When we sit down at the dinner table at night, it does no good to just look at the food. We actually have to eat it, or we will continue to go hungry. If our physical bodies go without food for too long, we will die—the same is true for our spiritual bodies. Without God’s Word, we will die a slow spiritual death.
He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach
and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.”
Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.
(Ezek. 3:3 NASB)
When God made Ezekiel a watchman for the people of Israel, he literally ate God’s Word. He consumed God’s Word as a man would consume food. And it filled him and gave him strength to face a stubborn nation.
In Deuteronomy 8, Moses told the people that God had stripped them of everything so that He could test their hearts, and teach them to rely on Him. He does the same thing to us. He will take us through seasons where all we can do is lean into Him, and trust Him for what we need. Read what Moses told the people:
All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your forefathers. You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him (Deut. 8:1–6 NASB).
The Lord gave them manna, something they had never had before, nor heard of. But this was an incredible show of God’s love for them—He fed them each and every day! Every morning the Israelites got up and saw the snow white flakes on the ground, they were reminded that God was with them. He had made a promise to them; and He was faithful to see them through the desert, and into everything He had promised them. The manna was there every morning, but the people still had a part to play. They still had to go out and collect the manna. God provided it for them, but they had to go out and accept this offering from God.
One of my favorite verses comes from Proverbs 4 in the New Century Bible, “My child, listen and accept what I say. Then you will have a long life. I am guiding you in the way of wisdom, and I am leading you on the right path. Nothing will hold you back; you will not be overwhelmed. Always remember what you have been taught, and don’t let go of it. Keep all that you have learned; it is the most important thing in life” (vs. 10–13).
Just as the Israelites had to accept what God had provided for them, so must we when it comes to God’s Word. We have to listen, and we have to ACCEPT what He tells us. Once we accept it, we must act upon it. It does no good to read the Bible and say, “Ok, that was nice...” then go about our business as if nothing happened. I know if my children did this to me I would be furious!
A helpful way to accept the Word of God, is to meditate on it. During your daily reading, when a verse lights up, and brings a “quickening” in your spirit, write it down. Over the next few days or weeks (however long it takes to see His Word make a difference in your life), continue with your daily reading and study time, but set aside time to just reread and meditate on these particular verses that God brought to you. I personally have three legal size sheets of paper that have verses written on them that I am standing on during this season I am in. These verses are what I believe God has clearly confirmed to me as His Words He is giving to me for the situation I am in now. I keep them in my travel Bible and carry them around with me everywhere I go. Then at times, like when I am sitting in the car waiting for my kids, I take them out and read them aloud. During my prayer time, I take them out, pray over them, and speak His Word over my life and the situation I am facing. I still spend time every day doing my daily reading, but these verses are special to me right now. I am standing in faith and believing to see them unfold in my life as God has promised. Just this morning I hit a slump and felt really discouraged. I didn’t want to do anything and I caught myself questioning some things. So I went and got my Bible to sit down and pray. Upon opening the case, I pulled out my yellow sheets and started reading the verses aloud. After a bit, I found myself energized and hopeful again.
To begin reading the Bible, take some time to just sit quietly and ask God to form a plan in you that HE would have you follow. Let Him lead you in the type of study He would have you do. Remember, what works for one, does not always work for another. If it has been a while since you have been really committed to reading your Bible, or if you are a new Christian, consider the following stepping stones:
- Start with the Gospel of John; highlight and make notes of the verses that stand out to you. Let His Word enrich you and feed you. Listen to how Jesus relates Himself to the Father (He knew who He was in God), and let Jesus introduce Himself to you. Let Him show you His Heart, because in doing so, you come to know God.
- Next, read the Gospels of Luke, Mark, and then Matthew. As you read these Books, take time to look up verse references in the other parts of the Bible to see how they relate to each other.
- After you have had some time in these Books, consider reading the shorter Epistles of Paul, followed by the Book of Acts.
** Some Bible teachers will suggest reading the Book of 1 John first because it helps new believers come to understand the assurance we have as eternal children of God. Though this is very important, sometimes this is hard to grasp if we don’t really understand who Jesus is and what He has done for us. So do put this short Book in the top ten Books to read as you step out into God’s Word. When you do read it, I suggest that you read it seven times over the course of one week. Why seven? Because God’s Word says His Words are refined (see Ps. 12:6), so let them be refined in you. Absorb this Book and let it become a building block in your faith.
Note: Once you go through these beginning stepping stones of reading the Bible, you should have a hunger for Christ and a growing knowledge of God’s Word. Then you can start weaving in the Books of the Old Testament (and the remainder of the New Testament) into your quiet time. We actually have a Stepping Stones study that we invite you to consider doing at some point. It is a verse-by-verse (and step-by-step) look at the whole journey of Jesus’ life here on earth, as seen in the harmony of all four Gospels.
For those who want to “begin at the beginning,” and are serious about their commitment to reading and learning God’s Word, there are several daily reading guides available that take the 1189 chapters of the Bible and break them down into a 365-day plan. (Cypress Ministries offers a free reading guide on our resource website, or you can go directly to www.todayinhisword.com.)
For a “well-balanced diet,” we recommend a reading plan that offers a reading breakdown of the Old Testament along with the New Testament and portions of the Psalms and Proverbs, for each day. (Which is what we offer in our “Today in His Word” reading guide.)
As you become more comfortable in your reading, we suggest looking at a chronological guideline to see how the events of the Bible work into each other, and how the different Books actually do fit together. The Bible, though separated into sixty-six Books, does weave in and out together, and there is a distinct harmony (and unity) that shows the incredible love story of God to His people.
No matter what reading plan you start with, the important thing is to start! Let God’s Holy Spirit inspire you and teach you. But remember, it isn’t enough to simply read His Word and then put it down until the next time. You have to accept it into your being. You have to meditate on it and let it sink in, and then apply it to your life. As God teaches you from His Word, apply it to your circumstances and let it make a difference in the way you go about life. Otherwise, you might as well go out and water the sidewalk—no matter how much water you pour on it, the water just runs right off. As the Scripture says, “the seed was spread on rocky ground and blew off, never rooting;” let God seed His Word into you so that it may grow into your life, let it make a difference in you. Become a vessel that God can use to make a difference to those around you. Let His Word shine out so that others will see and come to know God through you. My friend, how incredibly awesome would that be?