This is the 9th week in our Sunday series, “Running on Empty,” by Fil Anderson. If you’ve missed the first 8, catch up here:
- The Condition of Your Soul
- Hearing the Voice of God
- The Fear of Insignificance
- What’s True About God & You
- Frustrated Desires
- Greenhousing Your Life With God
- Going Into Arabia
- Keeping Company with God
Quite a few years have passed since a dear friend laid me bare with a penetrating observation. “Fil,” he said, “you are all the time quoting authors who have influenced your life…but you rarely mention the Bible.” His truthful words hurt, and even today I feel their sting. But along with the sadness and shame came eventual healing and change. That night, through my friend, I heard the call for change.
I typically read the Bible every day, but I had taken a pragmatic and ultimately neurotic approach to reading. What I needed was a way of reading that would move me concretely from my over-reliance on fact-finding and information-gathering. I was in need of an approach, consisting of more than filling in the blanks and answering questions that fed my desire to be in control. My need was for a day-in-and-day-out experience of God.
Part 9: A Particular Kind of Reading
Soon I began to discover a particular kind of Bible reading that’s most congruent with the type of words in the Bible; powerful, living and transformative words; intended to work their way deep into our lives. The leader of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther acknowledged their power when he said, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me, it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it grabs hold of me.” Before him, Paul encouraged Christ followers to, “Let the Word of Christ—The Message—have the run of the house—give it plenty of room in your lives” (Col. 3:16).
How we read the Bible is as important as that we read it and the ancient method I’ll explain is a powerful catalyst for transformation. Follow this path and you’ll experience a deeper, richer and more intimate life with God. It consists of four movements that will slowly but surely ignite a spiritual revolution in your life.
First, select a brief Scripture passage (PS 23, 119:9-11; MT 6:7-8, 11:28-30; Romans 8:35-39). Remember that this kind of reading is not for distance but for depth. What’s important isn’t on how much you read but how deeply. Also, make sure you neither hurry nor worry. Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you. Don’t let your reading become striving. Don’t try gaining new insights; instead maintain an inner posture of openness and receptivity to God. This way of reading is designed to take us out of the place of being in control and train us to wait and listen for the voice of God, since He is the only One capable of properly guiding and shaping our lives.
A Simple and Clear Path to Follow…
- Read…the verses you’ve chosen several times. You may find it helpful to read aloud (if you’re in a place where you can). Read slowly and prayerfully, gently looking and listening for words that draw your attention, either through attraction or resistance. Notice the words or phrases that stand out. Once you’ve selected a word or phrase to focus your attention on you’re ready to move on.
- Reflect…on the word or words you’ve chosen (or perhaps that chose you). As you ponder the word or words, pay close attention to your thoughts and feelings. What is it about this word(s) that attracted you…or…why were you resistant? After you’ve “chewed on” the word(s) for a while you may realize that the word(s) have provoked a response within you …then it’s time to move on.
- Respond…as openly and honestly as you can. Express to God, in whatever way is natural and meaningful; your thoughts, feelings, longings, frustrations, questions, doubts and fears. Don’t edit. Risk being vulnerable and real. After you’ve had your say, make sure you take some time to listen. When you’ve expressed to God whatever you wish to say and taken time to listen, then it’s time to move on.
- Rest…Let go of all of your thoughts and feelings. Simply rest in God’s presence, remembering that prayerfully reading Scripture will lead our heart into the heart of God. Then someday our two hearts will beat in us as one.
The great British preacher Charles Spurgeon once said, “A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.” May this be so in your life and in mine! May our lives be shaped by the Living Word of God.
- Considering your schedule, how can you structure your day so that regularly reading Scripture is more likely to occur?
- What could you do to enable yourself to read Scripture with a more open and vulnerable heart and mind?
Fil Anderson is a spiritual director, conference speaker, writer and retreat leader. He served on the Young Life staff for 25 years. Fil and his wife Lucie live in Greensboro, NC and are parents of 3 adult children. He is the author of Running on Empty: Contemplative Spirituality for Overachievers and Breaking the Rules: Trading Performance for Intimacy with God.