I recently read an article about how we’re all hooked on the Internet and smart phones and so we’re losing our ability to read books. It seems we can no longer focus long enough to engage in the skill of reading anymore.
Jim Sollish of the Christian Science Monitor wrote, “To read a novel, once upon a time, all you had to do was suspend your disbelief. Now you have to suspend your belief that the world will end if you lose digital access for a few hours. To enter the story, to really (read)… you have to unplug.”
What’s up with that? We’re becoming like Pavlov’s dogs! Sollish says we’ve become “edgy and distracted awaiting the next stimuli”… the next food pellet to appear with the ring of a bell, tweet, text or Instagram that causes us to lose focus on the moment, to forget there are actually other people in the room. We do it in meetings, during conversations, at restaurants and baseball games. According to Sollish, all this is harming our ability to read books because we can’t focus long enough to engage in the written word anymore.
Christians aren’t exempt. We’re not reading either. The Ponce Foundation, a Christian marketing research group reported that over 82% of Christian Americans only read their Bibles on Sundays while in church and that a mere 18% personally read it every day!
But Jesus said, “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”(Matthew 4:4) So if we’re not reading God’s Word how are we being spiritually fed? Not very well actually.
A lot of believers I run into are feeding on trivial God-gossip – things about God they hear from other people rather than getting it directly from the horse’s mouth from God’s Word. They’re not reading the Bible to help them develop a personal relationship him. God-gossipers rely solely on hearsay about God, not truth from him. They depend on second-hand information they’ve heard from others instead of going to the Bible and finding out for themselves. And as a result they end up following rumors and opinions about God not receiving living, breathing, truth from his Word.
Someone reading this might say, “Hold on Mike, I may not read my Bible but I go to church and listen to my pastor give great sermons every week. Isn’t that good enough?” No it’s not. It’s good but not good enough. Listening to sermons isn’t a substitute for reading God’s Word. First off, I’ve found that listening to good Bible teaching on Sunday doesn’t satisfy my hunger for God’s Word. It actually whets my appetite for more, Monday through Saturday. I get that by reading my Bible. I’d have to ask that person. “What do you want?” No matter how stirring and relevant a sermon is you’re still hearing a message God has spoken to someone else. Is that all you want? Hearing what God has spoken to another person rather than what he wants to say to you personally? Moreover I’d ask, “What do you need?” I believe that in order to live the good and beautiful life Jesus has made available to us everyone needs more of God’s Word than can be served in a sermon or two a week. We need to somehow “unplug” from the God-gossip and be fed with words made alive by the Holy Spirit that are from God’s heart, aimed directly at our own; Words spoken to us personally by the Spirit from the pages of the Bible. And if you have trouble focusing try reading little bits at a time. One chapter or psalm, fifteen minutes to start. Consistency is more important than quantity. As you keep at it your hunger for more and focus will grow. Try it.
Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it (each and every day) all day long. (Psalm 119:97)