Which do you want first?
Every time someone asks me this, I always want the bad news first. The good news takes away the bitter taste of the bad news. Well, I've got some bad news, and it might not be easy to swallow. But the good news will leave a sweet taste in your mouth. So let's get the bad news out of the way first, ok?
The Bad News
You're not the person you think you are.
Reading the bible is fun - especially the exciting adventures of God's heroes. It's exhilarating to imagine ourselves as David, mighty in faith, slaying the big bad Goliath with nothing but a slingshot and a tiny pebble. Or to place ourselves in the lion's den like Daniel, as morning comes and we emerge triumphant over impossible odds. Like Joshua, we look at the giant obstacles before us and proceed with total confidence. God has given us the victory! So what if they're tall and mighty? I believe that we will win! Who's with me? Let's do this!
The sad reality is that you're not that person at all. That's why the bible is hard to understand sometimes. You're not Peter at Pentecost. You're not unwavering Paul.
I hate to break it to you, but you're the one in the story that gets it wrong.
You're an Israelite, cowering in fear at the reports of the giant obstacles ahead. You hear, "Come on! God will give us the victory!" But you look at those giants, and know that defeat is imminent. You wander and make excuses. You clam up and waste years - maybe decades - wandering in a wilderness of defeat.
You're just like Jonah. You have your own plans. You see the world your way. You ask God to bless your plans, instead of seeking His way. When He asks you to do things you don't like, you run in the opposite direction. You're the captain of your own ship. When you finally realize that God will accomplish what He wants, you grudgingly, reluctantly "obey." But your heart continues to taint your perspective and color your world in dark shades. Ominous clouds surround your view. You do what God says, but you don't really "mean it."
You're just like Gideon. Having heard from God, you continually request "proof" because you really don't believe. You're scared to trust God. It's easier to trust "signs." You wait for God to "open a door" or seek "confirmation" of His will, even though you know He's clearly spoken to your heart.
When you read the bible, imagine that you're the goat of the story. You're not the mighty victor; you're the one who gets it wrong. You fail. You fall. You strike the rock when God says to speak to it. You ask for a fleece, and then another, instead of believing God's Word. You're not Joshua; you're the naysayer. You're not David; you're the scared, faithless onlookers.
So What's the Good News?
When you read the bible like this, the bible will come alive in a whole new way for you. Your spiritual pride will melt into humble gratitude. When Peter says something dumb, you'll no longer think, "Boy, that Peter's really an idiot!" Instead, you'll hear the Holy Spirit whispering to you, "See? That's you. Right there."
The result? You'll love Jesus more. You'll appreciate His sacrifice that much more. You'll cut the people in your life some slack, because you'll see yourself in truth instead of a prideful mirage.
Try it today. Pick up your bible, and read one of your favorite stories. But don't imagine being the hero this time. Instead, imagine that you're the bonehead. See if you don't see things in a whole new light.