Despondency in this postmodern age is a more frequent response to the question, “So, how are your devotions going?” So many people I’ve asked have not felt comfortable with that question. And the fact is, I think I know why. We have been sold a lie as to ‘what’ constitutes a good Bible reading plan. It is this: read a handful of chapters each day, or read the Bible from cover to cover.
Have you ever tried to do that? Read the Bible so matter-of-factly?
Great if you have. Well done. Did you receive any extra favour from the Lord?
At this time you may be a little jaded if you’ve been faithful to Bible reading plans as much as they’ve been faithful to you. But consider this:
1. A Bible reading plan encourages a legalistic view of devotional time; a certain quantity of the Bible must be read to satisfy the criteria. Quantity is okay, provided there is sufficient time to go with the Holy Spirit who will ask us to plunge into one verse, or even one word of the text, and study it deeply. Following a Bible reading plan can, at times, disallow such freedom.
2. In ticking off the chapters as we go, does any of the text we’ve just read infiltrate our minds sufficiently to seep into our hearts — and change us? A devotional activity is transformative. We are after growth in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit breathes through us through our time in the Word, and through our times of meditating on the Word in between devotional times. If our Bible reading plan is being accomplished, yet we feel we are not growing, the Holy Spirit might be revealing something.
3. To select one book of the Bible — or even one section — and stay there for months, or even a year or more, can be a healthier pursuit of God’s Word to ends of actual spiritual growth, emotional stability, and mental groundedness. The biggest growth period of my life occurred as a result of studying Proverbs — one chapter a day — each month — for eighteen months. I never set out to do it that long; God’s Spirit impelled me. More recently I’ve been studying the Sermon on the Mount. And not just the Word. Reading the commentaries, listening to sermons on it, going into the virtuosity of Jesus’ most famous teaching.
4. If you’ve tried and failed to stick to a Bible reading plan, you’ll know of the inner shame that can produce. This inner shame is not from God, but from Satan. God’s the one making our devotional lives easier and more manageable — if our heart’s in it. But Satan wants to complicate every good thing.
I’m not saying Bible reading plans are bad. They work for some people, indeed many. But they are not the be-all or end-all for many people, and some of the best growth comes when we are free to be led by the Spirit alone.
My advice when it comes to reading your Bible is fall in love with it, and grow with the Holy Spirit wherever he takes you.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.