3 Keys for Reading the Word of God Effectively
As a Christian, we need to go through spiritual devotion and read the words of God daily. The Lord Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Only God’s word is the truth, the lamp to our feet and the light to our path. His word enables us to have a path to travel when we encounter all kinds of suffering and adversity. It can also become our lives. How should we read God’s words so that we can achieve good results? Next, let’s communicate together about the three principles of practice on how to read God’s words. I hope it will bring some benefit to you.
1. Pray about, read and contemplate the words of God with a focused heart in order to understand the true meaning of God’s words.
God’s every sentence contains His intentions, His demands of us and His disposition. Regardless of what aspect God speaks about, it is all done to attain one aspect of results. After believing in the Lord, though every day I would read God’s words regularly, I usually went through the motions and never tried to figure them out with my heart. I merely understood some of the literal meaning of God’s words but did not seek to understand their true meaning. As a result, after believing in God for several years, I had gained little and only had a small knowledge of God.
One day, a sister told me, “God’s word is an expression of God’s disposition and it is a revelation of God’s life. Every sentence of God’s words contains very profound mysteries. If we don’t have an honest heart, it will be hard for us to understand the true meaning of God’s word. The Lord Jesus said, ‘God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:24). Therefore, if we want to achieve good results from reading God’s word, we must quiet our hearts to seriously ponder over every sentence of God’s words: What are God’s intentions? Why are His requirements for us like this? What aspect of His disposition does He express within it? … Only by contemplating these questions can we achieve definite results. God’s words say, ‘You cannot leave God’s words behind or turn a deaf ear to them; you must figure them out carefully, repeat your pray-reading, and grasp the life within the words. Don’t engage in futility by wolfing them down without giving yourself time to digest them.’ From this, we can see that when reading God’s words, we need to make a lot more effort to try to figure them out. This is of benefit to our lives. On the contrary, if we are not earnest in pondering God’s words but just give them a cursory read, as if admiring flowers whilst galloping on horseback, we will never be able to understand God’s will and His demands of man.” After hearing this sister’s fellowship, I understood the importance of pondering God’s words. Later when I read God’s words, I began to seriously contemplate over them.
One time, I read the following passage from the Bible, “Truly I say to you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). After reading it, I first prayed to God and asked Him to quiet my heart so that I could contemplate the truth in His words with my heart. Then, I started trying to figure out what God meant with this verse: What are God’s intentions and His requirements in these words? Why did He say that we can enter into the kingdom of heaven only when we become as little children? What aspect of God’s disposition does this sentence represent? After reflecting on the passage, I understood that the little children that God was referring to represented honest people. They are pure, open, naive, and innocent; they do not cheat others and do not lie. They are the ones who God delights in. From this I saw that God hopes that we pursue the goal of being honest people. It is one of His requirements for us. It was just like Peter: He sought to be an honest person and to love God and satisfy God. Later, I read the following passage in Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life, “Pursuing being an honest person means opening your heart to others, saying what is in your heart and speaking the most honest, genuine and sincere words in your heart. Let’s take a look at the words that the Lord Jesus said to Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonas, love you me?’ Peter was grieved at hearing these words and thought, ‘I have never loved You, so if I say I love You, this is a lie. I can’t lie to the Lord!’ So what did he say? (‘Lord! I once loved the Father in heaven, but I admit I have never loved you.’) Can most people say such honest words? (No.) Most people may ponder the following: I have never loved God in my heart; I only love the heavenly God. But, if I say this, will God be satisfied with it? No, I just can’t say so! But Peter could speak like that — he could say what was in his heart. So, it can be seen that Peter was an honest person. Additionally, he had a heart that revered God. When he didn’t know how to answer, he didn’t speak carelessly. If one day we become as simple as Peter before God, speaking to God from our hearts and opening our hearts to God just like Peter did, only then will we be seekers of the truth and those gained by God.” I pondered these words and realized: If we are not able to become as little children, we won’t be honest people. As a result, we will never be able to enter into the kingdom of heaven. This is decided by God’s righteous and holy disposition. Through contemplating in this way, I gained some understanding of God’s will and was willing to endeavor in entering into being an honest person.
2. Read the words of God with the objective of finding answers to our real-life problems and spiritual needs.
We read the Bible every day. Sometimes we will encounter the following situation: When we open the Bible, we have no idea what to read. We just flick through the Bible and read what we see. We read the Bible randomly without an objective. Consequently, we do not gain anything from reading like this. Our problems cannot be solved, and our own maturity will be delayed in the end. How then should we read the Bible so that good results can be achieved? It is said in Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life, “Here, we reach a very critical issue. When reading God’s words, you should seek the truth to resolve the problems within you. Don’t forget this. Do not only read God’s words without resolving your problems. It’s not okay to not resolve the problems after you discover them when reading God’s words. Do use the truth and God’s words to resolve your own issues. If you read God’s words in this way, you will get good results.” We can see from this that we should have a purpose when we read the words of God. We should consciously find God’s words that are related to the difficulties that we encounter in real life, and then use God’s words to resolve our issues. Doing so is of benefit for our entry into life.
Take me for an example. Some time ago, I noticed some of the people around me had made a lot of money working outside our hometown and bought houses with their new found wealth. They were quite successful in their work or their business. Not only did they acquire a great deal of material wealth, others admired them for their achievements. I was incredibly envious, so I started to put all my heart into earning more money in order to live a better life. When I only focused on making money, I didn’t have the inclination to do church work. Gradually, my heart became more and more distant from God, my prayers didn’t reach God, my spirit became weak and I even felt I had no enthusiasm in believing in God. At this point, I was aware that my situation was quite serious. So, I hurried in front of God to pray and I implored Him to help me overcome this situation. Through my prayers, I came across the following passage in the Bible: “For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?” (Luke 9:25) “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:31–33). From the words of the Lord I understood: If one has not gained life, no matter how much money he has earned, it is all meaningless. It’s just like those people around me who have good material enjoyments. They have earned some money but they do not believe in God. As a result, their hearts feel empty and they still suffer. What they are thinking all day long is how to earn more money. When they make a lot of money, they always guard against others for fear that their money will be taken away by bad people. So, they are wound up tightly in their hearts all the time and unable to enjoy a day of peace. However, as a Christian, I have received the greatest blessing in my life — being able to come before the Lord and worship Him. I don’t have so much material wealth, but I feel certainty, peace and enjoyment within my heart. This is true happiness.
3. Rectify our motivations, focus on using the words of God to understand our deficiencies and corruption and seek a change in our disposition to satisfy God.
God’s words are not for us to admire. Instead, they are expressed aimed in accordance with our nature and needs so that we can gain the truth, know the essence of our corruption by Satan, and then spare no effort in seeking to change our own corrupt disposition, ultimately becoming people who truly obey God and worship God. So, when we read God’s words, we must not focus on equipping ourselves with words and theory to preach to others but should pay attention to using God’s words to reflect on ourselves to see which aspects of us are not after God’s heart. Through this process, we will learn of our own corruption and deficiencies and seek for a change in our life disposition. Only by reading God’s words this way are we able to achieve good results and growth in our lives. I saw the words of God say, “When reading His words, Peter was not focused on understanding doctrines and he was even less focused on obtaining theological knowledge; instead, he was focused on understanding the truth and grasping God’s will, and achieving an understanding of His disposition and His loveliness. He also tried to understand the various corrupt states of man from God’s words, and understand the corrupt nature of man and man’s true shortcomings, achieving all aspects of the demands God makes of man in order to satisfy Him. He had so many correct practices within the words of God; this is most in line with God’s will, and it is man’s best cooperation in his experience of the work of God.” From the words of God I understood that it’s very important to pay attention to our own entry when we read God’s words. Only by comparing God’s words to ourselves to know our corruption and seeking the truth to resolve it can we be in accordance with God’s will. After understanding this, I wanted to practice reading the word of God in this manner.
One morning, when reading the Bible I saw the Lord Jesus’ words saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not you after their works: for they say, and do not” (Matthew 23:2–3). At first, I merely compared the Pharisees to these words, thinking that God was exposing that the Pharisees did not practice what they preached. For instance, they spoke pleasant-sounding words before the Jewish commoners. They taught them that they ought to be faithful to God and worship God since they believed in God. But indeed they brought the Jewish commoners before themselves; they didn’t worship God any longer and were actually just focused on their own businesses. However, after a while, I suddenly thought that when reading God’s words we should also focus on examining whether these problems exist in us. What’s more, here the Lord specifically reminded us not to emulate the actions of the Pharisees. Thus, from God’s words, I was able to reflect on whether I had these corruptions. Whilst reflecting on this, I thought that when giving sermons to the brothers and sisters and gathering with them, I always taught them that since we believed in God, we should exalt and bear witness to God, honor God as great and shouldn’t exalt or show off ourselves. But meanwhile, I always boasted in front of them how much work I had done, how much I had suffered and that I had never left the Lord even when I encountered tribulation. Because of this, some brothers and sisters admired and looked up to me. Wasn’t I exalting and showing off myself? This showed that I just paid lip service but did not practice. After realizing this I sincerely prayed to the Lord, asked Him to forgive my sins, lead me and guide me so that I would not say one thing and do another like the Pharisees anymore and could be a person who practiced what he preached. From this we can see, only by pondering God’s words more, comparing ourselves to God’s words, knowing our corrupt dispositions and reflecting on which aspects of us are still not compatible with God can we gain true knowledge of ourselves, changes in our disposition and be capable of fearing God and shunning evil.
Along with adhering to the three principles mentioned above, we should also pray to God more to obtain more enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit. I believe that as long as we practice and enter into these principles, we will surely reap more and more in reading God’s words.
Thanks be to God! All the glory be to God!