Imagine sitting down and reading the Bible for, say, a whole hour. Someone has asked you to study it and understand it and really get something out of it. How does that make you feel? If you rate your feeling on a scale of 1, reluctance, to 10, excitement, what is it?
I’m at a 4 sometimes, scared to read the Bible. Part of why reading the Bible doesn’t seem appealing is we don’t totally understand it and so are not confident that it’s worth spending time on.
Passion Comes After Learning
I heard an author, Cal Newport, last week explain that people who are really passionate about their jobs often get that way because of long experience in which they developed rare and valuable skills that they then enjoy exercising.
They didn’t start out with great passion — they weren’t good at their jobs at first — but they had just enough of a seed of interest that it could grow into great skill and then passion later.
Remember that point when you think about reading the Bible. Don’t expect to have great passion and amazing positive emotions right away. That takes time and growth in certain Bible-reading skills. But if you start with at least a small seed of interest, that can grow if you give it time.
It Takes Time To Learn
How much time? Well, some research says it takes 1,000 hours of practice to get pretty good at something. For example, if you work at a job for eight hours per day for six months, that gets you to 1,000 hours.
But in reading the Bible we might read for ten minutes per day. Getting to 1,000 hours could take years at that rate. So we need some special techniques to get better at understanding the Bible as soon as possible. And I’ll reveal some of those tricks a little later.
In the meantime, cut yourself some slack. It’s not realistic to expect to be a Bible expert if you’ve only read the Bible for a few hours total. But also remember that God is patient; in His grace, He gives us time to grow instead of expecting instant excitement and perfection.
Be Like Mike: Coaches Focus on What’s Most Important
Also, people have found that you can cut 1,000 hours down to 100 to 200 hours if you learn shortcuts — even to 20 hours, in some cases. The Pareto Principle, also called the 80/20 Rule, says that 80% of results come from only 20% of the effort, from focusing on the best, most important parts of any skill and ignoring the rest.
How do you learn what to focus on? Well, you need coaches — people who have gone before you and done the trial-and-error work to find out what works and what doesn’t so you don’t have to. Even great sports stars still use coaches.
For you, coaches can be books, online Bible commentaries, pastors, Bible teachers, and YouTube sermons, as long as they are trustworthy: they need to express the ideas of the whole Bible, not just their pet part of it.
Two of my favorite authors of this type are C.S. Lewis and Graham Maxwell. Maxwell’s book Servants or Friends? is powerful; Lewis’ book Mere Christianity is another good one.
In the next post, I’ll reveal more of what I shared with the class last weekend when we discussed this lesson: some key ideas about how to understand the Bible much better that you can practice for just a few minutes per day.
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)