The Word of God is essential to knowing Christ and becoming like him and yet many struggle with getting into the Word. Do you wonder: How do I get into the Word since I don’t like to read or have a hard time focusing or comprehending what I read? Do you or someone you know struggle with doing “devotions”? Here are some ideas for those who don’t like reading.
First, let’s establish that devotions are vital for the Christian life.
The bible, God’s Word, is the self-disclosure of God. It’s not like any other book. It’s the authorized biography of God, his message to us. It is truth about him, us, and what he is doing to redeem. It is powerful, carrying his transformative life, to those who believe.
Jesus told us, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”–John 8:31-32. Jesus is teaching that following him and being in his Word are inseparable. To follow Jesus is to listen to and obey his Word. He is also teaching that it’s in the Word we find truth and its in the truth we find freedom.
And so, for the person who wants to know God deeply, understand who they are and what they are destined for, and walk in his ways the bible is an essential tool, an indispensable gift. Hunger for and consumption of the Word is vital to growing and developing as a follower of Christ. It is an essential part of our spiritual diet–Acts 20:32.
By listening to the Word, we hear Jesus, we receive him, we get to know him, we observe him. By responding in prayer and worship we engage with him, become vulnerable, let him know us, and transform us. The more time we spend with someone, the better we get to know them. It’s that simple. The more you know someone, the more you become like them. That is discipleship 101. Be with Jesus, become like Jesus. The call to an intimate relationship with Jesus is the most enjoyable and powerful. It’s so attractive.
How can we know God if we don’t listen? If all we do is talk and never listen how can we get to know him or allow him to influence us? Many people pray but never turn to the Word of God and the leadership of the Holy Spirit to allow The Lord to reveal himself and his will. That doesn’t work in a human relationship; it would be like having a relationship with yourself. How do you feel if someone only talks about themselves, almost treating you like a microphone or an ornament? God wants to be known; he wants a real relationship. And you and I need to be influenced by him; we need to hear from him in order to know his will and ways. We need to know the truth. More word, more truth, more light, more transformation. It’s that simple.
This is precisely why I constantly encourage people to be in the Word of God daily.
And yet, despite its importance, many are discouraged in some way by the call to read the bible. Some hate to read or find it tedious because of struggles with Dyslexia or focus. Some are confused because of the strangeness of another culture; some don’t know where to begin with such a large book. Some are busy, possibly spending hours commuting or taxiing children.
Whatever the reason, if you struggle with reading the bible but recognize the importance of being in the word, here are some simple ideas I hope will help you:
First, listen to the bible rather than read it. Don’t feel you are “cheating” by not reading. The goal is not to read but to get the word into our hearts through our eyes and ears. In fact, the bible was written to be heard–you may catch more by listening. There are many commands to hear the Word in the bible (not as many to read it). You can find free audio recordings of the bible online. Try www.youversion.com. You can use your computer or smart phone. You can start a “reading” plan (I recommend the solid lives reading plan) and listen to the bible daily (try the NLT or ESV translations).
You can listen when you are driving, cooking, or working on a project. You can turn off music or talk radio, and spend some time listening to the word and then talking with God about it.
You can also combine reading and listening. For those who struggle to focus, reading the bible while someone else reads it to you or reading out loud yourself may help you to focus and retain more. I also encourage you to read smaller portions (I.e. One New Testament chapter a day).
Second, listen to podcasts. The preaching of the Word is a powerful way to get the word into our hearts. Again, this is not cheating! Though it’s important to read or listen to the bible ourselves so we understand the context and can own what others are teaching, preaching can greatly aid in understanding the bible and in growing in faith. Paul emphasizes our need for a preacher in Romans 10: 14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent?. There are many good preachers offering free online podcasts or who teach on TV or the radio. You can download podcasts onto your phone and listen throughout your day. Check out http://jerrydirmann.com/. That’s just one of many I listen to weekly to build my faith.
Third, read the Bible with others. You don’t have to do devos alone to make them “count”. If you are relational, find others who are like you. Gather at a coffee shop or living room, read the bible together, talk about it, and pray. One of my best friends and ministry partners is a business owner. He begins everyday with a group of people (some employees and some church members) reading the bible and then praying. He calls it Daily Alignment (DA), inspired by Hebrews 3:13, “but exhort one another DAILY, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Notice God is speaking DAILY and we need the Word DAILY. And yet, we are not told to read the bible by ourselves daily. Rather, we are called to exhort (or preach to) to one another DAILY. This is what the early church did (see Acts 2).
Fourth, engage your heart and mind and engage God in conversation. How? By meditating out loud on what you read and by talking to God about it. “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success (Joshua 1:8). Meditating on the Word is one of the most potent ways to get it into our hearts and build our faith. In fact, most people are either bored with the Bible or missing the power of the truth because they don’t speak the Word out of their mouth. Until the Word comes out of your mouth with faith you won’t see God’s power. This is one of those “think smarter and not harder” principles. Meditating on God’s Word will not only help you focus more but it will lead to deeper intimacy with God and greater transformation. The goal is not only to read and know a lot of the bible, but to believe and obey the truths of the bible. Instead of trying to consume a lot with little comprehension, try reading less and meditating and praying more. Become focused, fixated, obsessed with the truths you discover. Meditate all day–ponder, think about, discuss, share, converse with God, sing…. As we see in Joshua 1:8, it’s when we meditate that our faith is built, we receive strength to obey God, and then blessing is released.
When you listen to the Word or when hear someone preach the Word, one of the best ways to get it into your heart is to study it yourself, meditate/think about it, and then talk to God about it. Simply pick verse (or a few) to meditate on all day/week. I recommend that after listening to a message about the truths of Scripture from a person, read or listen to the passages they expounded on yourself. Then spend time thinking and praying about it with God. The more you respond to the Word, creating dialog, the more you will be able to receive from The Lord and allow him to transform you.
Do you have other ideas or resources that have helped you or others? Please suggest them in the comments feed.
Where to begin with the bible? Check out this reading/listening plan (you can also find it on youversion.com).
Want to start a friendship with God? Read this post.
Want to grow in your relationship with God? Check out OSLonline.com. It’s a powerful discipleship process that transformed my life and ministry.
Want to read commentaries that explain the bible or study the Bible? Check out blueletterbible.org (its free!).
Enjoy God! He enjoys you!