People start the year with the best of intentions. Whether they’re setting out to get in shape or to learn a new language, they have high hopes. But by February disappointment and defeat have set in. They give up.
The same is true with our goals for Bible reading. We pick out a plan and then… around three weeks in… oops… missed a few days. We think, “Well, that’s not gonna work.” And we decide to maybe give it another shot next year.
I think this is about more than just failed New Year’s resolutions. I think we’ve set unreal expectations for God’s Word.
My kids (the next generation) are so different from my generation. My generation straddled the way the world used to be and the way the world is now. By that I mean, we’re the generation that remembers life before the internet and has experienced life after. We know about global communication and we know what it was like not to have that.
I remember the days when you would visit another country and there was no way you would be able to talk to anyone at home. Today, it’s just constant communication.
One of the things this has bred into the internet generation is an expectation of instant gratification. Everything happens now. I can have anything I want right now.
There are actually online businesses that are advertising same day delivery. Not just overnight. If you order by a certain time, they’ll get your order to you that day. And then you’ve got interest free credit. You can buy anything you want instantly. Why put off until tomorrow what you can have today? And the advertising slogans are along the lines of “Because you’re worth it.” So why should I not have what I want? The idea of saving up for something is gone. I can buy it now and pay it off later. Why wait?
Whether you’re aware of it or not, all of us are susceptible to that mindset. We get used to the immediacy of our world and get frustrated when we don’t get things quickly.
I have to wonder how much of that has crept into our spiritual lives. Especially when it comes to how much are we willing to invest in our spiritual development. We want to see instant results. And we’re ready to give up if we don’t.
I just finished a 28-day Bible reading plan in Numbers and was looking for something similar for Deuteronomy. I wanted to do the whole book. But all I could find were plans that did a verse at a time, with a devotional thought added on.
It reinforces the idea that the Bible should satisfy me right now. I want to dive in, I want to get something out of it – something right here, right now. We’re unfamiliar and uncomfortable with spiritual disciplines that actually require sitting down with the Word of God, letting it soak in over a period of extended time, reading it in chunks, reading it the way it was written.
If we’re living in a world of instant gratification, that whole concept is completely foreign to us.
The Winter Olympics are coming up and one of the sports I love to watch is cross-country skiing. I look at those athletes and I think, “They’re insane!” The level of endurance that is required to do that is just incredible. Especially when you see them going up those hills. Their lungs are burning and they’re usually at altitude so the air is thin…. And I’m always reminded that if you decide you’re going to be an expert cross-country skier, three days a week at the gym isn’t going to sort you out. Training is a long-term process that takes time and dedication. It takes commitment.
We need to take a similar view to our spiritual development. It’s actually a long-term commitment.
I’ve been a Bible reader since I was in my teens. I’m in my 50s now and I find that reading the Bible is more important than ever. I haven’t gotten to the stage where I know all this stuff. In fact, I need this more now because the realities of life have become more stark. As you get older, you realize your weaknesses. And you realize how much you need God and His Word.
I also find with Scripture, the more I’m prepared to read it and make it a key part of my life, the more I see it shaping me. The more aware I am, the more sensitive I am to what God is saying to me. And the more relevant it is to the situations I face in life.
An athlete’s training comes out when he or she is put under pressure. When the starter’s gun fires then you see the results of all the hard work. It’s the same with our spiritual development. It’s when the battle starts that you then get the benefit of the time that you’ve spent with the Word of God pouring into your life.
If I take in the right kind of nourishment from the Word of God, then it will emerge when the pressure comes. If I’ve put nothing in there or what I’ve put in is superficial, then it’s not a surprise that when I’m put under pressure, there’s really nothing in there that I can rely on.
The quality of your diet will eventually show up too. What does it mean to eat the right stuff spiritually? It’s great to read what other people have to say about the Bible, but there’s no substitute for actually reading the Bible yourself.
The very foundation of what we do as a ministry is that we want people to have the Word of God in their own language, in a way they can understand it. Why? Because we don’t believe it’s good enough for them just to hear the Word of God from someone else. We want them to hear it for themselves. That’s what the Reformation was all about: so people could have the Word of God for themselves.
Endurance isn’t easy to develop. It isn’t something we can accomplish quickly. It takes effort and time. Endurance in our spiritual lives means making a long-term commitment. It means taking the time, day after day, to make the Word of God a fundamental part of our life.