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Approach Your Bible Desperately

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My first college roommate, let’s call him Michael, was a stranger when we met on move-in day. So I breathed a sigh of relief as we quickly hit it off. Ah, sweet relational bliss. Future groomsman material?

It lasted 48 hours.

Michael wasn’t my biggest fan. Okay, that’s an understatement. Michael hated me. What he loved was dispatching naughty words to remind me of that fact.

The cruelty began the moment I left to attend my first campus ministry meeting. Michael made it clear he had no patience for Christians like me. The more involved in campus fellowship I became, the more he seemed to resent me.

Though I can now look back on this situation and smile, at the time it was the hardest thing I’d ever faced. To this day I’m not sure I have ever tried to love someone with more intentionality than I tried to love Michael that first semester. But the harder I tried, the worse it became.

I wasn’t just perplexed; I was devastated. Here I was in college, trying to live for God, and I wasn’t even welcome in my own room.

Survival Food

In order to survive the situation with Michael, I started reading my Bible. Devouring it, really. Perhaps the language of survival sounds a bit dramatic to you, but that’s what it felt like to my 18-year-old self. I realized I couldn’t survive a single day with Michael if I didn’t begin the day with God. I wasn’t approaching my Bible out of duty. I wasn’t even approaching it out of delight. I was approaching it out of desperation.

If you read the Bible, you’ll never get the impression that it’s meant to be a mere hobby in your life. It’s meant to be your food.

The Lord changed my life that year. He used a painful relationship to drive me to his Word, and I fell in love with him through its pages.

Not an Accessory

In Jeremiah 15:16, the prophet addresses God with startling language: “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty.”

If you read the Bible, you’ll never get the impression that it’s meant to be a mere hobby in your life. It’s meant to be your food.

Perhaps you’re familiar with Jesus’s famous words when being tempted by Satan in the wilderness: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:4; cf. Deut. 8:3).

Stop Eating Cheese Puffs

Have you ever ruined your appetite for an epic dinner by snacking all day? You wish you could work up an appetite, but it’s too late. The steak is on the table, and you’re not hungry.

This is how we often treat God’s Word. Is it any wonder that nibbling long enough from the table of the world would leave us with little appetite left for God?1 If we’re snacking on cheese puffs, we shouldn’t be surprised when we don’t have room for steak.

Is it any wonder that nibbling long enough from the table of the world would leave us with little appetite left for God?

Consider three diagnostic questions, worth asking yourself on a regular basis:

  1. Do I approach the Bible more like it’s a snack or like it’s a feast?
  2. Is it more accurate to say I’m willing to hear from God or that I’m desperate to hear from him?
  3. Am I merely interested in the Scriptures, or am I also internalizing them?

There are so many days I don’t feel desperate to hear God’s voice. I tell myself the Bible’s a feast, but it sure feels like finger food. I know I should have an appetite, but I don’t. I like cheese puffs.

Perhaps you can relate. If you struggle to approach God’s Word desperately, I have a challenge for you. Find a Christian friend and slowly work through Psalm 119 together. It may take a few meetings—the psalm is longer than 26 books of the Bible! But it’s like smelling salts for the soul. Here’s a whiff:

My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times. . . . I hold fast to your statutes. . . . I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands. (Ps. 119:20, 31, 131)

Don’t you want to feel like that? Don’t you want to ache for the words of life? Don’t you want to get rid of the snack bags on the floor of your car and walk into the restaurant for a four-course dinner? God himself is the chef and the host, and there’s a seat with your name on it. Come in.

God himself is the chef and the host, and there’s a seat with your name on it. Come in.

Shortly before his death, after rehearsing God’s law one final time, Moses looks at the people of Israel and says, “These are not just idle words for you—they are your life” (Deut. 32:47). The stakes could not be higher.

Your soul will wither and die without your Bible. Approach it desperately.


Losing one’s appetite after “nibbling [from] the table of the world” is a word picture drawn from John Piper’s The Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer (Crossway, 2013), 18, 26.

Editors’ note: 

This is an adapted excerpt from Before You Open Your Bible: Nine Heart Postures for Approaching God’s Word (10Publishing, 2019).

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