I remember our first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) competition. My kids were the competitors - not me. During each of their 3 minute matches, I was a faithfully cheering mom, but thats all I could really do. Because I didn't know the sport, I couldn't coach them - unlike soccer or basketball where I could shout out a tip or advice. With this, I had nothing.
This could've intimidated me. It was a little uncomfortable not knowing exactly what was happening. We'd only been training for 8 months and it was new for everyone. But with our kids' activities, we can choose to go all in and learn it, we can standby and just watch, or we can resolve to just not be involved.
We have the same options as we respond to our Bibles.
We can approach God's Word with trepidation. Maybe you started out well in your yearly bible reading plan and faithfully made it to Leviticus...and then stopped (or skipped). We get to passages we don't understand or don't seem relevant or we just don't know what to do with, and we pause, perhaps even drift away.
As believers we hold that the Scriptures are God's revelation of Himself to us. In his kindness He gave us insight into His character and His work in the world. We also believe the Scriptures are clear and simple for anyone to understand. This is beautiful privilege of being able to hold His Word in our hands, in our language.
But I wonder if our struggle is less with the Bible itself than it is with our expectations of what the Bible is.
If we approach the Scriptures as a self-help manual, every time we read we ask the question, "what does this mean for me?" The truth is, the Bible isn't about you, it's about God and leads us to praise and glorify Him. So if our first question is about ourselves, we're already missing the point.
Here are some thoughts on making the most of our Bible reading.
Read the Bible To Discover God's Character
Watching my kids compete, I caught glimpses of their character: Their determination, perseverance, disappointment in the face of loss, and compassion toward their teammates. Being with them helped me understand their struggles and their response to them.
To deepen our relationship with God we need to be with Him and ask the right questions about Him. When we're reading we keep Him in view and first seek to understand which of His attributes are reflected in the passage and how that helps us understand it. For the way we think isn't how He thinks, how we act isn't how He does, God is different from us. So, to learn about his character, find a printable list here, a book here, and a tool here.
What passage did you read today? What did you learn about God's character?
Read the Bible to Understand God's Work in the World
In BJJ, one move inevitably leads to the next one. Your goal is to make moves that gain you points or cause your opponent to tap out. If you only watch one move or one takedown, you won't know how the match started, where they each got points, or even who won.
If we're reading a passage, it's a snapshot of the whole story. The Bible is one story telling us about how God has worked in the world from creation, the fall, to redemption and finally how He will work in restoration when He returns. When His words lay before us we want to ask how it fits into the storyline of Scripture and what it teaches us about the Gospel. For He alone knows the plans He has for us and for the world, but He shows us a glimpse in His Word. Again, these are questions not about ourselves they're about God and His work. Focusing our eyes not on us but on Him.
How did the passage you read today fit into the storyline of Scripture? What did it teach you about the Gospel?
Read the Bible Prayerfully
During my kids' matches, I couldn't help or instruct them. I had to trust their coach. See, my kids learned what to do during their practices, but once they were competing, they'd get stuck and not know what to do next, so their coach would remind them.
When we read the Bible, we must trust our coach. This is what the Holy Spirit does for us. He teaches us and brings "to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (John 14:26). John Piper also reminds us, "reading the Bible has zero effect on our lives apart from the Holy Spirit."
Our faithful living depends on the help of the Spirit to empower us to make good choices that we may bring light and life into the world around us.
So we pray and humble ourselves before Him, that what we read will stick and that He will both teach us and remind us of truth throughout our day, to make Him known in all we do.
How did the Holy Spirit teach you or remind you of the Word today?