In this series of blogs, we are looking at 7 ‘holy habits’ that must be exercised by all true disciples, if we are to prove faithful and fruitful in our walk with Jesus. The acronym PROMISE spells out the first letter of each of the 7 habits that all disciples must develop. Last week we looked at P, which stands for Prayer. Today, we will look at the letter, R for Read.
R – Read God’s word
The famed St Augustine of Hippo heard a child’s voice bid him ‘take up and read’. He took up the bible and read from the book of Romans and was providentially changed.
Today, it is harder than ever for many Christians to take up the word of God and read.
Biblical illiteracy is a modern plague affecting many parts of the global church. In an increasingly narcissistic and experientially-driven age, making time to read and/or listen from any book, let alone an ancient book the length of the Bible, is a great challenge.
In the push and shove of modern living, time with God is relegated to a low priority. Harried and hassled as we are by myriad demands and stresses, we are easy prey to escapism, addictions, and endless distractions. The ubiquitous devices we carry become bright-screened monsters that stalk, steal, and devour our time.
But the faithful disciple of Jesus cannot afford to not read and hear from God’s word! No matter how busy they are, people will make time in their lives for the things that are most important or that matter most to them. How much more hearing the very words of God?
We so desperately need to be daily converted to the will and the ways of our Lord our God. Peter tells us to crave milk as newborn babes so that we may grow up in our salvation (1 Peter 2:2). And as we grow up, we find God’s word is also the meat and drink of the mature. It is the water that washes away the grime and dirt of unholy living (Ephesians 5:26), the mirror that shows out faults in the light of Jesus’ truth and grace (James 1:23).
Paul declared that faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:17) and that all of Scripture is useful to teaching, correcting, disciplining, and training (2 Tim 3:16).
And so the obedient disciple of Jesus will be faithful to practice the daily habit of private reading and reflecting on God’s word. He will teach the same to those he is discipling. There are many bible reading plans, including the daily lectionary readings, that are great tools for helping us to systematically and regularly read God’s word. Journal what you read, learn to ask the right questions of the text in context, ask the more mature among us if you have question. But by all means read!
And not just for and by yourself. In 1 Timothy 4:13-15, one of the things Paul tells his protégé Timothy is to ‘devote himself to the public reading of Scripture.’ In the Roman world of Paul’s day, communal reading of the Scriptures took place because there were undoubtedly many illiterate slaves and the less educated in congregations. But all the same, we do well to make the reading and discussion of the Scriptures a common feature of our communal gatherings, small and large. Devotion requires determination, commitment, and practice.
In the words of the much-loved prayer of the reformed-minded Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer , may God ‘grant that we may so hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest’ all His holy Scripture, old and new. In this, we will grow up into Christ, who is our head, the very Word made life.