In the last post, we explored The Intangibles when it comes to avoiding “drifting” in our Bible reading. If you haven’t read that yet, you’ll want to check it out before reading the rest of this post. Once you’ve made the decision, made the commitment, evaluated your approach, and told someone about it (the clincher), you’re ready to look at The Schedule.
Finding a regular time to read the Bible is frequently the most difficult challenge people face in avoiding the drift. Don’t worry. This is not going to be a just-make-the-time-guilt-trip post.
Let’s face it: We’re all busy.
Simply telling you to “make time” isn’t helpful. That said, remember what I wrote in the last post about making a decision and making a commitment. Those first two Intangibles lead me to the first truth (of five) you’ll want to keep in mind as you look at what your Bible reading schedule is going to be.
Bible reading will probably cost you something.
If you sat down and looked at your calendar for the upcoming week, I’m guessing you wouldn’t find an open hour in every day with nothing to do. Between jobs, school, kids, sports, exercise, driving, housework, eating, grocery shopping – and a million other things – you and I have our schedules pretty packed.
Bible reading will cost you something. What it costs is going to be different for different people. But it will cost something.
As I’ve talked to hundreds (maybe thousands) of people about this, here are the Top 4:
- Social media
- Sleep (This is mine!)
- Reading other books/magazines/newspapers/blogs
If you were just tempted to let out a heavy sigh, remember this: You’re trying to add something beneficial. And it’s something the enemy does NOT want you to succeed at! It’s not going to be easy. (That’s why I wrote about the 12-week commitment in the last post.)
If you ask, What can I sacrifice? you won’t be successful. Why? Because you’ll look at your full plate and think everything is valuable.
You need to ask What will I sacrifice? A decision needs to be made. And it will cost you something. But it will be worth it.
If it works for you, it’s the right time.
This truth is simple, so I won’t spend a lot of time on it. The reason I mention it is that I have heard so many pastors and Bible teachers make it sound like the early morning “quiet time” is the only “right” time.
The right time is the time that works for you. The time you can stick with. The time you’re most alert. The time when you’re not giving God your leftovers.
A while back, someone said to me, I do my Bible reading and prayer after 10am. Before that, I’m not awake enough to hear from God and I’m probably grumpy enough that He doesn’t want to hear from me!
Try several options.
A couple paragraphs back I said that early morning isn’t the only “right time.” Early morning happens to be what works for me during this season of life. Interestingly, as I walked our youngest daughter, Hannah, to school this morning, she asked me why I get up so early. I said, To sit, think, read the Bible, pray, and hang out with Jesus. It’s the only time our house is quiet!
Early morning works for me. I’ve talked to lots of other people who have never been successful with early morning Bible reading. If your home is busy and loud, I recommend giving it a shot for at least two weeks. Many people find they’re not as tired as they thought they would be (after the first 5-7 days of adjusting).
That said, if you give it a shot and it doesn’t work, here are a few alternatives you might want to try:
Right after the kids go to school. I’ve talked to several stay-at-home parents who tell me that 9-10am is a perfect time. They’re awake. The kids are out of the house. It’s quiet. And their brain isn’t fully engaged in the rest of the day’s tasks yet.
Lunch break. One guy told me his commute was so long and his evenings were so full that the early morning or later in the evening weren’t feasible. What he did have was a very specific “lunch hour.” He brought his lunch (sacrificing going out to lunch with coworkers), went to the parking lot, and sat in his car with his lunch, His Bible, and Jesus. He loved it.
After school. Some parents take their kids’ “homework time” as their “Bible time.” When their kids are doing homework, they head off to another room and hang out with Jesus.
During dinner. If you’re married or have kids, this probably won’t work. That said, if you’re single or live alone, this might be a perfect time. Make some dinner. Leave the TV off or the novel on the coffee table and crack open God’s Word while you eat.
Right after dinner. If your hour after dinner is typically spent watching TV, try leaving it off for an extra 30 minutes. Talk to God about your day. Or better yet, listen to God about your day!
Before bed. You might not be a morning person. Or maybe you have little kids that make early morning impossible for Bible reading. Frequently, for non-morning people, or folks with younger children, your house is quiet after about 8pm. Grab some time between 8 and pillow-hugging to read, sit, think, journal, and pray.
Schedules change. Life happens. Here’s something I have said for many years…
When it comes to Bible reading, time is a terrible prescription, but it’s a terrific evaluation.”
Here’s what I mean. You can say, I’m going to read my Bible for 20 minutes every day and pray for 10 minutes every day. But even if you DO it, that can quickly turn into a check-box mentality.
Could you imagine saying this to your spouse, child, or a good friend?
Ok. Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to sit down for 15 minutes every day and pay attention to you. Undivided attention. I’ll even set a timer. When the timer goes off, I’ll stand up and walk away. That will make sure we have a terrific relationship!”
If we would never say that to a spouse, child, or friend, why would we say it to Jesus?
Let’s flip that around. If you look back once a month (or week, or every couple weeks) and ask, How much time have I spent reading the Bible and praying? it is very likely you will get a pretty good snapshot of what your relationship with Jesus looks like.
If you’ve spent time regularly reading His Word, praying, and listening, you’ll probably feel pretty connected to Him. If you look back and realize you’ve only done that once a week – or less! – then I’m guessing “disconnected” is going to be a more accurate word.
Remember why you’re doing this.
Remember what I said last time about a relational approach. As you set your schedule, remember that Bible reading is primarily relational time. It’s not about learning something. It’s about being with Jesus.
As that truth saturates your mindset, you will naturally avoid the check-box mentality. You will want to be with Him. You will look forward to your time together.
And when you look forward to something, being consistent is less of an issue!
As we wrap up Part 2 of this series, let these words from King David sink in a bit. In Psalm 56, David writes of his enemies. Being attacked from every side. People were against him. But in the midst of it all, in what I believe to be a moment of clarity while in the storm, he proclaims this truth…
This I know: God is for me.” (Psalm 56:9, CSB)
(Pssst…He’s for you too.)
In Part 3, we will look at The Tools you can use. We’ve addressed the Why and the When. Next time we’ll look at the What and the How.