A friend is currently reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace. He says it’s taken a good few hundred pages, but at last he is really into it. It’s like that with books sometimes. They take a while to grab your attention. Generally, the turning point happens when you finally start to care about the characters—when what happens to them matters to you.
Something similar can happen with The Book. A moment comes when reading the Bible stops being a chore and becomes a pleasure. When, in other words, it becomes what it claims to be—a delight, a treasure, the very words of life. (Jer 15:16; Prov 7:1; Phil 2:16)
That moment may mark the point a person first becomes a believer. You might hear it in a testimony: “It was as if the words came alive”; “I just couldn’t stop reading”; “It finally made sense to me and the effect was electric.”
But that kind of shift can happen in a believer’s life as well. It might be when a period of spiritual dryness comes to an end. Or a major life change is approaching. Or a particular spiritual challenge. Most of us experience ebbs and flows in our devotional life, but sometimes the tide turns so rapidly it really does feel as if we are reading a new book.
So, here’s a question worth answering: is there anything we can do to trigger that kind of moment? In a dry spell, is there something that will foster some new spiritual energy? When reading has become a chore what, if anything, can shift us away from duty and toward delight?
Well, much like my friend with War and Peace, a good place to start is to revisit our interest in the characters. Or perhaps I should say, character. For the Bible is really a book about one person: God. He is the hero on every page. How much do we really care about him? So much of the time we read the Bible as if it were all about us. How can I find some comfort? How can I get a little guidance? How can I be spiritually strong? We come to the Bible as if it were a self-help manual, as if its prime purpose were to help us fix our problems. But it isn’t.
The Bible’s prime purpose is to bring glory to God. It does that by declaring his excellence and establishing his kingdom and, finally and wonderfully, by bringing all things together under one Head, even Christ (Eph 1:10). As long as we insist on reading the Bible as if it were all about us, we will not only miss the point, we will find it dull because we won’t be interested in the character that it is describing—God himself.
We would also do well to bring some questions. Passive reading is never a great success; but to read actively; to be full of puzzles as we come to God’s Word, that helps a lot. Thrillers and whodunnits and mystery books are always good for night-time reading because they keep our interest even when we are tired. The Bible, too, is a kind of mystery thriller. Admittedly it is a mystery made known (Eph 3:3), but it is a mystery that we will go on exploring into eternity and still never really fathom (1 Tim 3:16). So be intrigued, be puzzled. Instead of reading God’s Word to confirm the stuff we believe already, we should go searching for the surprises. When we come to the bits that seem a little odd or that we are sure can’t mean what they seem to be saying, those are usually the points when God is about to show us something new; something we hadn’t previously understood. It will be dull if we treat the Bible as if it were nothing more than the same old, same old. But the fact is that God has uncovered mysteries into which even the angels in heaven long to gaze. (1 Pet 1:12)
How is the Bible to you at the moment? A page turner or a turn off-er?
These and similar questions about bringing life to Scripture and Scripture to life will be addressed further at the 2018 National Conference. Click here for more information and to register.