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There I was in 2012. A new Christian wanting to know more about what being a Christian even really meant. Wanting to know what I was really getting into, not based on what they told me growing up, or what someone told me recently. I had this one clue though: The person who shared about Jesus to me encouraged me to read the Bible, God’s Word, everyday. Everyday???? Could I even do it?
I wanted to know the answers to so many (and I mean so many!) questions that flooded my nineteen-year-old mind, and it wasn’t just a matter of filling my head with knowledge about Christianity (although I love to learn new things). I’d say that it was more of my desire to know how to really own my decision. What did it really mean to be Christian?
I wanted to experience what they told me about Jesus for myself; as much as I loved what some told me about Him, I realized that I couldn’t rely on drinking from their fountain of experience of Him forever. And while all of this was well and good, the problem was, I didn’t know where to start.
It dawned on me as an impossible task. I remember asking God—like speaking to a friend I’m about to get to know—if such a thing was feasible, sustainable even. But this was the only clue I got, and though I didn’t know how I was going to kickstart the habit of reading the Bible daily, I knew I had to try.
If you’re reading this right now because you were in the same place I was several years ago, don’t worry. Your ‘yes’ to Jesus still is the best decision you’ll ever make in your entire life, and once you get into the habit, it will become the best decision you’ll make for that day.
I had a challenging start, which included but was not limited to: constant daily adjustments, a lot of distractions, problems with finding a secluded place, and being too conscious of myself (even when there was no one in the room) while in the habit—I could say that the habit eventually stuck. Even though I still do experience all of the above years after. No one really gets immune to those stuff; you just end up more aware on how to deal with that.
But the good news was I realized that reading the Bible daily was very feasible, and it was what has sustained me—both in faith and sanity—everyday.
So to help you get kickstarted on that habit, here are some tips that have helped me. I didn’t learn them all at once, but I discovered them gradually as I built on this habit.
1. Evaluate how you best read Scripture.
Are you more in the mood to read when you’re holding an actual bounded Bible in your hand where you get to smell the pages and feel the paper as you flip through chapters of the text? Or would you rather scroll down the well-lit screen using your fingertips?
Do you like to read with background music? Or in pure silence?
I’m more of a page-smeller than a screen-reader, and I prefer the silence. Figure out which one you’re more comfortable doing, and it’ll help get you in the mood.
2. Learn which version of the Bible works for you.
There are many versions of the Bible out there. Some are closer to the original text, while other are closer to the original meaning of the text. There are now—thanks to technology—modern versions of the text.
Some people tell me that they like this version because it is more faithful to the text. But for me, I’d say to choose the version that speaks to you best.
I personally started with the English Standard Version, and I never left. Though there are verses that bring me to tears (from Psalms mostly) whenever I take a peep of them from the Message Version.
3. Figure out what time of the day you’re at your best.
Are you a morning or night person?
Figuring out when you’re energy and spirits are at your peak may help you in focusing on the text at hand. I’m admittedly a morning person (yes, even before coffee).
I used to think that morning was the best time to read the Bible because most of the people I talked to told me it was. But really, I’d have to disagree. If you’re a night owl, you’re probably functioning at your best in the late hours of the night.
And even for morning people like me, I’d have to admit that there are just some mornings where it wasn’t possible to read my Bible when I had, say, a 7:00 A.M. call time for a special work event. On those days, I’d already be on work mode so I knew I had to adjust accordingly.
But, by default, your answer would most likely be the best time for you to spend time with God.
4. Have the right start.
Before you begin, remove all distractions. I personally start my preparations the night before by turning off the data on my phone while I sleep, then switching my phone to Airplane Mode once I get started. I do this so I wouldn’t get caught up with the notifications that I get on my phone in morning.
There are also other ways you could get started. Some of my friends start their time with God by plugging on their earphones, and listening to a couple of worship songs before they get into the Word. I do this, too, occasionally.
But one of the pieces of best advice I got was from a pastor who told me that he starts off by praying to the Holy Spirit to speak to him through the Scripture.
5. Read the scripture in its proper context.
Another valuable lesson I got from a couple of pastors and friends was to read the Bible in its proper context. There are several ways to do this.
One way would be by going back to previous chapter/s of the book. Let’s say I get a reading from Philippians 2. As much as the chapter speaks to me, I need to go back to Philippians 1 in order to gain a bigger perspective on how the author got to the point/s of chapter 2.
Hint: look out for the words “therefore”, “then”, “so”, “thus”. These are conclusive words, which mean that these points came from a previous text.
Another way would be by researching beforehand on the background of the book. Who was the author of the book? Who was the audience of the book? What was the happening in the background when the author wrote this? What kind of audience was the author speaking to and what were their issues? What is the theme and central message of the book? And so on.
As I type this, I realized how this may be the the most strenuous step to do. I can already imagine some of you thinking, “Can’t I just pray, trust, and love God?”
Well yes, you can. But to do some of the work will also save you from misinterpreting and misapplying Scripture, which will lead to more unnecessary heartaches and sin.
And here’s an even more personal reason. Despite the extra reading I had to do, knowing the context of scripture allowed me to know God and love Him in an even deeper way. It allowed me to gain a better glimpse of the brokenness of man (myself included), the fallenness of the world, and how much a powerful God loved and saved (and is still saving) the broken and the fallen.
6. Note the verses that strike you.
There are two ways to read the Bible. Fast reading and slow reading. Fast reading allows you to get a quick grasp on the text. Slow reading allows you to really chew on the text.
If you find a verse that particularly strikes you, dwell on it. Try to fight the temptation to skip over it. If you have to, read the verse twice. That’s probably the Holy Spirit at work in you, nudging you to dwell on it.
You can also ask yourself some of these questions:
What is God trying to tell me through the verse/s? Is it something about who He is? Or something about how fallen man is? Or both?
How does this reflect the state of my heart right now? How does this reflect my relationship with God? Where am I now with God? What is God trying to personally tell me through this verse?
Want an even better idea? Memorize these verses. I used to tell some of the women in my small group that sometimes, in the face of struggle, the word of God may be the only weapon we have because it’s the only weapon we’ll need to fight the enemy. So keep them close to your heart and your mind; you’ll never know when you’ll need them.
If the Bible is how God speaks to you, prayer is how you speak to God. This is your time to talk to Him.
I have to admit, there have been times when I’ve struggled the most with this part because I was too afraid, proud, or ashamed to tell Him what was in my heart (as if He didn’t know I was afraid, proud or shamed already). But in those times, what helped me was by remembering the Person who I was talking to—one that loves me and died for me even when I was a sinner (verse).
8. Apply the Word.
As much as getting to the habit helped me grow in my faith, all that reading would be a waste of my time if I didn’t apply the word. The book of James said it this way:
“Do not only be hearers of the Word, deceiving yourselves, but be doers of the Word.”
You’ll never see the fruit of following Jesus until you actually do follow Him.
The habit of reading the Bible daily isn’t just so we get to grow more in knowledge, but grow more in love. The proverbs tells us: knowledge puffs up, love builds up.
Sometimes I find that knowing more about the Bible can make our heads big, cause us to become judgmental or condescending of others (I’m guilty of this, too). But really, the scripture is supposed to allow us to know and experience about God’s love, and in turn, love Him and others MORE. If it doesn’t do that, there must be something wrong.
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:2