I sat with the youth group last Wednesday night listening to the youth minister discuss the importance of reading and understanding the Bible–not a new concept but definitely discussed in a fresh way. As he was speaking my mind kept wandering to my own personal metaphor–reading the Bible is much like running for me.
- Start small. When I began running, I didn’t plan to run a marathon. That was too daunting for me to wrap my mind around. I began by running a mile. Once I accomplished that consistently, I increased to 2 miles, and so forth. Reading the Bible is no different. You don’t have to begin with the 365 day reading plan. Start with a 7 day reading plan or a short book, like James.
- Be consistent. I had to make consistent effort and to plan my runs for very specific times and days that I could maintain. I scheduled those runs very deliberately, so I knew my husband could watch the kids and I could focus on my time to run. Reading the Bible is similar–find the time of day and location that best allows you to focus on God’s Word without distractions or time limits consistently.
- Set goals. I’m a goal-driven woman; I always have been. When I began running, it was because I signed up for a 5km race, so it helped me to stay on track. Though we all want our time for reading and learning to be sincere and organic, that’s not always going to happen at first. We have to train our schedules, our minds, our time–so setting a goal is helpful. Maybe this goal is a 7 day plan, completing an entire book, reading a chapter a day, or studying for 10 minutes. Goals need to be short term (not “by the end of the year”) and easily accomplished at first.
- Junk food makes poor performance. If you have ever run after eating (or drinking) junk food, you know exactly what I mean! Eating junk food and drinking sugary pops and alcohol make you feel tired, weak, miserable and cause you to turn around really fast. Likewise, if all you are reading (or watching or listening to) is “junk food” that isn’t holy/spiritual/glorifying then what can you expect of your Christian faith? Your walk with God will feel exhausting, weak, miserable and will make you want to quit. Read your Bible and “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8) His Word is food for the soul and nourishment to keep you going.
- It’s not a competition. I run alone–always. I like being on the road or trail by myself setting my own pace and time and mileage goals. However, I run for my own benefit, not to compete with others. Likewise, reading the Bible is to your benefit. You gain a closer relationship with God and a better understanding of who He is and what His will is. It doesn’t matter that someone else has read through the Bible 5 times, that doesn’t make them a better Christian. Understanding God and who He is will give you the insight and hope to help you manage life.
- I don’t always love it. I ran for 6 years before I could even begin to say that I liked running, let alone say that I loved it. If most Christians were being honest, they would say they don’t love reading the Bible–probably because they find it difficult. I know that some truly do, but I think for most of us, reading the Bible is a skill and a pasttime that requires us to practice it until we grow to love it. It was finally around year 5 of running that I could admit to myself (and my husband) that running was such a huge part of my life that it actually affected my mood and my perspective on life if I didn’t run. I was a visibly different person on a day without a run. We have to work hard to want to read the Bible. Sometimes it takes the every day routine and practice and forcing of it…until we truly love it so much that we can’t go a day without it.
- It’s a natural part of life. Unless you have a physical condition that prevents you from running, humans were born to run. It’s the first thing kids want to do once they can walk. In fact, we spend a lot of time telling kids NOT to run–don’t run in the halls, don’t run in the house, don’t run into the street, don’t run with sharp objects–but kids want to run. God made us to run…just like he made us to be relational. He craves a relationship with us, and we have the Bible as one way to connect to our Creator and Savior and Lord. Why wouldn’t we do what is most natural and spend time with the person who has done everything for us?
- It’s all mental. Running is 3 parts–legs, lungs, and mind. Although all three are important, the mental part might be the most important. People talk themselves out of running before they even begin–“I could never do that.” “I have bad knees.” “I don’t have the time.” In reality, most people just don’t want to attempt…because it’s hard, it hurts, and it takes a whole lot of mental fortitude. The Bible was written a long time ago, in varying languages, with different historical contexts, and by varying authors. It takes some mental fortitude to sit down and attempt to read and apply it. A lot of people are content with listening to a sermon on Sunday, choosing specific “favorite” verses, or reading instagram posts as their link to the Bible. The problem with this: no one truly understands how the Bible is functioning. You wouldn’t read a novel this way…so why would you read the Word of God this way. It definitely takes an open mind and an open heart to read God’s Word.
I’m a work in progress. Though I would love to tell you that I spend an hour each day sitting at a local coffee shop making notes and pouring myself into my Bible…let’s be honest, I don’t have that kind of time on my hands. I live a busy life with more responsibilities on my plate than room for it. I’m spending 2017 trying to improve my Biblical literacy so that I am “always prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks me to give the reason for the hope that I have.” (1 Peter 3:15) Please feel free to join me on the journey of running and reading–for our benefit and God’s glory.
Wishing you a peace and joy in reading God’s Word,