When my friend Clare saw God for who He really is and came to believe in Him, she did an all-in, go-for-broke, cannonball-off-the-cliff kind of plunge into the freedom of His love.
But I didn’t do it that way. I believed, I grew, but real freedom came way later. Years. Almost decades.
For all of us, the journey looks different.
Hero of the faith George Muller describes his life with God in two parts — the first several years He knew God, and then the moment when everything changed drastically. He calls it the “full surrender of the heart.” When that happened, Muller said, “The love of money was gone, the love of place was gone, the love of position was gone, the love of worldly pleasures and engagements was gone. God, God, God alone became my portion. I found my all in Him; I wanted nothing else. And by the grace of God this has remained, and has made me a happy man, an exceedingly happy man, and it led me to care only about the things of God.”
His heart became so full in that season that it made him wonder if he’d ever really known God before.
The catalyst that led to that point? Plunging headlong into Scripture and really seeing who God is. “I read a little of the Scriptures before,” he said, “but preferred other books, but since that time the revelation He has made of Himself (in the Bible) has become unspeakably blessed to me.”
God’s love reaches out for your heart from the pages of His Word, just like it did for George Muller. It takes effort and discipline to reach back and dig in. But there are no DIY steps because we’re getting to know an infinite God, not a guidebook.
The only step is to come to the Word with open hands and a heart of desire, and from there God begins to rewrite our miniscule view of Him into something grandiose. Revelation enlarges our hearts for God, shaves off the burden of the worldly things we dream of. The more we drop, the higher we can hold our empty hands.
It’s messy, friends. But He’s worth it. He’s worth committing to in order to figure it out for yourself, whatever it takes.
So — seriously. How do we do this?
Here a few practices that have helped me along the way, just in case they help you too. It’s not a formula, but it is a place you can start to do this on your own.
Spend time with God.
There’s no way around this one. We’re busy people, some of us with families and crazy jobs and other obligations, and God honors our faithfulness in giving what we have to give. But if He doesn’t get the lion’s share of my heart and time, and things like sleep and television and Facebook do, I can’t expect Him to become large in my heart. The things here will.
Find your own rhythm.
It’s one of those things that we all have to find what works for us. It’s not about legalism, but it is about discipline — we care enough to set aside the time and the effort to get to know the God of the universe. It can be morning, afternoon, night, some of the above, all of the above. But the more, the better.
Read. Read lots. And then read some more.
If you’ve never really read the Bible much before, the book of John is a good place to start. It tells the story of how God became flesh in Jesus and lived among us here so that we could know Him better. That’s some goodness for your soul to digest, and a great place to start.
When we go to God’s Word, it’s important that we put on the right lens. It’s vital that we read from the perspective that we’re going to learn more about who God is, not read a guidebook to our lives. It was always meant to be about God, not us. But learning who He is — and learning what His love looks like — changes everything about us. You don’t have to be a historian or a theologian or a member of the clergy to read the Bible and understand it — the words are living and active, and the Holy Spirit helps us understand them as we read and study. But we need to know the context of the stories and the advice being shared — why God did what He did at that time and place, and why He said what He said to those people in that specific place and time.
If you have a study Bible, it may have an introduction to each book that explains why the book was written and to whom it was written. Understanding this is key — God had a specific meaning in mind for each verse the Bible contains. We don’t read with the lens of “what does this verse means to me?” — it wasn’t written for us to apply to our lives like the words of a fortune cookie. We read with the lens of “God, help me understand and know You better.” And as we know Him, He changes our hearts and we hear His voice.
Ask God to show you the truth of who He is as you read. It’s you and Him. Just talk to Him. Read about Him. Study His words. And get to know Him. The Holy Spirit, our Teacher, meets you there.
Find a structure that works for you.
There are methods and plans and all kinds of helps out there to provide structure for Bible reading, if you want or need it. Some people use reading plans that tell them what to read every day. Some of those plans read straight through the Bible from front to back. Some read a little in the Old Testament (the first part of the Bible, which tells the story of God’s people before Jesus came) and the New Testament (the second part, which tells the story of Jesus’ coming) each day. Some read a passage from Psalms and Proverbs every day.
For me, the thing that’s been most effective is a plan that has me reading in several different places in the Bible at one time, with a little bookmark for each section. That may sound intimidating, but I like it because it isn’t dated or divided by daily readings. If I want to read something from all of the sections, I can, or if I want to only read one and really meditate on it and pray over it for a long time that day, I can. That way I’m always moving forward but never falling behind, and I never feel like I have to frantically catch up. I have time to take a deep breath and really sit with one passage, if it feels like that’s what God is leading me to do that morning. I can pray over it. I can read it out loud.
With that kind of plan, I feel disciplined but not legalistic, and that works for me. Something else might work really well for you. Just try a few options. See what happens. Just whatever you do, stick with it.
Here’s the plan I use right now:
And here are a few other options:
- Click here for a plan that starts at the beginning and reads straight through to the end in one year.
- Click here for a plan that does the same thing but slower – in two years instead of one.
- Click here for a plan that reads chronologically through the Bible based on the storyline, not the order of the books.
Read. Read some more. And as you read, let the Words soak in.
Give yourself the time and space to read a passage, reread it verse by verse, let the words soak into your mind and heart. Let the truth wash over you in a way that it sticks. Memorize verses and passages that speak needed truth to your soul. Make sticky notes. Write it in your mirror. Whatever it takes for you to write it on your heart, because that’s when it will begin to change your life.
Journal, if you like.
When I read, I also journal, which works really well for me — but I know not everyone loves journaling. I write what God is teaching me, I write verses that jump out at me, and sometimes I write out my prayers, though my favorite way is to say them out loud, just talking with God like He’s in the room with me. (He is.) Sometimes I listen to worship music, and I draw pictures in my journal of the things I learn and love about God. I’m not artistic, but it helps me meditate on those things and gives me visuals to remember who He is.
Talk with others.
Connect with a local small group that values studying the Bible together too — that’s a great way to learn from what others are doing and learning. Even though our relationship with God is really personal, it was also meant to be lived in community. In talking about what God’s teaching us in His Word, we sharpen each other.
So that’s enough from me — it’s time for me to leave you to start working out what this looks like with God. I’d love to hear what you’re learning — drop me a line in the comments below or, if you’d rather, here.