I have been playing alto saxophone for about five years now. A few years ago, my band director asked me to switch to tenor saxophone, something not unheard of in my band. Unaware of the effort required in an endeavor of that sort, I said yes.
Alto and tenor saxophones are similar instruments, but they require very different skill sets. I was also being asked to learn an instrument when a competition was only months away. I said yes, so there was nothing to do but go to work. I ended up taking the tenor sax home almost every day. I never took my alto saxophone home every day. There’s an old saying that 10,000 hours working at a skill will make you a master. I was nowhere close to master level, but I put in many hours out of sheer necessity. When it came down to it, I knew the only way to get better was to put in the time. And thankfully, it worked. I was able to dramatically improve in a very short amount of time, learning both a new part and instrument.
I realize my situation was rather unique and doesn’t happen to everyone. You might not be asked to switch instruments in the middle of concert season. However, the principle still applies to every area of life, and especially to our spiritual lives.
Are we guilty of not practicing, especially when it comes to Bible study at home? I know from experience how easy it is to mentally check off the religion box the moment Sabbath services end. It’s too easy to close the Bible after the sermon and not open it for the rest of the week. This is a hugely detrimental practice, and one that does a large amount of harm spiritually.
Consider it this way: Church is like a training ground. We go every week to become sharpened and to be taught, and then we go back out into the world. The world is where we implement the skills and lessons we learn in church. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, English Standard Version). By not practicing regular Bible study, we harm ourselves spiritually and make it easier for temptations and sin to enter our lives. It’s like showing up to a sword fight and realizing you not only left your sword at home, but you also looked at your sword for only three hours that week. We are going to lose with practice habits like that!
Thankfully, it is never too late to change. The first step to getting ourselves in good fighting shape is easy. Open the Bible during the week. Make it a priority to read it daily. To quote from the book of Joshua, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8).
Life gets busy, and it’s difficult to juggle school, work, hobbies, sports and church. But the excuse of being busy gets a lot of mileage. I think it’s past time to retire it. Time can be found. Maybe it’s time to sit down and look at our daily schedules and shift priorities. What’s really important? What isn’t? Odds are, there is free time in there, and even more can be made if we try.
Take some time to go over your schedule, looking for any gaps in time or activities. How hard would it be to read a few verses in that time? It is very easy to download a Bible app on your phone, and some apps even come with reminders that you can set. If you prefer the feel of a traditional Bible in your hands, there are many compact printed versions available, the perfect size for pockets or purses.
Once you find time in your schedule to read the Bible, the next question that often occurs to people is what to read. The Bible is a pretty big book, and it can be daunting at first. There are tons of resources out there for breaking the Bible down into approachable sections. If you are just trying to build the habit of reading daily, a read-the-Bible-through-in-a-year program can be a great way to start. These programs give you a set number of chapters and verses to read daily, slowly working you through the Bible over the course of a year. There are a variety of programs with several different orders of the books and lengths of passages, so it is very easy to find one that is right for you. And once you finish the whole Bible, you can always start it again. There are many people in the Church who read the whole Bible over and over again every year using programs like this.
If that method doesn’t work for you, there are lots of other ways to study Scripture. Try sitting down and writing out the books of the Bible, or even the types of books that appeal to you, and use that list as a study guide. Topical Bibles are great for this. They are kind of like a dictionary for Bible topics that reference scriptures all over the Bible to help you study the topic you’re interested in.
Perhaps you could dive into a type of Bible literature, like the Prophets, or you could explore a concept or word. Consider an upcoming Holy Day. If it’s springtime, you could go through and read the Passover accounts in all four gospels, or read the law in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. There are many great resources that make studies like this easier, like concordances or online study guides.
There are so many great ways to read the Bible daily, but reading to learn must be prioritized. There needs to be a deeper level of interaction with the text every time you read. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2). This renewal and transformation can come from dedicated study and thought about what you read. You have to engage your brain; it’s called Bible study for a reason. This kind of reading is not meant to be passive. It might be worth it to take notes over what you learn just like in church.
Physically writing things out often translates into a better understanding of the subject matter and could help promote a higher level of mental engagement. Remember, we are reading to learn to be a better Christian. The Bible is God’s way of speaking to us, but in order to hear what He says, we have to be listening. Listening will not come through a passive reading of the Scriptures, even if we are reading daily.
Just like learning to play an instrument, improving ourselves spiritually takes a lot of time. We will never get better if we are not working daily and making a conscious effort to mentally engage when we read. And with a much loftier goal than a high school band competition, surely this deserves more effort. We stand to gain so much for such a small amount of effort in comparison to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is truly the least we can do to improve ourselves as Christians to better complete our walk with Christ. And with the reward of the Kingdom of God, there is plenty of motivation to open our Bibles and engage in daily Bible study.
Nia Flavin is a high school student, but would rather not be. She enjoys drawing, reading and writing in her free time.