It’s true. Sometimes I don’t feel like reading the Bible. Am I alone? I don’t know. Perhaps.
I’m nervous about saying this, partly because I fear what other people think about me, but mostly because to long to hear God’s voice seems to be a common measure of what it means to be a Christian. I worry that I’m not really a Christian because I don’t always have the same longing to read the Scriptures as I see in others around me.
As it stands, I see two problems with this.
I am happy to own the first problem. My tendency to measure myself against those around me is something that I continually need to work on. However, I would like to suggest that this problem infects more people than just me. Our world is saturated with this disease of comparison. We call it ‘healthy competitiveness’. Can you not see it? Think of graded assessments and job applications as two examples. If I receive a distinction for an essay, and a friend receives a high distinction, I tend to think it is because they are smarter than I am, and therefore better. If I apply for a job and it is offered to someone else, I tend to think that it is because they were a better applicant. The problem is that it is not ‘healthy’. And I need to remember that it’s not wholly true either. God has made me to be this person, and not anyone else. I am this smart, this capable, with these particular gifts and passions because he has decided that it would be so. Part of what it means for me to stop measuring myself against others is to remember that God made me the way I am. I don’t need to be anyone else. This is harder to remember than I could ever possibly imagine.
The second problem is bigger than me. As Christians, we have a living relationship with the Creator of the universe. Pretty cool, huh? We know that any relationship requires communication – if I want to have a relationship with my brother, then it is important that I speak to him, and that he speaks to me. It has to go both ways. We speak to God in prayer, and God speaks to us in his Word, the Bible. We know God as he has revealed himself in the Scriptures. Preachers and authors insist that reading the Bible is important. That longing to know God better is an essential part of having a relationship with him. That if you don’t have this desire then maybe you need to consider whether you actually have a relationship with God – yes, I have actually sat through sermons where this has been said. I want to say yes, yes, and no. Reading the Bible is important. Longing to know God better is also part of having a relationship with him. There may even be a place to suggest that someone does not have a relationship with God, but I suspect that this is best done in a one-to-one relationship.
I want to suggest that when longing to read the Bible is made the mark of true Christianity we have wandered from the realm of truth into the realm of guilt, and this is one place where doubt begins to creep in. Jesus Christ frees his people from guilt, he doesn’t use it as a motivator. My actions need no longer be motivated by what I feel I ought to be doing, but rather out of love for Jesus, the one who has freed me from my sin (cf. Rom 6:5-11). Knowing what God has done for me in His Son inspires awe in me, and I want this surprising love to be what motivates me to want to know more of God, and not the 20 minutes of Bible reading that I think I’m supposed to be doing.
The Bible is God’s Word to his world. It is the story of his grace and kindness to the human race. It is how we know about Jesus. It is how we know God. When I sit down to read it, I am always glad that I have done so, even when I don’t understand what is going on, and actually even when I have been reticent to do it in the first place. God has a way of pointing me to passages that I need to read, like Psalm 13 this morning.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me. (Ps 13:5-6).
Sometimes I don’t feel like reading the Bible, but it’s always good and refreshing when I do.