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Study the Bible in 5, 15, or 30 Minutes

You know the scenario. The alarm goes off. You trudge down the stairs in the early morning, resolved to start your day in Scripture. You go to pour a cup of coffee and think, Did I add coffee beans to the grocery list? So you locate your phone and pull up the list . . .

And the rest is history.

Many of us have good intentions when it comes to reading our Bibles. But before we know it, the screens have sabotaged our focus, the needs of family or work take over, and we’ve hit the ground sprinting. How can busy people with full lives make these good intentions our reality?

Remember the ‘Why’

We start by remembering our why. Why do we open our Bibles in the first place? To check a box? To learn more information? Does it really matter? Hear God’s gracious invitation in Isaiah 55:

Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat! . . .
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live. (vv. 1–3)

Nourishing our hungry souls with Scripture is a life and death matter (Deut. 32:47; John 6:63). The living words of the living God are the food our souls need to live. That Bible on your coffee table or bookshelf—the one you’ve hardly touched that’s gathering dust or the one with ragged pages because you’ve turned them for decades—is no ordinary book. It’s alive because its Author is risen (Heb. 4:12).

The living words of the living God are the food our souls need to live.

What happens when we respond to God’s invitation? As we “listen diligently” to him, “incline” our ears, and “come to [him],” we end up eating “what is good.” When you eat something delicious, you delight in it. So there’s a gracious cycle here: diligence leads to delight, and delight deepens diligence.

Plan for the ‘How’

We come to God’s Word to encounter a person, to delight in Jesus Christ, to know him and live forever with him, starting right now (Luke 24:27). But how?

5 Minutes: A Snack

Sometimes we simply take whatever we can get. Isn’t that what we do with food when our stomachs are growling? We reach for what’s most accessible when we’re hungry, so we’re wise to make nourishing food items easy to grab, and it’s the same with engaging with God’s Word. If we keep a Bible in an obvious place, we can easily turn to it (and not social media junk food) when we’re short on time.

If you have only five minutes—before work or before the kids get up, during your lunch break, or with your family at dinnertime—choose a verse or paragraph of Scripture to snack on. Meditate for a few moments on an aspect of God’s character or a promise that’s revealed in the text. Then use the final minute to pray in response. You might even write down a verse or truth you’d like to remember and carry it with you so you can keep meditating on it throughout the day (Ps. 119:11).

10–15 Minutes: A Meal

Snacks will sustain us for a time, but eventually our bodies need a full, well-rounded meal. The same goes for Scripture: our souls will not be nourished if all we’re doing is snacking on the Word.

We need to intentionally provide our souls with a meal that nourishes us with truth. We often call this meal “quiet time”—and feel like we’ve failed if it doesn’t look a certain way.

But God isn’t prescriptive about this in his Word (Deut. 6:5–6; Phil. 2:16; John 15:4). He wants us to prioritize meeting with him through Scripture, however it looks. He wants us to hunger for him, the Bread of Life, not a formula. He wants us to pursue our perfect Savior Jesus, not a perfect quiet time, as if there were such a thing (John 5:39–40).

That said, what might a 10–15 minute “meal” look like? You might use the first five minutes to read a Bible chapter. Spend the next five minutes asking questions about the text: What does this tell me about God? Myself? The world? The church? The spiritual realm? After meditating, use the final five minutes to respond in prayer.

30 Minutes or More: A Feast

If a good meal nourishes our bodies, then a feast is an extended version of this delight, usually involving multiple courses and a long, lingering dining experience.

Suppose you have 30 minutes or more to spend with Jesus in his Word. You might read most (or all) of the chapters in your Bible reading plan for that day, reference a helpful book or commentary to stir your thinking, meditate on the passage by journaling your questions and thoughts, and then respond in prayer. You could even work on memorizing a longer passage of Scripture during this time.

There’s a gracious cycle here: diligence leads to delight, and delight deepens diligence.

Don’t forget that your primary spiritual meal is served during worship services at church, when your pastor preaches from God’s Word (Col. 3:16). He has carefully prepared this meal to nourish your hungry soul. We often forget that Scripture was intended for the gathered people of God, not solely for individuals. Receive the preached Word as a gracious gift from the Lord, a built-in opportunity to meditate on Christ—and to be changed by his Word.

Just Come 

However you come to the Word of Christ, come. Don’t let a lack of time or energy become excuses that prevent you from doing what’s most important: knowing and delighting in your God. This is what you were made for. Apart from him, your soul will wither and die; but with him, you’ll flourish (see Pss. 1; 19; 92; 119).

As you come to him now through his Word—whether you’re snacking, eating a meal, or feasting—you’re glimpsing the glorious feast to come (Rev. 19:6–10), and this is worth any and every investment of your time.

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