Unfamiliar With a Shelf-full of Bibles

In a book* I was recently reading, the author (Donald Whitney) recounts being part of a missionary team in East Africa several decades ago. The biblical literacy in this region of the continent was shockingly low, in spite of having several churches in the area. The preachers would generally have 6 sermons in their repertoire, which were simply recycled every 6 weeks. Why? Because they didn’t have bibles.

So the missionary team raised funds to purchase bibles for some of the members of the local churches. The people were so hungry for the Word of God that daily evangelical meetings were supplemented by bible studies in the afternoons and then more bible studies by candlelight in the evenings.

After telling this story Whitney makes this condemning observation:

“It’s one thing to be unfamiliar with Scripture when you don’t own a Bible; it’s another thing when you have a bookshelf full.”

Did you know that the bible can be read straight through in 71 hours?

Do you know how long it takes the average American to watch 71 hours of television?

14 days.

How many self-proclaimed Christians haven’t read their bible in the past 14 days? Yet, some Christians actually understand the necessity of and joy found in devoted bible reading. I wish I was more like the following man:

“We should all have the passion for reading God’s Word of the man in this story. Evangelist Robert L. Sumner, in his book The Wonder of the Word of God, tells of a man in Kansas City who was severely injured in an explosion. His face was badly disfigured, and he lost his eyesight as well as both hands. He had just become a Christian when the accident happened, and one of his greatest disappointments was that he could no longer read the Bible. Then he heard about a lady in England who read braille with her lips. Hoping to do the same, he sent for some books of the Bible in braille. But he discovered that the nerve endings in his lips had been too badly damaged to distinguish the characters. One day, as he brought one of the braille pages to his lips, his tongue happened to touch a few of the raised characters and he could feel them. Like a flash he though, “I can read the Bible using my tongue.” At the time Robert Sumner wrote his book, the man had read through the entire Bible four times.”

If that man can discipline himself to read the bible – with his tongue – then surely you and I can do so with working eyes and hands. Whitney goes on to make a few simple suggestions of how we can discipline ourselves to read our bibles.

1. Remind yourself that the Word of God is your spiritual food. We can’t physically survive long without food, why would we think we can spiritually survive without the Scriptures?

2. Find the time. He suggests the same time each day. If nothing else, I would say it needs to be scheduled like any other important meeting in your day. It may not be the same time each day, but when you lay down at night you probably ought to know when it’s going to be the next day.

3. Use a bible reading plan. There are many out there. The Crossing has one, the ESV has multiple, the NIV does as well. Find one. He suggests using a plan which puts you in more than one section per day. For instance, a chapter in the OT and a chapter in the NT. Why does he suggest this? “Many who intend to read straight through the Bible become confused in Leviticus, discouraged in Numbers, and give up completely by Deuteronomy. But when you are reading in more than one place each day, it’s easier to keep up the momentum.

4. Meditate. Find one word, thought, verse, or phrase in your reading to simmer in for the day. This will help you apply what you’ve read to your life and it will keep your time memorable.

* Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney

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