Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"I Don't Feel Like Reading The Bible..."

...But how do you really feel? The summer is an enormous challenge for so many college students who follow Jesus. All students I know are relieved when school is finished in May, looking forward to the good, quality time they will get to read and reflect throughout the summer. Regardless of how much is actually on one's plate during the summer, it is significantly slower paced than the fall or spring for most. But as the days and the weeks go by most find themselves not getting in the Word as much as they thought. The logic goes something like this:

I get up at 10:00 am with nothing to do, so that means I can spend time in the Bible later...I mean I've got nothing today except catching that TNT movie at noon and possibly the reruns of classic Real World episodes...I can read the Bible later...I don't feel like doing it right now...it's 7:00 pm and my parents want to go to dinner...it's 10:00 and my friends want to hang out...it's 1:00 am and I'm tired...I'll read the Bible tomorrow...it's too late to do it now and I don't feel like spending only 5 minutes...ummm...the summer's over...what the ????........

The same thing happens to countless students who return home from around the world after serving on a Campus Crusade Summer Project where they experienced ridiculous community, extreme highs in their walks with Jesus, and where they labored hard for His Kingdom, witnessing His Spirit move in the lives of people who never knew Him before. But when they get home they fall into some kind of dark abyss-time-warp-thingy where weeks go by and they can't remember a thing they did, though they know they spent very little alone time with Jesus.

And as the lens zooms out to cover the entire year we all know those times where it just seems like Jesus isn't there, the Bible is just another book, and we don't feel like reading it, period. It could be throughout the day; it could be for an extended period of time. But I say almost the same exact words each time: "I don't feel like doing that right now."

But I was challenged with a different perspective this morning while reading Desiring God. Piper's context is a little different as he is challenging the idea that "love is not what you feel, but what you do." Here is what he says:
One thing is for sure: Love cannot be equated with sacrificial action! It cannot be equated with any action! This is a powerful antidote to the common teaching that love is not what you feel, but what you do. The good in this popular teaching is the twofold intention to show (1) that mere warm feelings can never replace actual deeds of love (James 2:16; 1 John 3:18) and (2) that efforts of love must be made even in the absence of the joy that one might wish were present. but it is careless and inaccurate to support these two truths by saying that love is simply what you do, and not what you feel.

The very definition of love in 1 Corinthians refutes this narrow conception of love. For example, Paul says love is not jealous and not easily provoked and that it rejoices in the truth and hopes all things (13:4-7). All these are feelings!

The main point he is making is that every action has some kind of feeling that motivates it. We are not numb, unfeeling beings, like moving statues who are insusceptible to thought, physical sensations, and emotions. We are humans. We feel and oh how beautiful it is that we get to experience the enormous range of feelings God has given us!

Back to the matter at hand though. Often when we say to a friend or a mentor, "I don't feel like reading the Bible," that person usually responds with either, "That's okay. We are all like that sometimes" or "Well...do it anyway." I usually fall in the latter camp, recognizing that even if I don't feel like doing something sometimes doesn't mean it isn't good for me. Working out is an example of that. I hate it. Always have. But I do it anyway, even though I don't feel like it.

However, today I came to the realization--though it may not be startling to you, it was for me--that I am feeling something. Too often I focus on the negative, the not feeling and never think to ask, "What am I feeling?" I did that this morning, looking back on times when I didn't feel like reading the Bible, or praying, or going to church, or sharing the gospel, or whatever, and what it exposed was that I felt other things--I felt like checking my e-mail, I felt like seeing who was on Facebook, I felt like reading another book, I felt like watching TV, I felt like eating some food, I felt like sleeping, I felt like hanging out with friends. The feeling, which led to those actions, was actually--and this is tough to admit--delight. I originally thought it was laziness or complacency, but truth is in those moments when "I don't feel like reading the Bible" I actually think that whatever else I do instead I will be able to delight in more than the Scriptures themselves and that I will be more satisfied reading Drudge Report, watching Sportscenter, eating Frosted Mini Wheats, sleeping on my soft cotton sheets, or seeing the 470 friends who have recently changed their status updates, than I would actually reading the very Word of God! Now these things are not bad in and of themselves, but when they take away from our alone time with Jesus, it is time to really think about their place in our lives.

Two Questions from Psalm 19:10
Is God's Word really sweeter than the sweetest tastes in the world?

Is God's Word really more valuable than all the riches in all the earth?

If we answer with a resounding yes, then why do we often feel differently? Well because we are human. We feel. And in our feelings we often sin. And that's the point here as I wrap up.

In those times when you know you should be spending time in the Word, knowing that being in God's presence brings fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11) and that His Word is our delight (see all of Psalm 119), but just don't feel like it, ask yourself what you are really feeling. As you do so, call it for what it is--sin--and follow the example of David:
I acknowledged my sin to You,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,"
and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.

-Psalm 32:5

In other words, don't run from God. Run to Him! Bring your sin before Him and delight in the fact that He is willing to forgive you now, forever, and always because of Jesus Christ's blood which was shed on the Cross (1 John 1:7-9). And since you are already there before Him, drenched in the light of Christ, exposed, naked, and in need of Him, you might as well stay there and continue to delight in His presence! Enjoy His Word! Enjoy Him!

By His Grace.

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