Late last week, the man God used to get me excited about reading the Bible passed away.
Harvey Friez was our pastor at Community Bible Church during our eight years in Pierre, SD. I came to faith at Community Bible Church in 2005. Along with several other men in that church, Pastor Havery’s faithful preaching and loving example helped me find joy in reading God’s Word.
One line in his obituary read, “He could never get enough of reading and studying his Bible.”
Pastor Harvey’s legacy will be one of faithfully introducing people to a glorious Savior through God’s glorious Word.
To Have the Bible is One Thing and to Read it Quite Another
Most Christians sadly don’t share the hunger Pastor Harvey had for God’s Word. A Lifeway Research survey published in July 2019 found that 41 percent of Americans who attend a Protestant Church on a regular basis only read their Bibles once a week or less. Twenty-seven percent read the Bible a few times per week. Only 32 percent read their Bible on a daily basis.
This hardly seems like “devoted to the apostles’ teaching” as Luke described the early church. (Acts 2:42)
J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) wrote in Bible Reading:
One sweeping charge may be brought against the whole of Christendom, and that charge is neglect and abuse of the Bible. To prove this charge we have no need to look elsewhere: the proof lies at our own doors. I have no doubt that there are more Bibles in our country at this moment than there ever were since the world began. There is more Bible buying—and Bible selling—more Bible printing and Bible distributing—than ever was since we were a nation. We see Bibles in every bookstore, Bibles of every size, price, and style—large Bibles, and small Bibles—Bibles for the rich, and Bibles for the poor. There are Bibles in almost every house in the land. But all this time I fear we are in danger of forgetting, that to “have” the Bible is one thing and to “read” it quite another.
This was the case in England in late 19th-Century England and it’s very much true of the United States today.
Why Don’t We Read The Bible More?
Through ATLAS, I’ve met with many people – most professed Christians – who only engage with God’s Word sporadically. Before we started meeting, a few had never read any part of the Bible on their own.
But almost every person I’ve met with has said they want to read the Bible more. So why don’t they? Why don’t we?
Some acknowledge distractions and busyness in their lives keeps them from reading on a regular basis.
Some Christians have struggles in their lives but don’t believe the Bible provides the right help they need so they don’t read it.
Other Christians are deceived by the comfort and ease of their lives, so they don’t think they need any help, let alone from the Bible. They view God’s Word more like sushi, something they might eat occasionally, instead of like bread that sustains them daily.
Some feel intimidated by the Bible or are unsure how to go about reading it. They have tried to read it from front to back, but got discouraged and gave up when they didn’t understand everything they were reading.
This was certainly true of me. The first time I tried reading the Bible was with my wife Marie shortly after we were married in 2001. For a short time, we tried reading through the Bible together. Marie, who had graduated from a Christian school, seemed to know how to pronounce all these crazy Bible names, places, and words that I had never seen or heard before. She was great and patient with me. But instead of just learning and growing through that time, I was intimidated and even embarrassed by my lack of knowledge, so I pulled back from reading with her.
Along with each of these reasons, I’m sure a lack of desire, a lack of joy, and a lack of wonder all play a role as well.
Why Should We Read the Bible?
The purpose of engaging with the Bible is to engage with God himself. Someone touched by the love of Christ will seek ways to grow deeper in their love for Christ. Reading the written Word of God helps us encounter Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God.
But we can’t control God through our Bible reading or demand that he change us or others on our timetable and in our preferred way. To be sure, reading the Bible doesn’t force God to do anything for us or in us. So why do it?
Marie and I have enjoyed watching a few seasons of the reality show Alone this year. In the show, ten participants are dropped in remote locations with only ten items of their choice. The person to stay in their location the longest wins. Each participant is gifted in wilderness survival. Most have experience hunting, trapping, fishing, and foraging for food. But all that knowledge cannot control nature. The right fishing lures, the right traps, or knowledge of wild edible plants does not force the fish to bite or the animal to step into the trap or wild berries to grow nearby. But the right lures, the right traps, and right knowledge do help create the best opportunity to have a much needed meal in the wild.
In the same way, reading the Bible doesn’t control God. It doesn’t force God to do something for us. But humbly engaging with God’s Word helps create the right conditions in our hearts for God to grow us in Christlikeness.
How Can We Increase Our Delight in God’s Word?
The Psalms begin by saying blessed is the man whose “delight is in the Law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2) When we find delight in God’s Word, we will turn to it regularly.
So how can you end this year prepared to increase your delight in God’s Word in the year (and years) ahead?
To help you do this, I’m going to share a series of posts this week that will discuss four practical ways to help you foster a growing delight in God’s Word.