Today’s post is from Michael Porto.
Allow me to destroy some of our concepts of the 21st century devotional life.
You do not have to mine incredible truths from the Word on a daily basis. You do not have to remember what you read from two weeks ago and know how it connects to what you are reading today. You do not have to read large chunks of Scripture everyday. You are not a failure if you don’t read everyday.
Perhaps you are like many out there who shame themselves because of the lack of time spent in the Word. Perhaps you are satisfied with yourself because you make it through the Bible in a year, maybe even less time than that. Perhaps you are somewhere in between the two data points. We often use our feelings to evaluate how successful we are in this endeavor. What if we used a few facts? Consider the following realities:
- The first five books of the O.T. weren’t written till around 1400 B.C. That means people could be known by God and know God for thousands of years without reading their bible on a daily basis. Well after this time, most cultures on earth were oral tradition cultures and didn’t utilize a written resource containing the revelations of God up to that point.
- God was most likely silent in the time between the writing of Malachi and when He revealed to Zechariah that he would have a son, This was roughly 400 years of silence. During this time, the literacy rate was certainly no more than 20%. For comparison, the literacy rate today is around 99%.
- Starting sometime in the fourth century A.D., the majority of Christian services (largely led by the Catholic church) were held in Latin. Additionally, the Bible was only available in Latin. In fact this was the standard till the Reformation in the late 16th century. This means for over 1,000 years the average believer did not have access to a Bible that they could even read. Actually, till the early 1800’s only a little over 10% of the population was literate.
- As of 2015, 57% of the world’s languages didn’t have a complete bible.
This means that there have been people glorifying God long before there was a Bible like we have today. The “daily devotional” of a shepherd in the 6th century B.C. looked very different than what many of us feel burdened to have today. Stop and consider, what was the devotional life of someone in the 3rd century like? What about the 12th century? Or the 17th? Human history is full of worshippers of God who didn’t read the bible daily, some of them never read the bible.
Let’s get one thing straight, I am not saying that we should not read our Bibles. We should. You and I should cherish what we have in our Bibles all the more in light of the information presented above. We should be drinking from the Word like a dog who has gone without water for the better part of the day in 90 degree weather. That we have access to a bible in our own language today puts us in the “1%” (really, more like 0.0001%). From where I sit, I could take five steps and have access to several different translations. A few clicks on the keyboard and mouse get access to over 50 different versions, all in English. But I would be remiss if I didn’t at least point out that plenty of people have glorified God without checking off their Bible reading plan. This is because God doesn’t equate holiness with checkboxes.
Consider the following quote from George Campbell, a pastor and philosopher, written in the early 1770’s,
“It has been the error of many ages, and still is of the present age, that to have read much is to be very learned. There is not, I may say, a greater heresy against common sense. Reading is doubtless necessary: and it must be owned, that eminence and knowledge is not to be obtained without it. But two things are ever especially to be regarded on this topic, which are these: First, that more depends on the quality of what we read, than on the quantity. Secondly, more depends on the use, which, by reflection, conversation, and composition, we have made of what we read, then upon both the former.”
Forgive the old style of writing, but this is a wonderful quote. Campbell asserts that the quality of what we read is more important than the quantity. If I can loosely apply this to our study, this means that the quality of our time in the Word is far more important than the amount we read. There have been some years where I have made it through the bible in 90 days whilst following a 90-day plan, and other years where I have managed little more than half of the Bible. Some of us may find that we are unable to stay on track with an aggressive reading plan. That’s ok. We can read slowly and still allow the Word to impact us.
Second, Campbell also asserts that the use (application) of what we take in is far more important than both the quality and quantity of what we read. This means that if we read our Bible and don’t talk about it with others, reflect upon what we have read, or engage these ideas with things like journaling, painting, singing, etc., we are missing out on gaining the most from it that we can. Instead of thinking about not reading your Bible as merely a bad choice, think about it as a loss of joy, hope, peace, help, and deep satisfaction.
Don’t let your preconceived notions of what you think you have to be doing for your Bible reading stop you from actually engaging the Word. If you already read, great, but don’t be satisfied with simply reading it; engage others in conversation about it, journal about it, sing about it, praise God over what you have read, chew on it, mull it over, live in light of it. If you don’t read regularly, there is still time today to begin. Find a reading program that works for you. Reach out to a friend for a plan that they use or have used in the past.
May we find joy in Christ this week.