The myth of Sisyphus comes to mind when I think of how some view reading the Bible. In the Greek story, Sisyphus’ punishment requires him to push a giant boulder up a hill. Except, the rock is so large and the slope so steep that Sisyphus can only roll the stone so far until it ultimately goes back down the hill, requiring him to begin again. This action repeats for eternity, and Sisyphus gets nowhere. Sometimes Bible reading feels like that.
Reading the Bible can be a dangerous habit when consumption alone is the goal
Too many of us—myself included—read it, set it aside, and forget it. When we do, we are blind to the power of God’s word and the miracle of God speaking to us through the prophets and writers. Don’t miss that last statement: God speaking to us. That alone is a humbling thought — the God of the universe wants to communicate with us. And the danger is that we only casually read God’s word, and then get on with our day. When we do, it has no impact, and therefore no authority or power in our lives. That’s dangerous and, like Sisyphus’ task, a waste of time.
There must be something for us in the Bible
Stop reading the Bible and start engaging it. In the terrific book Unstuck, the authors describe what it means to engage with God’s word: Receive—Reflect on—Respond to what we read.
In my course Take the Jesus Challenge (coming July 9), I spend time with all three ways to engage with God’s word. Right now, let’s focus on what it means to “reflect on.”
Reflection is tough work, and it’s not sexy.
Reflection takes time, and no one will congratulate you. But it will change you, and people notice a changed life. Reflection builds character and helps you choose joy when you’re angry, or it encourages you to bite your tongue when you want to lash out. Reflection is the pause that allows God’s Spirit to engage your heart, soul, and mind. It gives you the perspective you routinely miss.
Reflection is the pause that allows God’s Spirit to engage your heart, soul, and mind. It gives you the perspective you routinely miss.
Essentially, reflection is a form of meditation. Meditation does not require you to sit in a particular position or utter a chant. This article’s picture of a cow eating grass demonstrates meditation.
Psalm 1 says, “Blessed is the one whose delight is in the law of the LORD and who meditates on his law day and night.”
The word meditate in this Psalm means to chew the cud. A cow eats its food, and then when the partly digested food returns from its stomach, the cow chews it again. This act allows the animal to benefit from all the nutrients from its food.
We are to ruminate on the Word of God, and in Psalm 1, David likens himself to a ruminating cow. He takes Scripture and chews it—thinks deeply about it—over and over it until he can apply the Word to his life.
Those who reflect know there is power in the pause.
So how do you reflect on God’s word?
Don’t just read your Bible today. Read it and pause…and then pause some more. Read and question what you’ve read. Read your Bible and ask God what it has to do with your life. Read it and listen. It will extend the time you set aside to read, but it will also be the vehicle to change your life. Don’t just read your Bible. Read it and then reflect on what you read.
I offer several examples of ways to reflect in the course, but here’s one easy way to reflect: Be still.
After you read, sit quietly and allow God to speak to you. Ask God to reveal your next step or emphasize what he wants you to know, do, or how he wants you to live. When your mind wanders, say something like, “Here I am, Lord. I’m listening.” Set a timer for two minutes; otherwise, you’ll give up as soon as your mind wanders.
You may never hear an audible voice, but pay attention to internal nudges or proddings. If two minutes fly by, increase the amount of time. Similarly, if it seems like an eternity, start with thirty-seconds and increase the amount over time.
I practice this to force myself to be still. After I read, I set a timer for 5 minutes and sit still. I focus on a word or phrase that stood out, or I simply sit and listen, asking God to help me know how to apply what I read.
Don’t be Sisyphus. Don’t view your Bible reading as a task to check-off and then forget about it for the rest of the day, only to repeat the exercise the following day. Instead, be transformed by it and engage with God’s word. Think about it, apply it, live it out, and be guided by it. Let it be an exercise that empowers and liberates you, not one that ensnares you.
COMING JULY 9 — the digital course — Take the Jesus Challenge
This article is Part 2 of a 5-part series overviewing the upcoming release of my digital course, Take the Jesus Challenge, teaching you how to live as a disciple of Jesus. Read Part 1 here. Read Part 3 here. Read Part 4 here. Read Part 5 here.
QUESTION (leave a comment below)
Be honest: Is your Bible reading more of a chore or a joy? Do you know anyone who experiences joy from reading their Bible? What do they do?