Written By Sarah Tso, Singapore
The beginning of each year is usually uneventful for me. The first of January typically marks the start of another year of routine commitments at home, at work, in church, in ministry, and with friends.
After graduating from university, I considered the popular advice not to set any New Year resolutions—lest I disappoint myself. However, in that same season, I thought to myself: On the first of January with each passing year, shouldn’t I notice some spiritual growth in myself as a person?
As a Christian, I am called to grow in Christ by remaining in Him so I can bear much fruit (John 15:4-5). But how should I remain in Jesus? I realized that my spiritual growth was dependent on my time spent with God in His Word—the Bible—and in prayer. I knew that the more I made these spiritual disciplines routine, the more likely it was that I would grow spiritually.
At the beginning of this year, I was convicted, yet encouraged by what God said to the Israelites in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek with all your heart.” God has already revealed Himself to mankind—if I wanted to truly grow in Him, I ought to read what He had revealed about Himself in the Bible.
But first, I had to overcome four lies that were keeping me from God’s Word. These lies—often repeated in conversations with Christian friends—were, in reality, excuses born of our sinful human nature, manifesting as poor prioritization and personal discipline to read God’s Word.
Lie 1: The Bible is too difficult to understand
In previous years, I had tried reading the Bible one chapter a time, but somehow this was not enough for me, since I am a “whole picture” learner. Only when I started understanding the Bible book by book could I better grasp each book’s original intent and meaning–especially within the overall biblical narrative.
Reading other resources alongside my Bible (such as Unlocking the Bible by David Pawson, The Bible Project infographic videos, and God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts) also helped me understand each book’s overall theme and structure. What brought further clarity was discussing difficult passages with likeminded Christians within my family and in a Bible-reading community.
Lie 2: I don’t have time to read the Bible
In mid-June this year, I laid aside my excuses and started to read the Bible one book at a time, starting from Genesis. As an audio-visual learner, I listened to the audio Bible while reading along in my physical Bible. I read during my commute, as it was when I was most attentive and least distracted. And as I spent up to two hours commuting some days, I finished reading the Bible in seven months, from June to December.
The more regularly I read and prayed, the more these spiritual disciplines became habits I could not live without. It was as if each Bible page came alive, and new perspectives about God and His redemptive plan refreshed me daily!
Lie 3: I can’t do what the Bible says
While reading through the Bible, I did come across difficult passages, especially concerning sin. For example, I remember being struck by the imagery in Ezekiel 16, of how betrayed God felt when His people went after idols that would not satisfy when He had given them His best.
This new perspective of God’s love broke my heart, and I was convicted anew to repent of any idolatry, asking God for help to obey Him, and sharing with some Christian friends to keep me accountable in doing so.
It was comforting to remember that God puts His laws in our hearts and writes them upon our minds (Hebrews 10:16), and He is the One who wills and acts in us to keep His laws (Philippians 2:13). The Bible is filled with people who felt they couldn’t keep God’s Word, but God always showed Himself merciful and providential with what we need to obey Him. Only by His strength and provision could I be obedient and fruitful (John 15:5).
Lie 4: The Bible isn’t relevant to me today
As I read through the Bible, I also came across passages that gave me fresh understanding of how the Word continues to speak to us today. For example, when I was reading the book of Obadiah, I wondered why Obadiah’s short oracle of judgment against Edom was included (Obadiah 1:1-21). However, as I considered the context of the overarching biblical narrative of God’s justice and mercy in His redemption plan, I gained clarity.
Upon reading other resources, I learned that by first century A.D., Edom no longer existed as a nation, giving weight to God’s warnings for judgment of sin (Obadiah 1:18). Personally, I learned a sobering lesson from Obadiah—that God is merciful by giving advanced warnings and time to repent, but these will not last forever. God is just and will carry out His foretold judgment if we continue to rebel.
I remembered Obadiah when I read God’s similar warning in Revelation 20:15, and my urgency to share the gospel was renewed. This encouraged me in my year-end outreaches to share the gospel locally and regionally through missions. Such personal conviction brought to life Hebrew 4:12, which says that “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
It was clear to me that the Bible holds great relevance today. Two questions in particular helped me through these challenging parts of the Bible: What did this text mean for its intended audience? And from its intended meaning, what situations are there in my life for modern-day application?
What an exciting journey it has been journeying with God through His Word! And what have I gained? Far from the anticipated confusion, difficulty and irrelevance, I am gaining clarity, relevance, and application of God’s Word to my life.
If any of these lies have been stopping you from digging deeper into the Word, I encourage you to confess these to the Lord, draw upon His love, forgiveness and strength, and ultimately seek God’s truth in His Word—for only God’s truth can counter any lie or falsehood from the enemy. This New Year, let us confidently endeavour toward a deeper relationship with our God who loves us, sustains us, and desires our spiritual growth in Him!