Written by Stephen Cox
Australia’s most popular Bible verse for 2015 was Romans 12:2: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV).
That’s according to YouVersion, developers of the Bible App, which recently announced it had reached 200 million app downloads around the world. Australia share its favourite verse with the United States and Brazil, while Nigeria and South Africa share Jeremiah 29:11 as its favourite (I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.) In Canada, Ephesians 1:23 was the most popular verse, while in the UK, South Korea and Mexico it was Isaiah 41:10.
Every second, 112 people around the world open the Bible App. You probably have it on your phone. I do. I’ve found it helpful as I read the Bible on my iphone at church, with my children before they go to bed, at one-to-one meetings and especially in my quiet times.
Many people have found that setting aside a regular time each day to read and think about God’s Word, and to spend time in prayer, has been the power-house of their spiritual life and growth.
But I have a confession to make. I still struggle at being consistent with my quiet times. I know they are important. I believe the Bible is God’s living and active Word that equips me for all I am called to do. And I know that building up my relationship with God in prayer is utterly vital. But at times I’m still pretty much rubbish at doing it. And I feel just awful as a result.
It’s often a struggle to be consistent in finding a daily time to spend with God. Children, the busyness of life, special nights out, holidays, or just sheer exhaustion can all conspire to get in the way. However, there is no substitute for just getting into a good habit.
It would probably be far healthier for my spiritual life if I did a little less “for God” and spent a little longer “with God” occasionally saying “no” to an activity so I can spend some serious time with my heavenly Father. I’d also feel a lot less guilty about the fact that I am missing out on the most crucial meal of the day – the meal where I feed on God’s precious Word and get the spiritual nourishment I so desperately need. And I’d be far better equipped to carry out His will in every walk of my life.
But I don’t want it to become somewhat of a legalistic practice. Last year I read a great book by Graeme Goldsworthy – Prayer and the Knowledge of God – and in it he commented on the task of avoiding legalism while exercising self-discipline.
“Most of us need some kind of self-discipline in all kinds of things that we do on a regular basis. Usually we don’t have any difficulty in having three meals a day, but some do. We get into a routine for eating, sleeping and going to work. One routine that is often observed is the ‘quiet time’, particularly by Christians who recognize the need to study the Bible and to pray, usually on a daily basis. A quiet time is a good routine, but it needs to have some flexibility. The quiet time can become a legalistic requirement to the point that some feel that if they sleep in and have to miss their quiet time, their whole day will be a virtual disaster. This borders on superstition. The person who cultivates the art of praying without ceasing will recognize that, like the Sabbath, the quiet time was made for man and not man for the quiet time! All kinds of things can interrupt our routines, from storm, tempest, flood, fire and earthquakes. Or it may be simply a neighbour in need who calls on us, or a sick child. On the other hand, the person who makes a habit of chaotic indiscipline needs to take this matter in hand. However we might discipline our day to include Bible-reading and prayer, it is important not to reduce this habit to the level of the fulfilment of a legal obligation. It is always a privilege for the children of God and, as such, it is an expression of our being saved by grace alone.”
God speaks to you every time you read the Bible. Personally. Intimately.
I read my Bible regularly because I have to. Not “have to” in the sense that someone might criticize me if I don’t or that God will get miffed with me. But “have to” in the same way I have to eat food every day. This is how I live.
Without God’s Word in my life, I too readily get preoccupied with myself, my fears, my insecurities, my reputation. Without God’s Word I’m so much more vulnerable to temptation. I need God’s word to realign my heart day by day towards Jesus. I need that medicine for the soul, that battle speech, that love song. And I need it every day.