Have you ever gone through one of those read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year reading plans? What happened when you got to Leviticus?
When I followed one, there were certain times I would open my Bible with a sigh, counting the number of days I had left of a particular book and hoping to gain some kind of encouragement from reading about the process of dipping a bird in blood for ceremonial cleansing (Lev. 14).
And if I didn’t keep up with reading three chapters a day, I knew it would be a year or two before I even got to the Epistles, with straight-forward encouragement like, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
It didn’t seem fair that God would include so much detail from the covenant given in the Old Testament since He established a new covenant through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
I’d shut my Bible and wonder how the chapter I read was supposed to help me with my Math test or interacting with classmates in the lunchroom.
I had the same problem as Bible teacher Jen Wilkin, who in her early years said, “I believed the purpose of the Bible was to help me.” (p. 24)
I recently read her book, “Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds,” and was reminded of two truths.
The first is that the Bible is a book about God, not about me.
The second is that it’s just as important to love God with our minds as it is to love Him with our hearts.
Not About Me
Jen shared that, “The Bible is a book that boldly and clearly reveals who God is on every page” (p. 23).
God has chosen to show Himself through the written words of Scripture, all of which help us get to know Him as our perfect Prophet, Priest and King.
It wasn’t intended to be read like a devotional, with a helpful tidbit for the day.
When I judged my times set aside for Bible reading based on how I felt a certain chapter would help me in my current circumstances, I missed the chance to let each passage grow my understanding of the God who is in charge of the universe and loved me enough to die for me.
When I read it only to pick out how I was supposed to act and behave, it kept my focus on my own ability to measure up or how I’d failed to follow His commands.
Jen wrote that, “There can be no true knowledge of self apart from the knowledge of God…When I read that God is slow to anger, I realize that I am quick to anger. When I read that God is just, I realize that I am unjust.
“Seeing who he is shows me who I am in a true light. A vision of God high and lifted up reveals to me my sin and increases my love for him. Grief and love lead to genuine repentance, and I begin to be conformed to the image of the One I behold (p. 26-27).
I could probably write out a list of attributes of God, but it will be hard to believe each one is true without seeing those characteristics manifested in the Story of Scripture.
If I only depend on my own limited experiences with God, I won’t notice the thread of God’s plan of redemption unfolded over hundreds of years, and trust His part for me in that. (Click here for a kid-friendly narrative of God’s rescue plan shown through all of Scripture.)
Mind Before Heart
As I’ve read prayers I’d written out in past years, (amazed by how much I could accomplish when there weren’t little hands to steal my writing utensils), in almost every one I declared my love for God before signing my name (as if He wouldn’t know who wrote the prayer).
I’d write about an incredible experience at a youth retreat or question why He was allowing the circumstances of a crush or a mean teacher to distract me from Him.
While I don’t want to laugh off the things I used to worry about (because they were real fears at the time), it makes me grateful for the things I’ve learned about God as I continue to deal with ever-changing circumstances.
I don’t think it will ever be easy for me to trust God with the future, but when those worry-filled thoughts begin to attack, I’ve experienced more victory in clinging tightly to God’s truths as I’ve grown in the knowledge of Him.
But what happens when the responsibilities of being an adult seem too monotonous to be fair?
Why do dishes have to keep getting dirty?
And how does that laundry basket fill up so fast?
And where did those three hours before lunch just go?
If I measure my relationship with God by how many times I feel a rush of emotion, I will be riding a roller coaster of happiness and discouragement (or think I’m just trapped on a boring kiddie ride of bills, shopping, and potty training).
Here are three encouragements I’ve received in the pursuit of biblical knowledge.
- It’s a journey, not a sprint.
Some days, when I hit the snooze too many times, and any moments of concentration are interrupted by “Mommy, watch this!” I might not feel like I’m making progress at all.
But God is not blind to our roles or stage of life. He entrusted them to us, and rejoices in our commitment to learning about Him, even if we aren’t able to read an entire passage in its context, or our study notes get covered in crayon scribbles.
I really appreciated reading through Jen Wilkin’s Biblestudy method as a framework for growing in Bible literacy as she shared about keeping “The Big Story” of the Bible in mind, learning about the original audience and authors, and focusing on comprehension before jumping to interpretation and application.
2. It deepens our prayer lives.
When I take time to think about the ways I’ve seen Christopher show me patience, love, and grace–laundry left on the floor or a forgotten appointment don’t seems so important.
When I discover an attribute of God in Scripture, it gives me something to praise and thank Him for, no matter what I’m going through.
By covering our times of studying the Bible in prayer, it reminds me that this isn’t some school assignment. It’s an invitation to intimacy as we celebrate a relationship with our wonderful God.
3. It helps us to delight in and enjoy Jesus more.
Who in this world doesn’t long for significance? Security? Satisfaction?
When we let our knowledge of Him flow over into the way we work and serve, the things that we spend our time on will bring us into His satisfaction.
The diaper changes will hold significance.
The financial troubles will be filled with His security.
When we let the Spirit carve the truths we learn into our hearts, people will see tiny reflections of Him when they look at us. And we will be free to open our arms to the beauty of an ever-deepening relationship with Him.
His Word is living and active. And as the prophet Isaiah reminds us,
“As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)
Will you ask the Father how He would have you love Him with your mind in this season of life?
Will you determine to know Him and trust that what He teaches you will bring the encouragement and direction you need?