A Tree that Does Not Wither
This past week in my sermon on Esther 9, I discussed the significance and necessity of reading scripture; for just as the Jews who received a letter from Mordecai must read it, so must Christians read the letter written to us, the Bible. If the Jews had refused to read the letters, they would have been left empty of the truth of God’s redemption, which is celebrated at the feast of Purim (Esth. 9:26). In the same way, Christian’s will be vacant of the life-giving truth and power of the gospel, if they neglect a regular dose of God’s inspired word.
While the absence of God’s word leads to grim consequences, the presence of it leads to an abundance of blessing and perseverance in a Christian’s daily walk. Reflect upon Psalm 1 for a moment, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the ways of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the Law (the scriptures) of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He’s like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” (Ps. 1:1-3) This promise offers great hope and joy for any Christian who would give themselves to a lifetime of being grounded and saturated in God’s word. With this hope at the fingertips of Christians, I offer three practical steps for being a tree that does not wither.
Plan and Protect
Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” While not inspired, I find these words to be true when it comes to the task of reading the Bible. I reflect upon periods of my Christian walk where I did not set aside a time or place for reading and studying God’s word, and in effect, I failed to read God’s word. After experiencing seasons of fruitlessness, I recognized that Bible reading is a discipline, and as with any discipline, time must be set aside and protected to ensure practice and productivity. Therefore, Christians must discipline themselves in the task of Bible reading. As the Apostle Paul writes, “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and the life to come…devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Tim. 4:8,13).
Practically, Christians must set aside a time and place for Bible intake. This may be in the morning, afternoon, night, during a lunch break, etc. Preferably, this should be a time where you can get alone to limit distractions and increase attentiveness. It is also encouraged to choose a time of day when you are aware and able to cognitively engage with the text. In addition, set a time limit, i.e., ten minutes, fifteen minutes, maybe thirty minutes. This will help make your task tangible and specific, so you will know if you met your goal or not. Once planned, you must protect. This means you must guard your time with the Lord. This might mean waking up early, moving appointments, or staying up late. But just as in any good marriage, where you cut out time for your spouse, you should protect your time with the Lord. Therefore, plan and protect a time for Bible intake.
This step is quick: find a Bible reading plan. In today’s age, Christians are blessed with an abundance of Bible reading plans. From Robert Murray McShane’s classic yearly reading plan to modern plans based on themes and chronology, you can find almost any plan that will fit your schedule and needs. The decision you must make is, how quickly do you want to read through the Bible? From half-year plans to five-year plans, you can find a plethora of different time frames for reading the Bible (plans will be linked to the bottom of this blog). In my personal preference, I would suggest a year-long plan that takes the reader through the whole Bible. Most year-long plans equate to reading four chapters a day, which for most people takes about fifteen to thirty minutes to read. With a year plan, the reader will understand the major narrative and themes of scripture while also not losing the forest among the trees. No matter what plan you decide, the important thing is you pick one and are faithful to it.
Last step: find an accountability partner who will help you to be faithful in reading the Bible. Wise Solomon once wrote, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17). In the same way, a brother or sister who will help you to remain faithful to your reading plan will help you to be refined by the fiery furnace of God’s word.
When looking for an accountability partner, I would encourage you to look for three things. First, A brother or sister in your local church with whom you will share life. This is important, for if they are going to help you be faithful, they must be in and around your life. A brother or sister who is not consistently in your life will be of little use when it comes to accountability. Second, try to get on the same reading plan. This will help you have awareness about what each other is reading and contribute to a healthy discussion of God’s word. Third, find someone with a passion and excitement for God and his word. When the Apostles chose men to serve in the church, they chose men who were “full of the spirit” (Acts 6:3), at the least, this means they were passionate about the things of God. In the same way, pick an accountability partner who is full of the Spirit who will serve you well in reading the Bible. Finding someone of this quality may be difficult, but it will be beneficial for faithfulness and fruitfulness in reading God’s word.
Grace and peace,