Christians will inevitably go through periods of their lives when the spiritual discipline of reading their Bible wanes in interest. In my own life, I am often discouraged when I enter these periods of time and wonder why I can’t simply maintain a desire to be in the Word on a consistent basis. Why will God not instill in me an insatiable desire to commune with him through the reading of His word? These questions and this struggle are not unfamiliar to Christians. In fact, I’m willing to bet that every Christian has at some point in their life been overwrought with apathy toward Scripture reading. As I struggled with the apathy of being in the Word over Christmas break I came across this excerpt from my dad’s book on discipleship:
“Training or discipline is for the purpose of godliness. Spiritual disciplines help us to be godlier. The word ’godliness’ means well-pleasing to God. So, our spiritual training helps us to be more pleasing to God. There is no deeper joy that we can find personally outside of pleasing God. Yet, if we’re honest we know that there are times when spiritual pursuit for the pleasure of God is not easy. There are seasons in life when it’s difficult just finding the will to maintain a daily time in the Word. Let me encourage you with Paul’s prayer to the Colossian believers.
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light (Col. 1:9-12).
Paul is praying for their spiritual growth so that they would be fully pleasing to the Lord. Look at what he prays:
- that they be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
- that they walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.
- that they bear fruit in every good work
- that they increase in the knowledge of God
- that they be strengthened with all power
I believe the hinge of his prayer is in the phrase, ‘for all endurance and patience with joy.’ endurance is to know that prize that’s ahead and to continue moving toward that prize in the midst of suffering, pain, weariness, or emptiness. It’s like running a long race when your body is growing weary, yet you see the goal of the finish line and press forward one stride at a time toward the prize. Our prize is Christlikeness and one day face-to-face communion. So in those days of spiritual drought, we ‘press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 3:14). And we do this with patience or steadfastness resting in the hope of God’s character and certainty of promise. And when our eyes are fixed upon the prize, joy is the fruit borne in even in the dry season. What this means is that in those times when we don’t feel like praying and reading God’s Word, we do so anyway trusting in a faithful God.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit (Jer. 17:7-8).
Trust in the Lord and make him your trust, especially when the heat of suffering or faintheartedness is bearing down. Draw not from your own strength but from the refreshing and life-giving stream found in our Lord.”
This analogy to running a race is incredibly applicable as it focuses on the discipline part of following Christ. As humans, we will inevitably struggle with periods of time in which apathy toward spiritual things is stronger than our desire to pursue Christ. In these times, we must press on and persevere knowing that God will eventually draw us into closer relationship to him through obedience. Christians love to hound on legalistic practices and say that reading the Bible as duty is the worst thing we can do. However, I would suggest to you that there are periods in our lives when we have to force ourselves to get into the Word altogether having faith and trust that God will use his Spirit to intercede on our behalf and draw us into a deeper love of him until we truly do desire to spend time in the Word of our own accord. I don’t know about y’all, but there have been times in the past when I was running a race or competing in another activity and no matter how terrible it felt during the middle of it, I persevered through the tough times because I knew what the end goal was––the prize of the finish line. In much the same way, we must keep our eyes on the prize––Christ––as we travel through the peculiar path of following Christ in a fallen world. In the words of the Apostle Paul, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). Friends, may we forget what lies behind and press on toward what lies ahead. Christ has gone before us and will continue to go before us. When apathy is high, let us trust in the promise of his Word and go to it in order that we may be renewed and commune with a Father that loves us more than we can fathom or ever imagine.
Father, grow me in my desire to follow you through the reading of your Word. I know that the Bible is full of truth, wisdom, and encouragement, so I pray my eyes would be affixed to its truth that I may know how to best love and glorify you in this life. When I don’t desire you, I pray you would open my eyes to the beauty of your Word and that I would maintain the proper discipline to carry on the faith and run the race with all endurance. Grant me the ability to follow your will and your ways above my own. Through the power of your son’s name, Amen.