How Long Can You Hold Your Breath?
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How often do we face problems, temptations and pressure? Then how often do we need instruction, wisdom, guidance and greater encouragement?

To catch all these felt needs up in an even greater issue , how often do we need to see God’s face, hear His voice, feel His touch, know His power? The answer to all of these questions is the same – everyday!

DL Moody once said,” A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough for the next six months, or take sufficient air into his lungs at one time to sustain life for a week. We must draw upon God’s boundless store of grace from day to day as we need it.”

Here are some verses to consider:

Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3; Matthew 4:4; Matthew 12: 3,5; Romans 12:2; 1 Timothy 4:7;  2 Tim. 3: 16; Rev. 1:3

Jesus often asked questions about people’s understanding of the scriptures, beginning with the words” Have you not read…?’ This occurs about 11 times through the gospels. He assumed that those claiming to be the people of God would have read and were familiar with the entire word of God. How familiar are we?

If all scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, shouldn’t we read it and pay attention?

God says that those who read and pay attention, or heed His word will be blessed. So, we need to discipline or train ourselves to do so, in order for God to be able to bless our lives as He intends. The main reason for discipline or training ourselves is godliness. The most critical discipline for the Christian life is the regualr intake or reading of God’s word.

Here are three, practical suggestions for consistent success in Bible reading.

1st – find the time.

Only 5 minutes a day should take you through the whole Bible in less than three years. The majority of Christians, if you ask them, have never read the Bible all the way through in their entire life. So, we are back to the idea that it is primarily a matter of discipline and motivation. Disciplining ourselves to find the time – to make the time. Try to make it the same time every day.

There is still value in reading the Bible before you fall asleep at night, but if that’s the only time you read it, here are 2 reasons to consider for finding a different time. 1/ You will retain very little of what you read when you are tired and sleepy. And 2/ if you are like me, you probably do very little evil or face trials and temptations in your sleep. We need to encounter Christ in the scriptures when it will still have the opportunity to affect and influence our day.

2nd - find a bible reading plan.

Most people who simply open the Bible at random each day soon abandon the discipline and never form a habit. Apart from a specific plan, for those who want a little less structure, reading three chapters 6 days a week and 5 on the seventh day will take us through the Bible in a year. Keep a record or check off the books of the Bible you’ve read in the table of contents. That way, even if it takes more than a year, you can keep track of your progress and be encouraged.

A reading plan will usually help to break up your reading, especially in books like Leviticus, Numbers and others that sometimes cause people to struggle through them. Not too many pastors actually preach through these books - I wonder why?

3rd - find at least one word, phrase or verse to meditate on, or read and think about deeply about for a few moments  each time you read.

Meditation from a Christian perspective is not an emptying of the mind, but rather a filling of your mind with God and truth. Without meditation, you may close your Bible and not be able to remember a single thing you’ve read. And if that happens, your Bible reading is not likely to change you. How can the Bible renew our minds if we aren't actually taking it in to any great degree? You will be watching for change but it might not occur if we don’t really meditate on and think about God’s word, so our reading may become a mundane chore and again we may either give up or say – what’s the point? I don’t see any change. Well, consider why that might be. By meditating on God’s words, our insight into scripture will deepen, and we will better understand how it applies to our life. And the more we apply the truth of scripture, the more we will become like Jesus.

Once we develop the habit and discipline of reading, we may then progress to studying the Bible. Reading gives us breadth, but study of the Bible will give us greater depth. Pick a theme, a word study, look for answers to questions you have, trace the history of a character through the whole of scripture. There are lots of ways to study and lots of themes, topics or opportunities to do so. In Ezra 7:10  notice the progression that indicates there is a discipline before teaching others.  Devoted himself; to study; and observe the law of God; and to teach its decrees and laws in Israel. How often do we face questions, from oursleves, family members, neighbours or people at work, only to stumble on what to say. Be better prepared by having spent time in God's word so you have resources available for God to use when you need it.

Acts 17:11 – The Bereans' willingness to examine the scriptures is commended as noble character – that’s a good thing.  What about us?

2 Timothy 4:13 – Paul, in prison asks for 2 things: his cloak so his body could be warmed; and God’s word so his mind and heart could be warmed. Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament scripture, continued to study God’s word until he died. We would do well to learn from this example.

If our growth in godliness was measured by the quality of our Bible intake, what would be the result?  John 17:17 Sanctify them by the truth – Your word is truth.

God’s plan for making us holy and godly is accomplished by means of the “truth” – that is, God’s word. If we settle for a poor quality intake of hearing, reading and studying God’s word, we severely restrict God’s intended sanctifying grace towards us. Why are we then surprised when we don’t see growth, struggle in the Christian life, or stumble along the way. We can discipline ourselves for many things, but any disciplines in our lives, especially those that would take away time or perceived available time for the simple discipline of spending time in God’s word, (while they may seem important), are actually doing harm to us in the long term and in God’s ability to help us and grow us and bless us each and every day. So we shouldn’t be surprised or ask God why when life seems to spin us out of control if we are neglecting to prioritize and discipline ourselves for the very things that God says are important.

Please consider: What is one thing you might do to improve your intake of God’s word?

Whatever you choose, consider committing yourself to discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness. Commit to at least one way of improving your intake of the holy word of God. That’s why for the past few Sundays at our church, we have just had personal quiet times. Taking time to read God’s word, asking Him to show us something in His word, about Him, about ourself or giving us something for our daily circumstances or needs. Then taking the time to think deeply about some part of what we have read is foundational to our growth, it’s vital to our very lives as believers. My preaching will have limited effect if each of us is neglecting to feed ourselves daily with God's word.

 Without it, as DL Moody suggested, it would be like trying to get through the next 6 months on the lunch you just had or even trying to get through the whole day on the breath you just took, never mind six weeks. There is no way! We need God’s help, grace and wisdom everyday and through His word He supplies it and more as He changes and transforms us to become more and more like His Son, our Lord – Jesus Christ. What are you going to do?

This blog is adapted from material from Don Whitney's book "Spiritual Discipline for the Christian Life"

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