Developing Joy Through Savoring Scripture.
We're conditioned to prioritize quantity of reading, over quality. Maybe we're being invited to spend more time with less Scripture.
Not a reader? Listen instead!
At the end of last year, I did something I haven’t done before. I asked the Holy Spirit to give me a word for the New Year. Not something I was trying to manifest, or some spell to cast over 2023. I wanted to know what was on His heart for me. As I asked and listen, the word He kept bringing to mind was the word, “devotion.”
I pastor a church called, Formation, and this year we’re leaning into the Spirit’s invitation to be deeply devoted to life with God together.
Part of what I want to be more devoted to this year is being a person of joy in a world of dread. As a result, I’ve been praying, thinking, and writing about this distinctly Christian virtue that’s bound up in the person and work of Jesus. If you’ve been following along, then you know that joy is the fruit of the daily choice to give our attention to the good news of Jesus. To that end, I want to help you build a daily practice for developing a joyful attitude. We’re going to look at three simple, but powerful tools we can employ to cultivate deeper joy in Jesus. You ready? Here’s the first one:
One of the things I’m most passionate about, is helping people learn to actually sit with Jesus in Scripture. Not just read, but actually relate with Him in the midst of it. Maybe the single element I continue to find most important for this, is spending more time with less Scripture. I’m convinced that Evangelical culture, more than any other, has taught people to prioritize quantity of reading over quality when it comes to the Scriptures.
I grew up in the Evangelical church and especially when I was younger, it seemed to be held a mark of deepest devotion if you read through the entire Bible each year. At this point in my life, I’ve had a long time to think about this, so let me share a few thoughts.
First, there can be great value in reading the Bible from cover to cover inside of year. I’ve done it many times. It can especially help you understand the overarching story and message of Scripture, which is deeply important. Apart from this, we end up seeing Scripture as a bunch of isolated, moralistic fables, rather than one story about God’s plan to rescue humanity and redeem all things in Christ. That being said, no where does the Bible Christians do this and for most of human history, it hasn’t even been possible. That means, we should probably hold it loosely.
Additionally, reading the entire Bible in a year should never be a legalistic chain around one’s neck. It is very hard. I know people say things like, “It’s easy. It only takes like 15 minutes a day.” But 15 minutes a day for a month in Leviticus is no joke.
Because it’s difficult, it can make Bible reading discouraging. It can also be impossible for people with learning disabilities, or challenges pertaining to attention. But maybe most significantly, reading large sums of Scripture is strong on information, weak on transformation.
Skimming for basic comprehension, which is what we tend to do when we read large sums, has minimal transforming effect on our hearts. So it’s good, but it’s also not the only way. In a very practical sense, quantity fills our heads, but quality transforms our hearts. Both are good and necessary, but we’ve neglected the latter for the former.
Furthermore, at least 6x in Psalm 119, the Psalmist praises the practice of meditating on Scripture. He uses a Hebrew word that means “to reflect deeply,” or to contemplate. For instance, V15 says, “I will meditate on your precepts and think about your ways.”
Unless, you sense God inviting you to read large sums in this new year, I want to invite you to consider spending more time with less Scripture. I’m currently reading through the book of Acts.
I read about a paragraph a day. I read it slowly and usually more than once.
I ask the Spirit to draw my attention to something He wants me to see.
Then I talk to Him about it in my journal.
As I hear from God this way, it has so many positive effects. It grows my actual relationship with Him, it reminds me that He speaks, it keeps me growing, and strengthens my faith. But more than anything else, it’s the most obvious way to give my attention to the good news of Jesus each day.
If we’re going to build a daily practice for developing a more joyful attitude, it simply must start with savoring Scripture. So pick the plan that works for you and begin to give Jesus your attention in Scripture today.