Let me something painful but honest. The truth is:
there are many days when I just don’t desire to read God’s Word.
In fact, over the past few years, there have been weeks at a time where I have had almost no desire to read or study my Bible.
It’s embarrassing. But maybe you can relate. The plain truth is, I don’t always desire what I know I should desire.
For years, though, I let the FEELINGS of desire for God’s Word drive my personal Bible study. And that seemed to work, when I had plenty of “want to.” But when my “want to” was lacking, I realized I was just sitting around waiting to FEEL like it.
Like I was waiting for lightning to strike.
More about that in a minute.
Maybe you’re wondering about the title of the post– The word “swordsmanship” refers to “the skills of a person versed in the art of the sword.” It’s something we now only see in movies– Princess Bride has a scene you may remember: as they traverse the rocky terrain, Westley fights the Spaniard, Inigo Montoya. And all the while, they have this funny conversation, each of them listing– then showing off– some particular skill of swordsmanship. And it’s pretty impressive!
They were two men who knew how to use their swords.
So this is the picture of our goal– we want to become women who know how to use our sword.
In Ephesians 6, Paul lists out pieces of the armor of God. The last one the listed is
“the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Hebrews 4, starting in verse 12, says–
“the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
A sword that goes to the marrow (that’s the substance inside the bones) is a sword that goes deeper than just slicing the outside stuff everybody can see– and a sword that goes to the joints is a sword that hits your movements and actions.
Your Bible is a sword that is able to get into the nitty-gritty places of your life.
We have access to a sword sharper than any other. This part of the armor of God can pierce into the deepest places, and expose every part of your heart- the things no one else sees.
And we know this, in our heads… but all too often, we leave our sword in its sheath.
We might make excuses:
- “Afterward, I don’t really remember what I read, so what’s the point?”
- “It just feels like one more thing to do.”
- “I tried a Bible in a year plan, but I ended up one hundred and three chapters behind, and never got back on track.”
- Maybe you pull your Bible out, with good intentions. But it just sits there beside you while you scroll Facebook.
- Or, maybe you just had a baby, or have been caring for a family member. Busyness legitimately overwhelms your life for a time, and one day you wake up and you can’t remember the last time you really spent time in God’s Word.
- Or, maybe you’re regularly having weeks where you close your Bible at the end of Sunday’s sermon, and it stays closed until the following Sunday?
Consider: what happens to a swordsman who regularly leaves his sword in its sheath?
- He’s not practicing.
- His arms get flabby.
- He gets slower.
- The sword feels heavier to him than it used to.
His sword is just as sharp as ever, but he has no real ability to use it.
Remember how I was waiting to be struck by desire? That sounds like a passive posture (‘oh it just kind of happened’), but the truth is: not reading my Bible was an active choice. By choosing Facebook, or busying myself with distractions, I was choosing NOT to read my Bible.
God’s Word is my sword.
When I leave my sword in its sheath, I am choosing to become spiritually flabby.
So, I stopped waiting for desire to strike. That doesn’t mean that I’ve got a perfect Bible routine. But I’m not sitting around waiting to FEEL rightly anymore.
Instead, I am trying to regularly examine my life and build my schedule in such a way that —whether or not I have an internal desire— I will still regularly be in God’s Word, using ideas like I’m about to share with you.
My goal is to give you 12 ways YOU can practice using God’s Word more in your everyday life.
And if you are a beginning swordsman– maybe you’re a new Christian… or a young woman who is just learning how to use your Bible… or maybe you are an old Christian who has never really learned how to use it– the real key is to grab your sword and start getting familiar with it. Start using it. You’ll start building your muscles and learning about your sword, and that’s a very good start.
You may not do all 12 of these, but listen for 1 or 2 ideas you CAN do in YOUR real schedule– here are 12 Ways to Improve Your Swordsmanship (6 today, and 6 in part 2)–
#1- is READ the Word SILENTLY
God has given us a book, and it is meant to be read.
Two ways to do this are:
- Choose a read-through-the-Bible plan, but don’t worry about the date on the plan. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you miss days for sickness or holidays. Instead, ignore the dates. Move through the plan one day at a time, and when you sit down to read, do the next scheduled chapters.
- Or, choose one book of the Bible per month. Go deep in one book. Get to know it. Seek to learn a few new things about the author and time period. Read the book through as many times as you’re able in that one month.
Yes, we need to read, and yes, it’s a good idea to have some sort of plan for WHAT to read… but a crucial part of reading our Bibles is that we learn to seek an accurate understanding.
Plenty of people have read the Bible stories, but missed the Gospel message. And they’ve missed being changed by it.
The Bible is not just a book you read. It’s a book that reads YOU.
The point isn’t to check off a box, but to have your heart be examined and changed by this book.
So if you would like to know better how to do that — how to read so that you truly understand the message of Scripture, and how to apply it to your life– there are FREE handouts here called “Inductive Bible Study.” It will teach you how to look at a Bible passage and understand it better.
#2- The second way to grow in swordsmanship is to LISTEN to the Word.
Get an audio Bible, or use YouTube– it’s a great FREE resource! Every book of the Bible, in almost every version, is available on YouTube.
I typically read from the ESV, but when I listen to audio Bibles, it’s not the only one I listen to. I like choosing faithful translations that are less familiar to me, to engage my brain and challenge me in new ways.
Another way to improve your swordsmanship– and this is
#3– is Read Scripture out loud by yourself.
When you do this, pay attention to how you read it. By that I mean, think about which words you should emphasize and where to pause. Read slowly, and with feeling, so that the words settle down into your heart.
Many times, Jesus told the people He was teaching, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” You can hear something with your physical ears without actually hearing it in your heart and mind.
So read out loud. Pause and ponder as you go. Engage your heart with the words your mouth is speaking out loud.
#4 is one that I’d never regularly done until 2017:
Read God’s Word aloud with others.
- In 1 Timothy 4:13 Paul wrote, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.”
When I thought about this verse, I thought… “I don’t know if I’ve ever heard more than a few verses of Scripture read publicly.”
So in the summer of 2017, our ladies group read all 13 of the letters of the Apostle Paul out loud. It took anywhere from 10 to 70 minutes to read one letter, just as the early Church would have done.
And it was wonderfully uplifting… not only was it unique to hear such a huge portion of the Bible, all at once, but it was also really special to be convicted, and encouraged, by God’s Word being read aloud by the women I know and love.
Another way we do this is in our homeschool. We read one chapter out loud together, and then we ask two questions:
- What did you notice? (discussing observations directly from the text)
- How does this portion of Scripture connect with the overarching message of the Gospel?
Reading Scripture out loud with other women, and with my kids, has been fruitful in my life. If you haven’t ever regularly read Scripture aloud with others, try it.
A fifth way to grow in your swordsmanship is probably more familiar:
#5- Discuss it with others.
- Sunday School classes
- Ladies Bible studies
- Home fellowships or special study groups
- Or just one-on-one, with friends
Colossians 3:16 says, “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.” So the kicker here is to be sure to center the discussion on God’s Word, not just “good advice”, personal experiences, or “what worked for me.”
#6 is Examine (or study) the Word
- Ever heard about the man who wanted a special word from God? His daily Bible reading consisted of randomly cracking his Bible open and reading the first verse his finger touched. One morning this was his verse: “And Judas went out and hanged himself.”
- He shook his head, and tried again. The second verse his finger found was, “Go and do likewise.”
- Frustrated, he thought, I’ll give it one more go— and his finger landed on, “What you are going to do, do quickly!”
Well, Acts 17:11 tells us about people very different from this man– they were diligent, daily Bible examiners: “these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
Be like the Bereans– NOT like the finger-pointing “Bible reader.”
The Bereans were being taught by the Apostle Paul. But they went back to the Scriptures to make sure that what he was saying lined up with all of God’s Word.
I want to encourage you to put in the time to learn how to examine your Bible. When you know how to study, you can go to Scripture to see if people around you are teaching what is true. You’ll know how to uncover the meaning of a verse or a passage, and how to correctly apply it to your life.
Grace and Peace,