Having time alone with God each day in His Word, the Bible, is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT THING we can do every day. But from personal experience, the first thing to be dropped in a busy day is exactly that: the moment of connection with our Creator in individual prayer, worship and Bible-reading.
Why so important?
I semi-jokingly often say to people that my favourite verse in the Bible is Deuteronomy 14:26 – use your tithe money to have a braai with lots of good meat and even beer, and have a real party, go Bokke! Obviously taken way out of context, but fun nonetheless…
More seriously, 1 Peter 3:15 urges us to “…worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”
The act of intentionally setting aside time alone with God in our day places Christ at the centre of our busy days – and reminds us of His Lordship, His amazing love and grace. And apart from the impact of this on our own lives, it will have a spill-over to those around us. We are equipped through the inspired, authoritative, inerrant words of God for our interactions with others. It places something in our minds that the Holy Spirit can use during the day as we speak to others. This can be in the form of encouragement, or warning, or guidance, or direction, or understanding, or a word of wisdom.
We can be real and authentic with people through having met with our Father.
The richness of Scripture
Most of us have struggled over the years with superficial Bible-reading, haven’t we? To be very honest, it has at times been bewildering, even boring (did I just write that?) to pick and choose the occasional verse when we happen to remember opening our Bibles outside of church. Or it seems a cop-out to cherry-pick key verses listed at the back of our Bibles or diaries for specific purposes – grief counselling, ageing, bitterness, courage, forgiveness, gossip, happiness, debt relief! This WIIFM (what’s-in-it-for-me) approach to the Bible can be shallow and even detrimental.
There is so much more to engaging with God in His Word than this. If we start to engage with larger passages of Scripture… dig deeper into the contextual background… start to interact with whole books of the Bible in their respective genres (e.g. history, poetry)… immerse ourselves in the culture and stories of Biblical personalities… we start to experience God more richly.
Using a tool like Scripture Union’s Closer to God daily devotional for adults helps very ordinary Christians like me to put a consistent, planned daily Bible-reading habit into place. Over 4 years, all books in the Bible are covered. This enables me to experience something of the length and breadth of what God has revealed. And it prevents me simply consuming the words of a famous Christian writer eloquently putting forward her / his thoughts about a single printed verse.
Knock-on to children
When my wife and I tend to have regular time alone with God, I tend to notice my kids doing this as well. There can be no greater joy than seeing one’s children having time alone with God! This is perhaps THE MOST STRATEGIC thing we can aim at as parents.
And the principle is the same for them: having a tool that helps them delve more deeply into Scripture as an individual is critical. Are you aware of what’s out there for children and teens? (Check out WordSpace). And are you helping to make engagement with Scripture less daunting than it needs to be?
Whatever we as parents have managed to instil as a solid foundation is just a beginning. Our young people have to start their own daily Bible-reading habit and so learn to walk with God. This will be the REAL foundation that will anchor them throughout their lives – and in turn, be instilled in their children.
Hearing God as a nation
Being part of Scripture Union (SU), I am privileged to be part of reaching young people for Jesus. SU is passionate about people of ALL ages meeting God in the Word. Over the years, SU has articulated what it holds dear around Bible engagement:
- God’s Word is powerful and speaks to readers (young and old) personally;
- The Holy Spirit opens our minds to that we can understand the Bible;
- Regular, disciplined and systematic Bible-reading is vital in a Christian’s walk with the Lord;
- We concentrate on the Bible itself, not on what someone else says about it;
- Waiting on the Lord in prayer is essential preparation for Bible-reading;
- The Lord speaks to us (individually and corporately) as we take time to meditate on His Word;
- We need to pray and live out what God says to us.
Can you imagine a nation of people meeting with God every day in the Word?
Being expectant and soft-hearted
Pauline Hoggarth points out in her book The Seed and the Soil, God’s Word is “powerful seed”. Despite what we and others tend to put forward as resistances to the Bible and its relevance and authority, it is SO MUCH MORE than we tend to believe. Could it be the right time to approach Scripture with a fresh expectancy, determination and openness?
As we know from Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” We can’t engage with Scripture and not be stirred or affected in some way.
As an exercise, spend a few moments meditating on Jesus’ story of the farmer sowing his seed in Matthew 13:1-9 and then verses 18-23. Where do you see your experiences in this story? Might it be true, as Pauline points out, that we have a low expectation of Scripture? “Our own familiar, culturally orthodox and routine understandings of God’s Word can create a hard-packed surface that makes it difficult for the ever-fertile seed of God’s Word to penetrate.”
By engaging with God in the Word, we should be open and receptive to God’s leading – which will undoubtedly challenge our understandings, values and choices.
Join me in meeting regularly with God in His Word. It may require discipline and effort, and result in courageous, Christ-centred action. But it may be the most important thing we do today.