Caleb writes in to ask, “Pastor John, what do you do when you’re bored of reading the Bible?”
I pray my little acronym, I. O. U. S. And I say this because I take unbelievably strong encouragement from the fact that the psalmists had to pray this way — that it isn’t just the person who just asked that question, Caleb, or me, who struggled with feeling excited about the Bible. The psalmists did too. So here is my I. O. U. S.
I. O. U. S.
I — “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain” (Psalm 119:36). Isn’t that amazing? It is amazing that that psalmist would ask God to incline his heart to the word. What? You are not inclined to the Bible sometimes, Mr. Psalmist?
O — “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your [word]” (Psalm 119:18). So the psalmist can go to the word and not see anything just like we can stare at a page, and some days the pages are blank, and we feel horrible because of how insensitive we are. So we join the psalmist in praying, “O God, open my eyes.”
“Incline my heart, open my eyes, unite my heart, satisfy my heart.”
U — “Unite my heart to fear your name” (Psalm 86:11). My heart is all fragmented, it is going every direction. I am looking at a fly on the wall or hearing something on my driveway, and I get distracted in a hundred ways and the psalmist does, too. And he is pleading, “O God, get my heart together so it can focus.”
Finally, maybe the most important one of all:
S — “Satisfy me in the morning with your steadfast love” (Psalm 90:14).
So that is what I do, Caleb. I join the psalmist in pleading, “Incline my heart, open my eyes, unite my heart, satisfy my heart. O God, don’t leave me in this season of boredom or blankness or deadness.”
The Bible’s Take on the Bible
And then I have got a long list of other things I do; let me just tick them off. I won’t linger on them long, because I think that right there is probably the most important thing. But I look at things that the Bible says about the Bible to rekindle my love for the Bible:
“Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies” (Psalm 119:98). Good, I want that.
Your words are inspired and profitable for every good work (see 2 Timothy 3:16–17), and I want that.
And your word awakens faith. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17), and I want that.
And your word gives life. We are born through the word (see Psalm 119:25; John 5:24).
And your words are life. “To whom shall we go?” I want life (John 6:68).
And your words make me holy. “Sanctify them in the truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). I want to be holy.
Your word gives freedom. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
Don’t you want all those things, Caleb? Well, they are only found in the word of God. That is the way I preach to myself. So I am preaching that way to Caleb. I look to see what the Bible says about the Bible.
Day by Day
And then when I am really in need, I read sermons by those who are not bored by the Bible. For me, that is often Jonathan Edwards. I come away from a sermon by Jonathan Edwards loving the Bible, wanting to see what he saw, and wanting to feel what he felt. So let that happen. Or go to church and listen to pastors who are gifted in opening the word by exulting over the word so that what they love in the word and see the word kindles you.
The list goes on and on. But I will probably stop there and say, Caleb, you are not alone. We all are up and down in the degree to which we love to read the Bible. And the last thing I should say is, Even when you don’t feel like it, keep tending the garden like a farmer who has to get out there every day and pull the weeds and till the soil — not because that day, the fruit is going to grow up, but because sooner or later, in God’s sovereign timing, it will grow if you tend your garden.