. Failure to read God’s word regularly on a daily basis is the first step towards spiritual disaster.
“The Scriptures teach us the best way of living,
the noblest way of suffering,
and the most comfortable way of dying.”
Do you have a regular plan for reading the Bible?
Do you regularly read the Bible?