The Needful Closet (2)

In the last issue, we talked about the need for personal devotions. Let’s examine now the first part of those personal devotions—reading the scriptures.
Our personal devotions should include a focus and meditation on God’s Word. Devotional books can be good but let us never forget the importance of reading the Bible itself. Only God’s word is the pure and eternal truth. His word is and always will be more complete and accurate than any other. It is his own revelation of himself. It is written to you by the one who created you and planned your life. Through Christ, you are a prophet, and God through his Spirit has given you the ability to understand his word (1 Cor. 2:10–16). Of course, we benefit from what other faithful saints have learned to guide us in our study of his word, but we should also believe and trust that God speaks to each one of us personally.
It is God’s word (not someone else’s thoughts on his word) that is more powerful than any other. It creates (Gen. 1). It gives life (Ezek. 37). It sustains all things (Heb. 1:3). It causes us to be born again (1 Pet. 1:23). It sanctifies (John 15:3). It is the conductor of faith (Rom. 10:17). It will accomplish whatever he purposes (Isa. 55:11). Trust the great power of his word to work in you.
Psalm 19:10 tells us the Bible is more precious than gold and sweeter than honey. If God’s word is more important than wealth and food, let us schedule time for reading it before we schedule everything else in our busy lives. When you do, I think you will find that everything else you do in your busy life will be done out of the fruit of what you have read. More and more, you will do your work out of joyful obedience to him. The burdens of life that made you weary will be lightened. You will become more and more familiar with God’s will and what he expects of you. More and more, you will live according to his laws that are now more familiar to you. More and more, you will know his way for you in the different parts of your life. This is wisdom. And we all know the book of Proverbs is full of verses that speak of the importance and the value of wisdom. Wisdom is different than knowledge because it is applying knowledge. If you need knowledge to be wise, and Proverbs tells us that “wisdom is the principal thing” (Prov. 4:7), you must read to gain knowledge so that you can be wise through the power of his word.
How much of his word should you read each day? The answer to this question will be different for each individual. Each individual is unique in level of comprehension, skill of reading, and measure of curiosity. Determine a starting point for yourself, and experiment to find what works best for you. Be ready to increase or decrease the amount you read as you grow and change.
How much time should you spend studying his word? In answering this question, consider the other ways God calls you to spend your time and energy. The Bible calls us to labor, to help others, and to raise a family, among other things. These things not only take a large portion of our time and energy, but we may also want to read and study about those things, in order to be most efficient. The Bible even tells us to see what his creation reveals about him. We are told to “go to the ant” and “consider the lily.” In studying the creation, we may also want to read books to learn more about the world God created. When we read other books, we should remember that we will need God’s word to recognize lies and distortions. We live in a time where there is so much information that is literally at our fingertips or our request (“Hey Siri”). All of that information must come through the screen of God’s word so that we can avoid being led to adopt worldviews that are not in line with scripture or to sin. Be so familiar with his word that you have that screen of discernment—a fine one that does not allow any of the filth of the devil’s lies to reach your mind and heart.
There are a few things I would recommend to help encourage you in this regular reading of the Bible. Surround yourself with others who read Scripture regularly and often share thoughts about what they’ve read. When you have friends who are bubbling over with a zeal for God’s word, you will be inspired to take the time to read so that you may catch that same spirit. Memorize portions of the Bible. That work will cause you to ruminate well on what you’re learning. At the same time, if you are not working on memorizing something, don’t stress about remembering exactly what you have read. Trust that God’s word will find its place in your heart and that you will grow, sometimes even without realizing exactly how. And finally, before you read, pray for eyes to see and ears to hear (Ps. 119:18).
In closing, let’s look at Jesus’ beautiful prayer for his people in John 17. In his prayer, he shows us what we will miss when we let our days fly by without taking the time to read his word. JOY: “these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (v. 13). SANCTIFICATION: “sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (v. 17). ETERNAL LIFE: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (v. 3).