I struggled with Bible reading for years, even though I was in full-time ministry. Not only was Scripture challenging to understand, but the challenge left me with a lack of desire.
Every day I felt defeated before I even started, and many days I didn’t start at all. Eventually, I learned I was making three primary mistakes that held me back from understanding and loving Scripture.
My first major mistake was looking for myself. I viewed the Bible as a big to-do list, and if I checked the right boxes, God would respond by fulfilling all my desires. I approached the Bible primarily to get my application points and feel like a good, moral person.
So I started asking myself a few questions to narrow my focus:
- What does God say or do in this passage?
- What does this reveal about what God loves?
- What does this reveal about what God hates?
- What does this reveal about what motivates God to do what He does?
- In all of that, what attributes of God are displayed?
The questions we ask of the Bible impact the wisdom we glean from it.
Reading the Bible is an opportunity to behold the beauty of God and be drawn in by him.
My second major mistake stemmed from mistake number one. Since I was only looking for the steps I needed to take to have a perfect, joy-filled life, I hovered over the same passages of Scripture and disregarded the rest.
But my standard approach had me dropping down in the middle of a movie and staying for five minutes, with no real idea of the storyline or who the characters were, and hoping to understand it.
Not only is it impossible to understand something when you handle it that way, but it’s impossible to love it.
To correct that mistake, I read through Scripture chronologically, not from front to back. I wanted to see the overall storyline. So I began each book by identifying who, when, to whom, and what style they wrote it in.
Much to my initial dismay, the bulk of the Bible is not promises or action points. Instead, most of it tells a story about God and His unshakeable love for His people. Reading the story in order and paying attention to the context helped me make sense of verses that appear to contradict each other and how to sift through confusing passages to find God’s character.
My first two mistakes worked together to create my other major mistake: drawing conclusions about God before I read the whole Bible.
That was a dangerous approach because I was tempted to build a theology around one verse without knowing what other verses had to say. I wanted quick answers and didn’t take the time to consider the context.
When we zoom out and read the whole story, we see a line of grace, mercy, and rescue.
It required patience to hold my questions and conclusions with an open hand. Some of the questions I had in Leviticus weren’t answered until Hebrews.
But all good relationships require patience, and they develop over time. I spent years trying to build my life around a book I hadn’t read about a God I didn’t know.
Now that I know him, I want to help others know him better too!
*For further reflection, listen to Matthew 4 today.
- Matthew 4