Before you teach anyone else about God, you first need to know Him yourself.
When I first entered the ministry, I realized how quickly studying the Bible could become a mere academic exercise or preparatory obligation. Whenever I would make the time to open the Word, I constantly drifted toward thinking about how that passage related to anyone other than me.
Like the flight attendant who instructs you to put on your oxygen mask in danger first before assisting anyone else, I want to warn you as well. You can run up and down the aisle of every environment you find yourself, but eventually, you will run out of oxygen. No amount of compassion will make you invincible to the needs of your own soul. Your unwillingness to care for yourself will actually deprive you the opportunity to minister to more in the long run.
How to Abide
Jesus told His disciples a pretty critical piece of instruction for those passionate about helping others: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). You might want to do great things for Jesus, but if you refuse to spend time with Him, you will be rendered helpless. How do you abide with Jesus? I am so thankful He spells it out for us clearly.
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.John 15:7
Abiding with Jesus means that we are consistently aligned with Him. While that sounds great theoretically, what does that mean practically? Jesus’ description of this abiding was simply the Word and prayer. For His words to abide in us, that implies that we know them. We have read them, meditated upon them, memorized them, studied them, applied them, and shared them. That type of understanding of God’s truths changes the way that we pray as well. If I know God’s Word, my prayers begin to sound more like Him. I adjust my perspective with His and my requests dramatically change.
This type of abiding is essential for anyone who truly desires to be faithful to Jesus, but it will not happen by accident. So what is your plan for how you get His words abiding in you?
How to Answer
The direction of your personal study of God’s Word should be completely clear. I didn’t say that you could never miss a day. I am not indicating that if you miss one quiet time that God is furious, you will never recover, and somehow an angel just lost his wings. You will be inconsistent. You will start a New Year’s resolution only to need a restart by January 3rd. I don’t think anyone expects perfection from you, but I do think it is wise to clarify progression.
A simple indicator of how diligent you are regarding your personal time in the Word is that you should be able to answer this question at any time in your life:
“So, where are you studying in God’s Word currently?”
Is that it? Shouldn’t there be a better question? I don’t think so. Because that simple question provokes a telling answer every time. If the response is the sermon series you are preaching or listening to, that gives an indication. If the answer is pulling out a great lesson that you learned a few months to a few years ago, that reveals that you did have a fruitful time in the past but are lacking it in the present. If you awkwardly give an abstract answer of a concept of God but cannot give a simple book of the Bible you are working through, that shows that the guilt is there, but you just don’t want to admit it.
How to Plan
So, where are you studying in God’s Word currently?
That is the question. Jesus said that before you build a tower, you might want to first sit down and consider how you are going to do it (Luke 14:28). Reading the Bible is no different. If you are currently struggling with making progress through God’s Word, it might simply be because you don’t have a plan to go through it.
No time for regrets about the past, what do you need to do now? What will you begin studying today and start making progress through in the days to come?
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.