Bible Reading as a Spiritual Discipline - Radical

Bible Reading as a Spiritual Discipline

We need God’s Word more than we need physical sustenance. Jesus realized this when he responded to Satan’s temptation by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” That’s one reason Bible reading is such a critical spiritual discipline. 

Regularly reading Scripture is also important because it informs and fuels the other personal spiritual disciplines. In order to be faithful in prayer, for example, we need to know what God’s Word tells us to pray for. Similarly, being faithful in evangelism requires that we know which truths unbelievers need to hear in order to be saved. If we want to grow in these and other disciplines, then we need to know God’s Word. 

In what follows, I want to make a few suggestions concerning the personal spiritual discipline of Bible reading. There’s certainly more to say on this topic, [1] but I hope these suggestions will spur you on to greater faithfulness in this all-important spiritual discipline.

Get Fuel from the Gathering

Don’t make the mistake of practicing this discipline (or any of the others) as an isolated individual. When it comes to Bible intake, the church’s corporate worship should be ground zero for every Christian. It’s in the weekly gathering that we hear the Scriptures proclaimed by men whom Christ has given to the church for its equipping and spiritual maturity (Ephesians 4:11–15; 1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 4:1–5). The apostle Paul also mentions the importance of the “public reading of Scripture” (1 Timothy 4:13). Hearing God’s Word on Sunday should give us a greater appetite for reading it throughout the week.

In addition to the corporate gathering, other ministries of the church should enrich our own personal Bible reading. Whether it be classes, small groups, Bible studies, or casual one-on-one conversations, we are built up by other believers who “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

Remember Who’s Speaking

When our schedules get busy or when we get distracted, it’s all too easy for us to lose motivation. It’s too easy for our Bible reading to become just another item on our to-do list. That’s why we need to be reminded who is speaking to us. God, the living God, the one who spoke the world into existence and continues to uphold it by his power, he is the one who speaks in the words of Scripture. And it’s not simply his power and authority that should make us eager to hear from him, for he is also our Redeemer. How could we not want to hear from a loving heavenly Father who sent his only Son to take on flesh and die in our place so that we might be reconciled to him forever? 

Recognizing God as the one who is speaking should also give us greater confidence in Scripture’s reliability and power. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), so we know that he will keep his promises; God’s power is unlimited (Jeremiah 32:17), so we know that he will fulfill all of his good and wise purposes. Because Scripture is breathed out by him, we can be confident in its ability to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

Have the Right Posture

Since it’s God who is speaking to us in the words of Scripture, it only makes sense that we would approach our Bible reading with a sense of awe, submission, and glad dependence. Isaiah 66:2 reminds us of the kind of heart posture that pleases God:

But this is the one to whom I [the Lord] will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

We don’t come to Scripture demanding that God tell us what we want to hear or to have our own ideas affirmed. We come as servants to a Sovereign Master, as children to an all-wise Heavenly Father. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom …” (Proverbs 9:10).

A right heart posture in our Bible reading also involves a sense of longing and delight. Because God is more satisfying than all this world offers, we should treasure his words more than gold (Psalm 119:127) and long for his commandments (v. 131). 

Finally, having the right posture in our Bible reading involves recognizing that we need help. Only the Spirit of God knows the thoughts of God (1 Corinthians 2:6–16), so we should regularly ask him to help us understand and respond rightly to what we’re reading.

Make a Plan

Being consistent in your Bible reading requires some intentionality. Many people find it helpful to establish a routine in terms of the time of day and the place that they read their Bible. Try to find a time when distractions are limited and when you are not ready to fall asleep. I realize this is more difficult for some (for example, moms with small children). You might need to get creative or ask for help from a spouse. 

In addition to deciding where and when you’ll read, it’s also helpful to plan what you’ll read. There are numerous Bible reading plans out there, or you can go at your own pace. Regardless, be intentional rather than basing your reading on whatever page you flip to that morning or whatever mood you happen to be in. This discipline is worthy of some planning.

Read Deep and Wide

As you plan to read the Bible regularly, be aware of two unhelpful extremes. First, there’s a danger of racing through a one-year Bible reading plan, dipping in and out of multiple books each day, without stopping to think carefully about the truths you’re encountering. We should take the time to study and meditate on God’s promises, his awe-inspiring attributes, and the saving work of Jesus Christ. 

The second danger is to focus all your time on your favorite passages, books, and topics in the Bible. This can leave you with an impoverished view of God and the Christian life. Every Christian needs to be exposed to “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). So read widely across both testaments, from Genesis to Revelation. 

Stick with It

Finally, think of your daily Bible reading more like a marathon than a sprint. Some days you will gain exciting new insights, while on others you may walk away with more questions than answers. That’s ok. God uses his Word to shape our thoughts, desires, attitudes, and actions, often in ways that we’re not aware of. 

Growing in your understanding of Scripture takes time, so be prepared to stick with it. And don’t get frustrated and quit just because you’re not meeting your reading goals. Remember, your aim is to grow in your love for God. Your Bible reading is a means to that great end.

For more on spiritual disciplines, see the following articles:


[1] See, for example, David Mathis’s Habits of Grace and Don Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

David Burnette serves as the Senior Editor for Radical. He lives with his wife and three kids in Birmingham, Alabama, and he serves as an elder at Philadelphia Baptist Church. He received his Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.


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