“It is obvious you are not a woman of the Word.”
Imagine how you’d feel if someone said this to you. Singer Dámaris Carbaugh’s counselor said this when Dámaris shared her struggle with raging jealousy. Her counselor’s words pierced her heart with the truth. She wasn’t a woman of the Word.
But she is now. This revelation changed her life.
Do you struggle to be faithful in your Bible reading? Are you a woman of the Word? Use these top five Bible reading dos and don’ts to help lead you into a lifetime of knowing and loving God’s Word.
Top Five Do’s
1. Set the right goal: to know God.
We’ll never truly know and love the God of the Word apart from the Word of God. Let the goal for your reading be to know God. If our goal is to become better Christians, we can easily fall into legalism and self-focused Bible reading. We can inadvertently make ourselves the central focus of the Bible. But we aren’t. Christ is.
The more we come to know the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through His Word, the more we’ll trust, obey, and delight in Him—and in His Word.
2. Read the Bible in context.
The Bible is an ancient text written to an ancient culture. It was written for us but not to us or about us. If we read the Bible with a twenty-first century lens, we’re likely to make it mean something God never intended it to mean. We’ll take verses out of context, claim promises that weren’t intended for us, and maybe even mischaracterize God. We’ll miss beautiful pictures that will strengthen our faith. God’s Word kept in the proper context deepens and widens our understanding.
3. Intentionally respond to the Truths you discover.
The Bible wasn’t written for information, but for transformation. Once you discover a Truth about God in a passage, ask yourself the question my mentor taught me to ask:
If I believe and act on what God has revealed, how will my heart be changed and my life be different tomorrow?
Be specific with your answers. “I’ll trust God more,” is a great answer, but why will you trust Him more? What did Joseph know about God that enabled him to respond with faith? His godly response to Potiphar’s wife’s seduction attempts flowed directly out of what he knew and believed to be true about God. His firm convictions instinctively compelled him to refuse her and say, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9).
Like Joseph, our actions follow our beliefs. When we know and believe the Truth God has revealed in Scripture, our lives naturally overflow with growing Christlikeness. I’m not talking about the kind of Christlikeness that simply makes us sweeter. I’m talking about the kind of conviction to the Truth that Jesus displayed as He stood silent before His accusers with calm assurance in God’s sovereign plan (Mark 14:55–65). The kind He modeled when He allowed the soldiers to pound nails through His hands and feet for sinners who hated Him (Mark 15:24). And the kind He possessed when He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). The pressures of this world won’t shake our foundation, either, if we’re standing on the Truth found on every page of God’s Word.
4. Change up your Bible reading plan.
The Bible isn’t boring but using an identical plan each year can be. Rather than reading through the Bible the same way each time, change it up. Try reading the Bible fast like a novel. Or consider reading it word-by-word and phrase-by-phrase or in chronological order.
The goal of reading the Bible to know God never changes but changing the reading order and method can help you approach it with renewed excitement.
5. Read your Bible with anticipation, not fear.
Some people read the Bible not because they can’t wait to see what God will show them, but because they fear what He’ll do if they don’t read it. They’re afraid God will punish them if they’re not faithful.
God didn’t give us the Bible to enslave us to a ritual task, but to glorify Himself and to set us free in Christ by the Truths of Christ written on every page. The Bible gives life. Those who love it will eventually find joy as their constant companion, not fear, because they’ll come to know and love our glorious God.
Top Five Don’ts
1. Don’t read yourself into the Bible.
The Bible is for us, not about us. God calls us to respond to the Truth, not to force it into a me-shaped mold.
When God inspired Jeremiah to write, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” we are not the “you” in that verse. Jeremiah wrote to the nation of Israel in exile to assure them of God’s promise that they would enjoy blessings in the future.
The promise was for Israel, not us, but in this verse, God reveals His unchanging faithfulness. We can’t claim this promise, but we can rest in the knowledge that just as God was faithful to His promises to Israel, He will always be faithful to His promises for us.
2. Don’t mistake reading a devotional as Bible reading time.
I love a good devotional—there’s value in powerful Truths from God’s Word packed into a short reading. My dear friend Lori Hatcher, who specializes in writing devotionals, loves to remind us that devotions are designed to be a spiritual snack between feasts in God’s Word, not the main meal. Devotions complement and reinforce our Bible reading. They should never replace it.
3. Don’t be a slave to your reading plan.
The first time I joined the Read Through the Bible in a Year club, I succeeded in finishing the Bible by December 31. Unfortunately, I didn’t let God’s Word transform me through each day’s reading. The pressure of completing the plan on time too often overrode my goal to know God through His Word.
Give yourself freedom to move slower or faster than your plan’s schedule. You don’t have to start on January 1or finish by December 31. You can start and finish anytime you want. The plan is a guide, not a commandment.
4. Don’t give up.
The only way we fail in Bible reading is to give up. Everything else is training. Don’t give up. No matter how long it takes. Expect setbacks. Life gets in the way. Some sections may bore or confuse you. Other parts may horrify or challenge you more than you want. Keep your eye on the reward of knowing God, not on the size of the task. To know God through the whole Bible is worth any cost.
5. Don’t buy the lie that we don’t need to read the Bible to know God.
When I’ve asked various people over the years how their Bible reading is going, the answer that saddened me the most was: Not everyone has to read the Bible to know God.
It saddened me because it speaks to the growing biblical illiteracy in our world and is categorically false. The Bible is the only way God has given us today to truly know Him. God moves in our hearts through prayer. He displays His glory in creation. But He reveals every Truth we need to know in His Word.
The writer of Hebrews declared that God speaks to us today by His Son—who we no longer meet on earthly roads, but on the pages of Scripture. (Heb. 1:1–2). Pastors aren’t the inspired Word of God, either. And there is no new revelation. We all need to read the Bible. Every God-breathed Word.
God has not given us shortcuts to becoming women of the Word. He’s given us the Bible and called us to devote ourselves to it. The reward is beyond measure.
Dámaris Carbaugh followed her counselor’s instructions and devoted herself to faithfully reading her Bible. It’s not surprising that she no longer battles jealous rage.
Dámaris can lead our hearts into worship with her beautiful songs, but she can’t give us her faith in—or her passion for—God and His Word. We can’t absorb her knowledge of the Truth, but we can follow her example. We can become women of the Word.
Note: Listen to Dámaris Carbaugh’s original message at Revive ’19: “The Personal Devotional Life”