With our emphasis on knowing God’s Word in 2018, we’re excited for this new series on spiritual disciplines. Each month, we’ll unpack a different spiritual discipline, defining it as well as offering some ideas for practical application!
As we approach our new theme, Know His Word (#KnowHisWord18), and strive toward greater biblical literacy and consequently knowing God more dearly, we also want to take time each month to highlight a spiritual practice that we believe to be foundational and instrumental to the building up of our faith.
In other words, a spiritual discipline. (Just for a second, let’s set aside any knee-jerk reactions that rise up within us when we hear that phrase. It’s easy to just shut off when we hear the word discipline. Let’s ask God to give us ears to hear and open hearts to understand if this is something He wants us to grow in.)
Most of us don’t love the idea of discipline. But, I wonder if God uses things like spiritual disciplines as training wheels to teach us heavenly rhythms. Maybe He gives us smaller things so that we can begin to learn to trust Him in our daily walk (or ride) with Him, however wobbly our first attempts might be. Maybe He’s letting us practice dependence and faithfulness in these “disciplines” so that down the road, we’ll be more apt to trust Him when He leads us to greater (and deeper) faith challenges.
Here’s what I mean: Much of Jesus’ teaching in the New Testament instructs us to deny ourselves here on earth in obedience to God’s Word (often counter to our natural desire or inclination) with the promise of abundant heavenly and eternal rewards. In much the same way, with spiritual disciplines, we are setting aside a portion of today (and perhaps our preferences or present pleasures) so that, by faith, we’ll earn eternal dividends and experience future flourishing that we trust God will provide.
Psalm 119:45 says, “I will walk freely in an open place because I study your precepts.” So, according to God’s Word, by dwelling on His Word and ways, we aren’t restricted. In fact, the opposite is true: We gain more freedom.
The task sounds daunting when you first begin. But, when we implement spiritual disciplines, as with any discipline, we will soon begin reaping benefits even as we continue to count the sacrifices. And, Lord-willing, we’ll grow and mature in the process.
First up: Bible Reading and Journaling
As we approach our time in the Word, we come with two main ideals in mind:
Reading God’s Word.
Reading His Word sounds simple enough. But, it can be difficult to consistently make it happen in our lives. We believe that we come to know God through His Word – His character, His love, what He says about us as His children, and His instruction for how we are to live in this world that is not our home. Since God’s Word is so important to us, here are a few tips for how best to prioritize it in your life.
- Make a plan. Try to set aside a consistent time and place to have your Bible reading. It often helps to have a reading plan in mind. There are many great reading plans – you can join us as we read through the Bible genres this year together. Check out that plan here. Or, check out several other Bible reading plans that we’d recommend here.
- Don’t go it alone. If you’re struggling to make time in God’s Word a consistent priority, reach out to some friends or family and ask them to read with you. You can start by reading a book of the Bible; many people find the Psalms or the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) very approachable. Find a local church body to partner with in Bible study. Or, you can join us in online Bible study. We would LOVE to have you. Our online Bible study of Priscilla Shirer’s Discerning the Voice of God begins on January 18. For more information and to sign up, click here. Having the extra push (and added fun!) of other women walking through the Word with you might be just the motivation that you need.
But, don’t stop there. There are many ways to spend time in God’s Word. Of course we’d recommend joining a local body of believers where you are under the influence of gospel-centered Bible teaching every week. In addition to weekly biblical teaching at your church, it helps to supplement your spiritual growth by hearing God’s Word, even on the go. Our culture is so fast-paced, it’s hard to find time for stillness. So, take advantage of podcasts from Bible teachers and pastors. Or listen to the audio Bible or audio books on Christian living. Technology has really helped us out. Many Bible apps read the Word aloud to you so you can listen (hands-free!) on your daily commute. I’ve also found that listening to music based on Scripture or Scripture put to music really helps me internalize the Word. Which brings us to our next point:
Interacting with God’s Word.
It’s so easy to skim over the words you read in a quick 10-minute devotional time. But, to come to know the Lord in a deeper way and to walk away with changed heart and transformed life, we need to interact with God’s Word.
Here are a few things to try as we strive to be changed by God’s Word:
- Retell it in your own words. Restate the passage in your own words or paraphrase the main points of the passage or verse – it’s a great way to make sure you’ve really taken the time to understand the passage you’re reading. (Think high school literature class, reading comprehension.) And, it forces you to stop and take your time; skimming won’t do.
- Dwell on it throughout your day. As you read through the Bible each day, it’s likely that the Holy Spirit will draw your attention to specific words, phrases, or ideas from those verses. (It’s so cool how the Holy Spirit illumines the Word to teach us in a fresh way.) Be intentional to come back to those ideas or words throughout your day in down time or as your mind wanders. Think and pray through ways that you might apply those verses to your everyday life. (And, then apply them!) Pray through the passage. Ask God to help you understand the meaning in a deeper way.
- Commit it to memory. Admittedly, the practice of Scripture memory takes some time. But, as we put the work in to hide God’s Word in our hearts, the Holy Spirit will use it to direct us, bringing verses to mind when we need them, to counsel us, but also to help others around us – what a beautiful and tangible way to see God working in our lives.
- Write it out. This may come down to a preference in learning style, but writing out passages of Scripture may help many of us internalize them. You can also journal your thoughts, struggles, prayers, and things you’re learning. I find that putting pen to paper allows me to express emotions and thoughts in a way that I might not be able to vocalize otherwise. Journaling also comes with the added benefit of reflection down the road. You can always look back and see things you were praying about, issues you were struggling with, and victories you were celebrating and trace God’s goodness and guidance in retrospect.
Certainly these suggestions are not exhaustive – I’m sure you could name some great additions to our list. In fact, we’d love to hear them – please add your suggestions to our comments below! But, we pray these will be a launching pad for a deepening relationship with God. Just know that He wants you to come to Him. These are simply tools that help us get closer to His Word. He is the prize. He is the goal. Let’s press on to know Him.
Sarah Doss is a Content & Production Editor with Lifeway. She loves a quirky sitcom, baking as therapy, and travel (international or otherwise). As a recovering Lisa Frank enthusiast, she maintains a healthy affinity for school supplies and all things letterpress. Keep up with her on Twitter (she loves Twitter friends) at @sarahdossy.