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Why Have I Stopped Reading My Bible?

I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
Psalm 119:16 ESV

Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law.
Psalm 119:61 ESV

I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.
Psalm 119:93 ESV

I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law.
Psalm 119:109 ESV

Like many, my early Christian life was plagued by difficulty overcoming my sin, uncertainty about the doctrine of my faith, and a persistent awkwardness in my efforts to become spiritual after living a thoroughly humanistic life. What kept me faithful through it all was reading my Bible. As I grew spiritually, I continued to read my Bible and, in time, was selected to serve in a variety of small ways, which were a pretty big deal to me (ushering, clean-up crew, passing out communion, assistant to the assistant Bible study leader). One would think added responsibility would have lead me to increase my reading of scripture, but something very different happened. The busier my life became, the less time I made for reading the Bible.

What happened to me is common among Christians. In our effort to serve God more and better, to love people, and to do good, we end up silencing God’s voice, which is what inspired us in the first place to serve, love, and do good. In short, we become so busy serving God that we stop making time for him. When we begin to do so much that we can no longer read the Bible, then we are doing too much (or, at least, doing it unwisely). Unfortunately, I had to fail a lot before this lesson became a deep and permanent conviction.

My own story of abandoning the scriptures, combined with numerous stories of friends still faithful as well as those who have lost their faith, has taught me about the central importance of reading the scriptures and the three primary reasons, in addition to busyness, that can distract, deceive, and dull us into not reading the Bible.

Busyness

“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.

Haggai 1:9 NIV

When we become so busy building our lives that we stop reading the Bible, we are making a decision to build our lives without God. The issue here is not that we should stop building our lives but that we should include, rely on, and even allow God to lead us in this building, so our dreams are insured of becoming reality. This type of God-reliance begins with a daily, deep reading of scripture where we listen and hear God’s voice with the intent to learn and obey.

Distraction

She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. [40] But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

Luke 10:39-40 NIV

When we feel we are losing control of our lives, the anxiety and fear can overwhelm us emotionally, which more often than not will distract us from listening to God. We stop reading the scriptures based on the false assumption that when we get our lives back under our control, we will return to the scriptures. But before we know it, days, weeks, and months have gone by as the habit of not reading becomes permanent. We break this habit by refusing to allow fear, stress, pressure, pain, or anything else to convince us we would be better off taking action before reading God’s word.

Deception

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Colossians 2:8 ESV

When we fail to read the scriptures, we become vulnerable to being deceived by superficial humanistic arguments. This is not the intellectually bankrupt appeal for Christians to become uneducated or anti-science, but rather an encouragement to stop being naive and mindlessly ingesting false constructs born from human ignorance masquerading as intelligence. The scriptures make us wise enough to separate fact from fiction, superficiality from depth, and true discovery from academic charlatanism. Do not be deceived. Keep reading your Bible. Contrary to popular caricatures of Christians, the scriptures make us intellectually sophisticated, insightful, and capable of rigorous analysis. (For an example of this, read the book of Ecclesiastes.)

Dullness

As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”

Hebrews 3:15 NIV

We become dull when our hearts become hard and no longer want to hear God’s voice, because his is the voice of truth. When we are in this spiritual condition, we will avoid, ignore, and eventually abandon reading the scriptures. The best way out of this spiritual predicament is to courageously examine our hearts, identify what is hardening them, and prayerfully rely on the scriptures to turn those hard places soft. In some cases, the cause is sin; in others, it’s the unfinished business of painful past experiences; and in still others, it’s the persistent willfulness to do what we want instead of what God wants. Once we allow God to soften and refresh our hearts in this way, reading the scriptures will be attractive again.

The most dangerous thing an individual Christian or church can do is to stop reading and obeying the scriptures. Even though it happens to all of us, in those moments we must make it an urgent priority to resolve the chasm between us and God so we can return to his inspiring and life-giving word.

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