There are times in all of our lives when we struggle to pick up the Bible and read it. Today, Burk Parsons explores several of the reasons behind this struggle and reminds us of the benefits of dwelling regularly in God’s Word.
NATHAN W. BINGHAM: We’re joined this week on the podcast by the editor of Tabletalk magazine, Dr. Burk Parsons. Dr. Parsons, sometimes as Christians, we just don’t feel like reading the Bible. Why is that?
DR. BURK PARSONS: Well, it’s a great question, and it’s one that I think we don’t talk about as much as we should. It’s something that I think, in particular, new Christians and younger Christians need to understand—that sometimes they don’t feel like reading the Bible for all sorts of reasons. But that’s also true of older Christians. That’s true of elders and pastors. That’s true of elderly Christians. That’s true of very mature Christians.
And the reality of it is that we’re comprehensive and incomprehensible human beings. Our minds trick us. Our hearts deceive us. We don’t even really understand why we feel the way we do at times. We don’t always understand our own motives. We don’t always know why we feel a certain way. I mean, why do we sometimes feel like reading a book and sometimes feel like watching a movie or watching a show? Why do we sometimes feel like working around the house and sometimes feel like sitting down on the sofa? Why do we sometimes feel like eating this or not eating that?
There are all sorts of reasons for these things, and we don’t want to make reading the Bible as trivial as that. But still, we do need to understand that we are very complex human beings with complex emotions, all of us with different ways of thinking about things, different sins in our hearts, different motives, and different priorities.
But I think when it comes right down to it, one of the reasons that we sometimes don’t feel like reading the Bible is because sometimes it has been some of the sort of pharisaical, legalistic standards that people have put on us to make us feel like we have to read so many chapters of the Bible, or we have to get through the Bible within a particular amount of time, and we have to read so many chapters a day in order to get through it so that we can tell someone we’ve done it, or we have to fulfill a quota of reading the Bible.
Sometimes it has been imposed on people to read a certain amount of the Bible in a certain amount of time. And that makes them feel like not reading it, because they feel like they have to do it. And we want people to want to do it. We want people to read the Bible not because they have to, but because they want to do it—because they love to go to the Lord, and they love to commune with the Lord, and they love to read about the Lord.
But we all know that when we read the Bible, that the Bible also reads us. That it examines us. That when we begin to read Scripture, it confronts us. It convicts us. It shows us our sin. It helps us to see how much we really are in need. It helps us to see that we’re not as, maybe, good as we thought we were. It confronts our pride. It confronts our vanity. It confronts our arrogance. It confronts our presuppositions about God, about ourselves, and it reminds us of who we are. And it kind of puts us in our place. It reminds us that God is a big God, and He is sovereign. He is all-powerful.
And even that is sometimes difficult. Because when we read the Bible and we read of the sovereignty of God, that gives us comfort, but it also gives us a real sense of awe and fear of the Lord because we have to acknowledge and recognize what our great God is capable of accomplishing and doing even through suffering, even through loss. I don’t know about you, but that’s not easy for me, because when I read the story of Job, I think about my own kids. I think about my own life. I think about what I have, and I realize that God could take it away. When I look at the sufferings of Christ, I realize that Paul tells us that we’re going to share in the sufferings of Christ in some way in this life, and that scares me, but it makes me run to the Lord.
When I read the stories of Jesus and the teaching of Jesus, I’m confronted by His humility and His grace and realizing that, as a pastor, I don’t always exemplify that grace and that humility. When I read the Bible, I’m convicted. It comforts me, and it also convicts me. It gives me joy, but it also gives me a sobering awareness of who I am and the realities of this life—the realities of sinners, the realities of problems and divisions and issues in the church. And so, the Bible is a real book for real people who are, in many ways, incomprehensible. We’re difficult to understand.
And so, I think sometimes the reason it’s difficult for us to read the Bible, again, for all Christians at some level—and maybe not in every day—maybe every day, many Christians feel fine reading the Bible and have a good routine. That’s wonderful. But there are times—I guarantee it—that as old and as mature as a Christian might be, there are times when it’s difficult. Especially when they’ve suffered tragedy and trial, it can be difficult. And in those times, all they want to do is rest in communion with the Lord in prayer. But in doing that, those aged, mature, godly saints are oftentimes relying upon what they know from their decades of reading Scripture in their prayers to God, thus doing exactly what God has called us to do when we read Scripture—to hide it in our hearts.
And so, what I hope for people is that they would want to read Scripture and they would love reading Scripture. They would love to hide it in their hearts. They would love to be able to meditate upon it so that, in all of life, in all of their prayer and communion with the Lord, their knowledge of Scripture would naturally come out, as naturally as waking and sleeping, eating and breathing.
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