When do you read your Bible? For now, I will simply assume that Christians should read their Bibles regularly and frequently (on the practice of the church devoting itself to the Word, I’ve found Acts 2:42 convincing). But when? In light of our busy lives, some may recommend spending time in God’s Word anytime you can, and if the choice is between not reading at all and reading, I will second that recommendation. That is, please just read it whenever you have time!
Over the years, my own habits have changed as my circumstances have. Shortly after God saved me in the early 2000s, I remember hearing a sermon preached by a South African evangelist in our church, in which he mentioned finding his son reading his Bible in bed. This was not the point of the sermon, of course, nor was it the point of this particular story (to my shame, I do not remember either), but the fact that it was apparently alright to read one’s Bible in one’s bed stuck out to me. I simply had no idea and promptly made use of this newfound freedom! In a brief conversation after the sermon, he encouraged me to read my Bible more with simple math: “If you stick with your plan, you’ll read it once a year. But if you read twice as much, you’ll be able to read it twice per year! Three times as much, three times a year!” His love for the Word was contagious!
Looking back to those days—newly saved, newly married, newly enrolled in college—it seems that finding time to read my Bible was easy. Oh to have that much time again! Of course, this didn’t stop me from wasting much of it away on trite pursuits, and coupled with my immaturity both generally and spiritually, my Bible reading was often haphazard. Praise God for his faithfulness in completing what he started (Philippians 1:6), growing me in maturity and discipline over the years anyway (and I still have a long way to go)!
But I think we can do better. We must do better. Scripture never mandates when we ought to read it. That’s a good thing and means we have freedom to be flexible here. However, I believe wisdom suggests we spend time with God in the mornings, for a few reasons. First, it is actually quiet time. The world is still asleep and the demands of work or family are not yet imminent, so it is unlikely we are disturbed during our reading and praying. Second, if breakfast is the most important meal of the day, reading our Bibles in the morning is our most important spiritual meal. It sets the tone for the day, you will have asked for strength in weakness, tapped into the mercies that are fresh every morning. What better way to start a new day? I can’t think of one.
I am not a morning person. I like sleep and enjoy staying up late after the kids are in bed. I don’t like coffee or alarms. But I usually get up at 4 am. I get up so early because there are a few things I like even less than coffee or alarms. I don’t like being woken up by rowdy kids. I don’t like having responsibilities thrown at me the minute I get out of bed. I don’t like working too late into the afternoon, and I don’t like working on Fridays if I don’t have to. These (self-imposed) boundaries result in a pretty straightforward solution: Get up early. My routine is to get up at 4, make tea, and read until about 5. I also pray and often study or write at this time. Starting early means I also get to finish early, leaving me time to spend with my wife and kids before bed time. To close the day, I try to be in bed in time for 6-7 hours of sleep.
Lest you are tempted to dismiss me as some supernatural saint, rest assured I am far from perfect. I occasionally snooze away my morning—usually after a later-than-usual evening—and sacrifice my reading for getting to work on time (talk about priorities). Sometimes I need to take a few hours of vacation or work late to make up for a late start. On weekends, when my schedule is freed-up and I have plenty of time to read, I usually sleep in and have found that I spend less productive time on spiritual disciplines than during the week, which is odd and shameful. The best thing for me to do would be to continue getting up early on weekends, too, but building this habit will require some time. Pray for me and challenge me!
What’s the take-away? Spend generous amounts of time in God’s Word when the likelihood of being interrupted is smallest. For most people, that’s in the morning. We are commanded to make the most of our time (Ephesians 5:16), so let’s make every effort to be disciplined. But remember that all we do is an outflow of what God has already done for us. While we may feel guilty for missing our reading and study time, it does not affect our standing with God! We are his children because of what he did, and no reading missed will separate us from his love! Confident in this, let us strive to honor him with our time!