Spiritual growth is not a suggestion, but instead something we are called to actively participate in. Peter writes, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (1 Peter 3:18 ESV). Followers of Jesus need spiritual disciplines and exercises in their lives in order to grow toward maturity.
There are times, though, when what worked in the past doesn’t seem to have the same impact anymore. It’s time to switch things up and approach those disciplines with a new exercise routine!
One necessary spiritual discipline is spending time in the Word of God. This is done through reading and studying, but there is too much to share to squeeze both into one post, so this post will focus on reading, and another will concentrate on studying.
Is it time to explore a new Bible translation?
I started reading the NIV, moved onto the NKJV, then the ESV, and now I’ve been in the New Living Translation for a few years. Changing up the translation you read can bring things to life you never saw before. By all means do your homework to choose an appropriate version, but making even a little change can make a big difference!
Is it time for a new reading plan?
Have you been stuck in a rut, reading the Bible cover to cover in the order it appears in print? There are a ton of resources available to lead you through reading your Bible in different ways.
The YouVersion Bible app has a whole section of reading plans dedicated to getting you through the entire Bible, with different time frame options (one year, six months, 60 days, and even 30 days).
One option would be to read it chronologically, in the order it was written.
Another is to read a chunk of the Old Testament, a passage from the New Testament, and a few verses from Psalms and Proverbs each day.
You could also try breaking it down throughout your day by reading passages from the Old and New Testaments in the morning, a chapter in Proverbs at lunch, and a Psalm before bed. Reading smaller chunks at a time may help you to digest what you’ve read better and get more out of it.
Do you actively read the Word?
Reading your Bible should not simply be something to check off on your daily to-do list. Think of it like a meal. Food provides energy and nutrition to keep us going. We wouldn’t just forget to eat for days on end!
But that very thing may happen with spending time in the Word. We get through a few days, and think, “Ooops! I haven’t read my Bible since last Tuesday!” And we wonder why our spirits are getting dry and a bit weak. It’s because we haven’t eaten anything!
Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.
You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope.Psalm 119:105, 114 NLT
When you sit down to read, begin with prayer. Do you thank God for your food before you eat a meal? Thank Him for His Word before you jump in! Ask Him for an open heart and an open mind to hear what He is saying to you through the passage you have in front of you for the day. Pray, believing that He hears and will answer you!
Giving the Word time to sink into our spirits requires intention and interaction. Physically interacting with the text in some way helps get the meaning further into our minds and hearts. Here are just a few ways you can do just that.
Choose a different color of highlighter for each of these categories:
- Attribute of God
- Command to obey
- Example to follow
- Promise to believe
- Sin to avoid
Highlight as you read, which requires paying attention to what you’re reading! Not every word or sentence will get color, but it will make different passages stand out for different reasons.
Here is an example from my reading a few years ago. Can you decipher my color categories? Hint: one of my categories is not highlighted, but underlined in red.
After reading and highlighting, pray! Talk to God about what you read, and ask Him to help you apply what you’ve learned.
Write it Out
As you read your passage for the day, find one or two verses that really jump out at you. Write this verse down, taking your time to really digest what it’s saying. You can make it as plain or as fancy as you like!
Now mark up your copy any way that brings out the meaning for you. Circle, underline, highlight, doodle, whatever makes the most sense to you. There is no right or wrong way here! The point is to actively interact with the Word.
Listen and read together
Open your Bible and an app that reads the Bible to you. Make sure they’re both the same translation! Listen to someone else read the day’s passage to you while you follow along in your physical Bible pages. Getting the Word in through the eyes and ears simultaneously, again, increases its effect on your heart and mind.
Youversion’s Bible app is one resource that will read aloud for you.
Where do you read?
Finally, sometimes all it takes is a change in surroundings to somehow bring new life to things.
If you always read in the same chair with the same cup of coffee, maybe it’s time to take your Bible (and maybe the same coffee, I don’t want to upset too much at once!!) and sit at the kitchen table.
Or if it’s a nice day, take your Bible and read outside while the birds are singing in the morning.
Perhaps it’s a good day to jump in the car with your Bible and go to one of your favorite spots with a view.
Stay tuned for ideas to reboot your Bible study . . .
Now it’s your turn!
What will you try next to freshen up your reading routine? I’d love to hear your plans!
What methods have you used in the past that I didn’t mention in this post? Share in the comments below–your idea may help another reader level up their time in the Word!
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.Hebrews 4:12 NLT