In other parts of this website, we have discussed the critical need for believers to get into the Word and read it for themselves. The benefits and advantages of doing so are tremendous and form a crucial part of our Christian life. In the church today, the Bible is indispensable for our spiritual growth and service to Christ. For those lacking the complete canon due to persecution and difficult circumstances, the Lord will not fail to provide for the individual who truly wants to grow whenever He sees fit to provide all the necessary tools. Until then, the Lord will not fail to sustain all those who do not have access to a Bible with what little they know since living the Christian life is all about faith. And as we know, the Lord is a rewarder to those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
The benefits from Scripture and the absolute need for it are so numerous that we would be overwhelmed and beyond the stage of being “hard pressed” even to attempt to give a comprehensive list. We have discussed some of these benefits elsewhere, but suffice it to say here, this brief writing is not concerned with many of the great advantages of reading our Bibles but more about things that are good to remember when we do so. In other words, what does reading our Bibles entail, and what does having our “quiet time” look like?
To state a principle that I learned years ago from my teacher (Dr. Luginbill of Ichthys.com), how (how, when, and where) we do it (pray and read our Bibles) is not what matters. What counts is that we do it. And to clarify, devotionals are no substitute for studying Scripture on one’s own or receiving good, sound Bible teaching from a qualified teacher.
The phrase “quiet time” doesn’t show up anywhere in the Bible but is used to describe our prayer time with the Lord and Bible reading. But we don’t have to limit prayer and Bible reading to a single period of every day (we can do it multiple times throughout the day). On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with doing it for a single period, either. It is often the case that what works for one person may not work for another, and so forth. So again, how we do it matters little, and the decision is between us and the Lord (we will discuss more of this below). We should never stick our noses into other people’s business to see how they spend their time with God.
Regarding when we read our Bibles (something we can do any time in our free time), assuming it is something we do once every day, every other day, etc., it has been discussed whether mornings or evenings are better. There is no general answer to this question because everyone’s schedules will vary, and what may work for one person may not work as well for someone else because we are all different. Some look to passages such as Psalms 5:3, 119:147, and others where David and other old testament saints rose early in the morning to cry out to God. It most certainly isn’t bad for every believer to do this (sacrifices will need to be made sometimes). However, those passages aren’t saying anything about when we have to spend time with the Lord because that ultimately falls into an area of application.
For most people, it would seem to make sense to spend time with the Lord before going about one’s day, not after it is mostly over (such as in the evening after work). But if mornings don’t work for many people, then they don’t work (that isn’t to say said individuals will never spend any time with God in the morning at any time for the rest of their lives, of course). Some people are early risers and prefer to get up in the small hours of the morning to spend some time with God because there can be a feeling of vulnerability they may experience throughout the day of not having “charged up.” These individuals may feel they are more likely to stumble during the day if they don’t have any quiet time first thing in the morning. For others, this isn’t a problem because we are all different. Everyone should do what they feel is best for them based on what they feel led to do. For those who prefer to attend to their spiritual responsibilities later in the day or after work (assuming they don’t work night-shift), they may feel it better for them to spend time with God than as their primary form of recovery from a long and busy day. Some people don’t do well in the morning (nothing wrong with that)! There are also those who do both and even in-betweeners! As long as we strive to consistently communicate with God (pray without ceasing 1 Thess. 5:17) and hide His Word in our heart Psalm 119:11 (regardless of the how, when, or where), then we should be just fine.
The above begs the question, “Is it sinful to not read our Bible’s every day?” The answer is an obvious no! There is nothing wrong with skipping out on spending time in God’s Word here and there or even for extended periods. And there may be legitimate reasons for this (such as that we are going through a very busy or strenuous time that requires more mental and spiritual attention elsewhere). And this is where the critical practice of mediation comes in.
But before we dive into that a bit more, we need to clarify that even though God is not necessarily displeased with us just because we missed a day or more of Bible reading (Scripture nowhere commands that we have to read our Bible every day), this does not mean we should make it a habit of doing so when we know we have the time (and we all have the time). It is also true that our minds are more likely to wander if we are not continuously supplying them with the proper ammunition necessary to fend off any and all intrusive thoughts (whether from our flesh, the devil, or both). So we should strive to get in the Word every single day! If we fall short here and there, no big deal. But for all believers, especially those without a teaching gift, reading their Bibles and consistent prayer and sound Bible teaching are prerequisites for sustainable growth and ministry.
Failing to read our Bible for a day or more doesn’t guarantee spiritual failure. But it is equally factual that the more we make it a habit of not doing so, the more likely we become to stumble. The Holy Spirit needs truth to work with to make it usable for us to apply every day. Meditation does help, but if we constantly put off our quiet times for extended periods, our minds will drift onto other things because we have continuously cut off our “supply line.” Failing to water a plant will (depending on the variety and given enough time) result in it drying out and withering. Likewise, the more we deprive ourselves of the critical truth our faith needs to thrive, the more our hearts and minds will cling to sinful things.
Does all the above mean that some believers aren’t capable of going for extended periods without reading their Bible’s? Of course not. There are also times when (as mentioned at the beginning of this examination) some within the body of Christ will be bereft of a complete printed copy of the Bible (such as persecuted Christians and some of those living in third-world countries, many within the church during the Tribulation, etc.). But as already mentioned, God will never fail to provide the necessary means for spiritual growth to the individual who desires to draw closer to the Lord. Whatever and however much truth a person needs will be adequately provided by our gracious heavenly Father who “feeds the birds” Matthew 6:26. Whatever our circumstances may be, the Lord will provide for all our physical and spiritual needs how, when, and where He sees fit. We can’t and need not get caught up in any of the details.
To sum up some of what we have said above, more prayer and Bible reading are better most times, but not always. Some have said that “more is always better,” but I would have to disagree with that sentiment. We could always be doing more. But “could” does not always equate to “should.” There will be times when our focus may need to be more on other things, such as ministry, family, and what have you, so we may have to exert more time and energy addressing different areas of our life (whether secular or spiritual). It is true that we can overfocus on certain activities (such as Bible reading) to the detriment of others (such as ministry, prayer, and what have you) and vice versa. Considering that we only have so much time in a single day, there will be limits to how much we can do of everything that needs doing. So there will be times when, depending on the circumstances and what needs more of our attention, we may have to do less of certain things than we usually would, even if that wouldn’t be something we would consider the “norm.” Sometimes, doing more of a certain spiritual activity is not practical for many reasons, rare as that may be for some people. Some things will be out of our control. And there is also the fact that some days may require more physical rest and less spiritual activity. Just twenty minutes spent with the Lord is better than nothing and will benefit us more than if we had never spent time with God.
The above is essential to consider because it is good to have balance in life so that we don’t find ourselves burning out all the time (we need time for relaxation and other activities). It can also be true that we may be doing ourselves a great disservice to our spiritual advance by becoming either too complacent about our quiet times (not spending time with God consistently enough) or becoming overly legalistic, judgmental, and condemning when we put false standards on ourselves but fail to live up to them. Naturally, the more we advance spiritually, the easier it will become for us to manage our priorities and structure our daily schedules. But falling into great disappointment that leads to despair and guilt because we either didn’t do as much as we wanted (perhaps because we are trying to do too much) or because we didn’t do anything should inspire and not hinder us. There is a difference between being motivated because of a failure to do something on the one hand and getting all bent out of shape and disorientated. We must learn to avoid extremes.
It is good to have a disciplined schedule (even if the details of it will vary from day to day). The best way to approach this is to do what we can and have purposed in our hearts. And if we fail to do as much as we may have wished to accomplish during the day, then we need not beat ourselves up over it but instead rejoice in what we have gotten done and look forward to doing it again (hopefully even more) tomorrow.
Regarding prayer, we have discussed that topic elsewhere (see “Prayer”). Regarding Bible reading again, how we study God’s Word doesn’t matter as long as minds and attitudes are adequately aligned with the Holy Spirit. However, there are a few things that need to be said.
When we read Scripture, we shouldn’t just read it for the sake of reading it (see paragraph below). Instead, we should do our best to study the text under examination (2 Timothy 2:15) because truth not understood (or misunderstood) will not profit anyone because they can’t apply it. One can learn plenty of things from just a causal reading of Scripture so that all believers are responsible for doing their own “research.”. On the other hand, there are things that a person will only be able to understand with the help/aid of a pastor-teacher (the exact reason we have said gifted individuals in the church Ephesians 4:11-16). This is why good solid Bible teaching is indispensable.
We would do well to remember that prayer and Bible reading should never become an empty and pointless ritual like a household chore. Admittedly, both can be boring for us at times (hopefully not that often). There will be times when we are not as enthusiastic as we may want to be, so we feel like we have to force or drag ourselves to the task at hand. None of us ever feel “ideal” a hundred percent of the time (we all have our off days when we don’t feel as good as we do/did on others). We may have more energy one day but less the next. Perhaps we find ourselves getting distracted quite often. But whatever obstacles we have to overcome, whether from our flesh, the Devil, or elsewhere, the Lord will help us to do all that needs to be done (assuming we really want to do it).
22 Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.