Editor’s Note: Recently, our Study Together groups worked through Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline. So many helpful conversations ensued that we thought we’d create a blog series on the topic. For the next six months, our first post will focus on one of the spiritual disciplines. Today we start with the discipline of study. Enjoy!
“…your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart…” Jeremiah 15:16
Last summer, I worked through a Bible Reading Challenge. Prior to this challenge, I failed out of every reading plan I ever tried, but this was only a three-month plan. I could handle that, couldn’t I? I learned some valuable things during this plan, and one of them was that I didn’t like reading the Bible! Let me explain: There were days when my boys would wake while I was having my quiet time. I’d look at the clock and realize that though I’d been in the Word for quite a while, I was only halfway through the first of five chapters that I was supposed to read that day. I’d find myself so frustrated! How was I supposed to get all of this in?
Mid-summer, I had a lightbulb moment. I realized that reading Scripture and studying Scripture were not the same thing. I had never distinguished those two activities from one another before, and what freedom came with this realization! I was hating reading the Bible because I was loving studying the Bible, and there weren’t enough hours in the day for me to study the entire reading plan at the depth that I desired to study it.
So I learned to actually read my Bible, moving at a faster pace than I had in my previous study sessions. Guess what happened as I read? God spoke. Although this was not the pace I naturally liked to go through Scripture, God spoke to me over and over again through His Word. I found that I was in different parts of Scripture much more quickly than I would have arrived otherwise, and He had me exactly where I needed to be, reading exactly what I needed to read each day.
Reading and studying the Bible may be different skills, but they are both extremely valuable and worth the effort. God works through both disciplines! Although I’ve learned to enjoy simply reading my Bible, I still value and need time in deep Bible study. Some of you may have an opposite experience from me: you’re a strong Bible reader but need to grow in study. Be encouraged that God wants to meet you in whichever camp you’re in!
If you are more naturally inclined to study rather than read, I challenge you to read at a faster pace. Read a lot! Let the big picture of Scripture captivate you. Even if it’s more comfortable for you to go deep and drill down into the passage, realize that there is value in consuming large quantities of Scripture even when you need to pick up the pace and can’t linger in one place as long as you would like. Perhaps choose a reading plan that does not have something to read every day. Spend weekdays “on plan,” and allow yourself to dig deeper on the weekends. This will allow you to have some time in your comfort zone and some time being stretched into consuming more Scripture.
If you prefer reading to studying, consider choosing a short book and camping out there for a while. Begin by reading the whole book, which perhaps will feel more comfortable to start. Then print it out. Grab some colored pens and underline repeated words. Ask questions: Why is this repeated? What does this teach me about Jesus? Use a study Bible to learn more about the context that the book was written in. Pray through Scripture using words right from the text. Re-read the same part in a different version of the Bible and compare. Join a Bible study to study with others.
Whether you prefer to read or to study, get into the Bible. Ask God to make His Word a joy and a delight to your heart. Study the Bible. Read the Bible. Delight in God’s wonderful Word.