“God, I don’t understand your book!” I cried.
I had recommitted my life to Christ in my mid-twenties and was hungry to know God. I knew from attending church, the primary way God speaks is through His word. The problem was, whenever I sat down to read the Bible, I was confused and frustrated.
I have since grown a deep love for the Word of God. I read and study it daily. But this didn’t happen overnight.
During my years of serving in ministry, I’ve discovered that many Christians struggle with reading the Bible the way I once did years ago. I’ve also learned the reasons are more complex than I once thought.
A survey conducted by LifeWay in 2012 indicated that 80 percent of Christians don’t read their Bibles daily. Another survey done by The Barna Group in 2013 indicated the following: Only 26 percent of Americans said they read their Bible on a regular basis—averaging four times a week. Fifty-seven percent only read their Bible four times a year or less.
And yet the survey by The Barna Group also found that 88 percent of Americans said they own a Bible, 80 percent think the Bible is sacred, 61 percent wish they read the Bible more, and the average household has 4.4 Bibles.
If Americans still place such a high value on the Bible (80 percent think it’s sacred), then where is the disconnect?
Of course, there are the typical excuses such as, I don’t have time. I go to church and hear the Bible. It’s not relevant to today’s issues.
But perhaps there are deeper reasons why we avoid the Bible.
Reason 1: Our Image of God is Flawed
How do you picture God when you pray? This may seem like a silly exercise, but take a moment to consider it. Is He an old bearded man on a throne? Perhaps you see one of the many popular portraits of Jesus in your mind’s eye. Is God angry at the world’s sin—at your sin—ready to impart His wrath? Or does He have better things to do than worry with our wimpy little prayers?
What we imagine when we picture God is akin to whether or not we think of Him as worth knowing.
Of course what we picture is dependent upon many factors: how one was raised and personal experience to name a few.
How we view God is also a type of reflection of how we see ourselves.
In other words, what we believe about God says more about ourselves than God.
You see, how we view God will determine a key aspect—reading God’s Word.
Think about it. If we see God as rule maker who is never satisfied, always looking for reasons to punish us—then it’s no wonder His followers don’t rush to His words as a source of comfort, direction, and identity.
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”A.W. Tozer
The irony of not reading the Bible is: it perpetuates our flawed view of God. The Bible is God’s story. There’s no better way to know Him than through His word.
Reason 2: We Don’t Know How
Most of us don’t like to admit when we don’t know how to do something that should be simple. And shouldn’t reading the Bible be simple for a Christian? Or even if you don’t consider yourself a Christian, shouldn’t reading be simple?
For years, I would flip open the Bible and hope to find something of use. If it landed in the Psalms or Proverbs, I had a little nugget to take away. If it landed elsewhere in the Old Testament, I was sunk.
Perhaps you’ve done the same thing. Or maybe you’ve tried to start at the beginning, in Genesis and by the time you got to the third book, Leviticus, you gave up.
I have a confession to make. My love for the Bible began by reading a children’s Bible to my kids before bed. Somehow seeing the pictures and hearing the stories written for a child’s understanding drew me to open my adult Bible and compare.
I began to see the Bible was not just a rulebook and one didn’t need a Master of Theology in order to decode hidden meanings.
Finally, I saw the Bible as a story about God and the people He created. When I read the stories about David, Daniel, Esther, Paul, Mary, and Martha, I realize they were just human—like me. In fact, they are my ancestors. They are yours too.
You and I are part of the story as God’s people. And we have a role to play in this amazing story that has not yet reached its conclusion.
Reason 3: It Makes Us Uncomfortable
Oh, how human beings love to be comfortable. Interestingly, the Bible aims to comfort us. If this is the case, then why are we avoiding the Bible? It’s simple really. The Bible makes us uncomfortable before it comforts us. It pinpoints those hidden thoughts, selfish motives, and crooked actions. It’s sharp and cutting.
“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Hebrews 4:12
Are you ever angry with someone? Are there strained relationships because you are frustrated with people? Are you ever tempted sexually or do you ever feel sorry for yourself? The Bible exposes our true thoughts and feelings.
The Bible is the great equalizer—showing us we are ALL sinful and in need of a savior.
By His love, grace, and mercy, God has provided the remedy for our sinful selves. Jesus.
And that is a real comfort.
Let’s be honest: If you’re not reading your Bible regularly, it’s because you’ve chosen not to.
Don’t know where to begin? Join me here next week, and we’ll uncover some practical Bible reading suggestions in BIBLE READING 101: Understanding
Until then, if you are serious about reading the Bible consistently, I have a three-part challenge that may help. Please don’t be overwhelmed. The main thing is to be actively working towards regular Bible reading.
Supplies needed: notebook or paper and pen to write down your answers and observations.
Carve out at least fifteen minutes of alone and uninterrupted time (not while driving or even doing another task).
Close your eyes and imagine how you view God. Once you’ve pictured it, write it down.
Close your eyes again and imagine how you believe God views you. Write it down.
How do these affect whether or not you read the Bible?
Ask yourself if one of the reasons you’re not reading the Bible consistently is because you don’t know how. Or maybe you just don’t know where to begin.
If the answer is yes, make a commitment to learning how to read the Bible. Schedule a certain amount of time for this. Write it down and/or put it on your calendar.
Tell someone close to you that you’ve made this commitment and ask them to check in with you.
Reading next week’s article, “BIBLE READING 101: Part I, Understanding”, here on Spotlight, can help.
What makes you uncomfortable about the Bible? (remember to write down your answers)
Now that you’ve written this information down, we have a starting point. It’s time to seek God and His word for the answers. Are you ready?
Join me here for the next few weeks and we’ll unpack some helpful information about God, His word, the way He views people as well as some doable Bible reading plans.
If you are taking the challenge, will you tell me in the comments below so that I can be praying for you? You can also contact me via email. firstname.lastname@example.org