It’s been days since you’ve worked in the garden. You peer out every time you cross the back window, but you can’t make yourself walk out. Even across the lawn, you see the weeds are returning. Instead of working on the garden, you opt for a half measure. You’ve tried already, but you decide to double your reading efforts.
You retrieve the Gardener’s Almanac from its place on the shelf. How am I going to do this? You run your finger down the table of contents. There are thirty-six chapters spread across seven hundred and fifty pages. If it were an adventure novel, you could probably get through that many words in a few weeks, but the book isn’t exactly a page turner.
“I could do it in a year,” you say as if there is someone to hear. “Let’s see. If I could read two pages a day, I would have this fat book done before the calendar turns over.”
You read, once more, on page one. It’s an introduction. You learn little, but you keep driving toward your two-page goal. In less than five minutes, you’ve made it through. By the afternoon, you’ve forgotten what you read, but you remember you fulfilled your quota.
The next day, you come back to the page you marked. After straightening the dog-eared crease, you skim your two pages as your mind wanders. You hardly consider what you read, but after you’re finished, you glance out the back window. “I should probably go pull some weeds.”
At this moment, an odd thing crosses your mind, though you don’t recognize it for its strangeness. Even though you have not been in the garden for a few days, you feel as if you’ve fulfilled your gardening duty. After all, you spent your time reading the gardening book. You don’t go out to tend your fruit tree for the rest of the week, opting to stay in the air conditioning and read your two pages a day.
Months pass without you stepping foot in the garden. Weeds grow, vines return, and thorny branches fight with vengeance for their spare inch of sun. You miss being in your garden. The fond memories of Loola’s voice mixing with the sound of the breeze plays gently in your mind. It’s not just Loola you miss. It’s been too long since you’ve been in the sunlight, the fresh air, under a big forgiving sky.
Almost without thinking, you head for the back door but stop short when you spot the Gardener’s Almanac. You’re at least three days behind on your reading and you promised yourself that you’d catch up before the weekend. Instead of going out to spend some quality time pulling weeds, you plop down at the kitchen table with a grunt. You find your mark in the book and let your eyes work their way down the page. You hardly pay attention to a single sentence, eagerly trying to fulfill your commitment.
After thirty minutes of bored reading, you finally rise from the chair. Your back hurts and your eyes are tired, but you’re ready to get out into the garden. You head for the back door when you hear thunder. You twist and pull the doorknob right as the rain begins.
“Perfect,” you say as you slam the door shut.
It isn’t long before you feel trapped in a pattern of boredom and irritation. You often struggle to fulfill your reading plan. You’re irritable when you have to read and sullen when you skip.
“This isn’t working,” you say after trying to grind through another two pages, one Friday afternoon. Reading two pages shouldn’t be hard, but you just can’t stand it anymore. You pick the book up and head for the trash can. Your hand hovers there for a few moments, but you can’t drop it in. Even if you’re not going to read it, it doesn’t deserve to go in the garbage. It was a gift from Loola, after all.
“What would Loola say?” you ask. In your best imitation of her voice, you answer your own question.
“What’s your gardening goal?”
“Well, it sure isn’t reading two pages a day.” You turn toward the door with the book in hand. You know she wouldn’t let you get away without answering her question, so you pay her the honor of stating the obvious. “My gardening goal is fruit, abundant fruit.”
You go for the back door and head for the garden. When you arrive, you’re embarrassed at its pitiful state. You set the Gardener’s Almanac on Loola’s chair, which feels symbolic somehow. After getting your gloves and shovel from the garden shed, you come back and make a plan.
“Fruit, abundant fruit,” you say to the weeds as you kneel and begin your work. For the next two hours, you turn the overgrown patch of land back into a respectable garden. Mostly you’re using what Loola taught you, but something unexpected happens as you work.
“Nutsedge,” you say as you uproot a weedy handful of volunteer growth. You reach for another and call it by its name, “Sandbur.” Another tuft of weed gets your attention. You wrap your hand around the stalk and are about to pull when a flash of memory sparks. “Oh, Lamb’s-Quarter,” you say.
You close your eyes, doing your best to remember something you read a few days earlier. You may want to leave Lamb’s-quarter in your garden because it restores nutrients to the soil and is edible. Plucking a few seeds from the plant, you pop them into your mouth. It’s no apple, but it has a bearable flavor.
“I guess I picked up a few things,” you say as you sit upright and glance toward the book which now occupies Loola’s honorary garden seat.
“I guess I will keep you around.” you say. You’re not surprised when the book doesn’t respond.
You may have become tired of Bible reading. You may have had Bible-thumping kill-joys ram it down your throat so much that you can’t stand the idea of cracking that dusty old book. Your mind might wander when you read your Bible. It might be difficult to imagine getting into the Scriptures daily, but Jesus offers a tremendous motivation for doing exactly that.
Jesus said, those who hear the word of God and keep it are blessed!1 Blessed means happy. A blessed life is an abundant life. Do you want abundant life? Then you need to be spending time engaging with God's word. In this chapter, I want to help you figure out how to stay interested when you're bored to tears by your Bible.
First, you need to have the right mindset toward the purpose of Bible reading. If you turn Bible study into a checklist chore, you'll probably hate it. The goal is not to read your Bible every day for a certain amount of time. Your goal is abundant life. You want more joy, more love, more peace. Those things are supported by a Bible habit.
To get your mindset right, pray that God would give you an interest in His word. Remember, transformation power comes from God's Spirit. That Spirit was able to bring Jesus back from the dead. He's able to help you find joy in His words. Ask for a desire to study your Bible.
King David has a great prayer. He wrote about his desire to maintain a passion for God's word. You can read it by going to Psalm 119, but I'll give you a highlight reel.
He said, my life is down in the dust; give me life through your word… I am weary from grief; strengthen me through your word… I put my hope in your word… I am afflicted very much; Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word.2 Toward the end of David's prayer, he said, how sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth!3
David prayed that God would use His word to revive, encourage, and bring hope. David understood that a more abundant life was unlocked by God’s word. Do what David did, pray for passion. Pray that God would give you a David-like view of Scripture.
The second thing you can do to grow an interest in God’s word is to use the Scripture as a means of fellowship. Dr. Luke tells us, all the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.4
The early believers were devoted to the Apostle’s teaching, in other words, the Bible. However, they didn’t go off and study the Scriptures on their own. Instead, they shared and talked about what God had told his people. They engaged with God’s word in the context of fellowship. This is one of the greatest tools you can use to become more excited about God’s word.
You need to find other people that are excited about Scripture and spend time with them. If you're bored by your Bible, it might be because you've only spent time with people who are also bored with their Bibles, or worse, they use their Bibles as a means to be legalistic. Learning from God's word in a group of trusted believers, especially under the direction of an exciting teacher, is a way to leave the dry desert and enter a lush land of learning.
Notice how Paul explains the relationship between Scripture and social encouragement. He says, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another.5Part of letting the word of God dwell in us richly is by being encouraged and taught by one another. God’s word is meant to be shared.
There is another tool that Paul mentions in the verse. Admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.6 In addition to studying the word with other believers, rather than alone, he says that we should be singing the Word of God. We should be taught and encouraged by songs that are based on Scripture.
For years I was on the other end of the spectrum. I grumpily resisted singing songs in church. I wasn't in a good place spiritually. I'd sit sourly and stare at the words, not even mouthing them. I was disobeying the verse. Things began changing for me a number of years ago. As I've worked to spend more time with my mind on Godly things, I recognize that one great way to do this is to sing along with songs that are based on Scripture.
There's another kind of Bible song that doesn't make it to the radio or into popular playlists. It’s what I call word-for-word Bible songs. There are lots of word-for-word Bible songs for kids. If you do a little digging, you can find some high-quality ones for adults as well.7 Songs like this can make you feel something while you listen to God’s word… no reading required.
There are lots of people that just don't read books. They certainly don't read books as thick as the Bible. The idea of picking up the Bible is daunting enough, but how much more for someone who doesn't enjoy reading. This brings me to my next suggestion.
My father-in-law loves to work in his shop. Just about anytime he's working alone, he has an audiobook version of the Bible playing. Whether he's welding, slicing boards, or fixing an old rocking chair, he's also listening to the Bible. I have another friend who listens to an audiobook version of the Bible while he exercises. He's improving his physical and spiritual fitness at the same time. There's a guy who is a truck driver; he has listened through the Bible so many times while driving he can't count. This is a great option for anyone who feels intimidated by reading.
If you're struggling to be interested in God's word, here are my suggestions. First, remember that your ultimate goal is not to read a certain amount of your Bible each day or year. Your ultimate goal is to have abundant life, and Scripture is a helpful tool to allow you to achieve that. Second, pray that God will give you a passion for His word. Third, study your Bible with other trustworthy people who are excited about it. Finally, try Scripture in other formats like music and audiobooks.
As you seek to find abundance in God’s word, I’m confident He will provide the interest and passion you need to stay engaged. Remember, abundant life is waiting! In the next chapter, we are going to discover the transforming power of God’s word.
1 Luke 11:28
2 Psalm 119:16, 25, 28, 50, 81, 107,147, 162
3 Psalm 119:103
4 Acts 2:42
5 Colossians 3:16 NKJV
6 Colossians 3:16 NKJV
7 My favorite word-for-word Bible songs are written by Ross King. He's put out a project called Every Last Word. You can find it on any of the streaming services, or wherever you buy digital music.