In this article, we’ll cover 5 common mistakes that can be detrimental to your Christian faith. We’ll learn how to correct these mistakes and cultivate lifegiving habits so that you’ll be well on your way to an intimate, flourishing, ceaseless relationship with your Creator. But before we jump in, I need to say one thing:
I can give you all the tips in the world on how to cultivate diligence in your Christian faith, but if you don’t view your time with God as essential, then sadly, these tips won’t help you.
Have you ever heard of that saying, “Religion is for the weak?” It’s true. We need God because we’re not OK on our own. Romans 11:36 stresses this:
For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
If you don’t see your desperate need for Him, if you don’t lean on Him in order to live and move and breathe in any meaningful, worthwhile, fulfilling way, then this post may not do much for you. But if you believe that your life depends on Him and that your time with Him is like your food, your sustenance, more important than the meals you eat and even the coffee you drink, then please read on.
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ - Acts 17:26-28
Mistake #1: Limiting Yourself to One-Page Daily Devotionals
Don’t misunderstand me; I am not anti-devotional. Those one-page, daily devotionals serve a purpose in the world, and they work well as supplementary material.
But I do think that if all we’re doing is reading one little page of content a day, this limitation can be an excellent way to hide from the full weight of the Gospel.
If you’re a brand new Christian, maybe this advice doesn’t apply to you. But for those of us who have been walking with God for some time and who desire to take our Christian faith to the next level, we need to be willing to sit down from time to time and read the Bible without someone else’s filter.
God has a very lofty vision that He wants to impart to all of us, and it’s our job to make ourselves available to receive it. So let’s not box ourselves in. One verse plus someone’s curated exegesis is not enough. It’s important to see the verses in their contexts.
That’s not to say that we should strive for quantity when it comes to our readings. Once we’ve already read a verse in its context, we may want to meditate on it at length and make it our soul-food for days on end.
But if we never crack open our Bibles and limit ourselves to daily devotionals, we will miss out on not just context, but experience.
I’ve fallen down the devotional rabbit hole before, but when I started taking the Bible into my own hands and reading straight from the book, it was a radically different experience. The verses I had read countless times in devotionals began to take on completely different meanings.
Not only that, but I also began to discover a whole new world of verses that I never knew existed, because they weren’t terribly devotional-friendly. And that’s the thing. Short and sweet devotionals tend to gravitate towards certain kinds of verses.
Below are a few examples of devotional-friendly verses:
● And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28
● So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. - Isaiah 41:10
● Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. - Proverbs 3:5-6
And these are wonderful verses. Some of my favorites in fact. But here a few non-devotional-friendly verses just to pique your interest:
● The Lord answered, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a she-goat, three years old, a ram three years old, a turtle dove and a young pigeon.” - Genesis 15:9
● Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God. Do not cook a young goat in its mother's milk. - Exodus 23:19
● From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. - 2 Kings 2:23-24
See the difference? Daily devotionals are likely to rely on neat, tidy, easy-to-understand verses with clear takeaways. But such tidiness is not a reality for the majority of Scripture. And that leads us to our next mistake.
Mistake #2: Shying Away From Difficult Passages and Refusing to Wrestle with Scripture
Although most of the Bible is not easily understood, our modern church culture leads us to believe that it is. Devotionals play a role in this, as we’ve already discussed. And so do church sermons.
The pastor will read a passage, analyze it a bit, and end with three concrete action steps. Of course, it’s their job to present it this way. Teachers need to teach. They can’t just stand up there asking questions and talking about how confused they are.
But most often, they’re either teaching passages that are easy to understand, passages that others have already explained to them, or passages that they have already taken the time to personally wrestle with.
But we don’t see the wrestling; we see the neatly packaged finished product. And this perception can cripple our spiritual growth.
When we expect to find immediate takeaways in Scripture, but then we sit down to read Leviticus and we find 7 straight chapters detailing the gory instructions for animal sacrifice and we’re considering becoming vegetarian, we start to feel like something is wrong. We’re deeply troubled when we can’t understand a passage.
Either we start to believe that something is wrong with us and that we’re not equipped to read these parts of the Bible, or we begin to question God for writing it and we wonder why He had to make things so strange and confusing.
But Proverbs 25:2 says this:
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
God wants us to exercise faith when we don’t understand. He wants us to search out what we don’t know.
The process of wrestling with Scripture is good and glorious and right. It is not something to be ashamed of, nor is it something to dread. We don’t have to question God’s character when He conceals truth; He’s already acknowledged that this is just His way.
Jeremiah 29:13 corroborates this principle:
All of your heart, He says. This phrase tells us that we can expect to put in some effort. Flipping open to a random page in the Bible and expecting to understand it is not whole-hearted effort. We can do more. It’s not that God wants to hide from us; it’s that He knows that the process of seeking will be edifying for us.
So let’s get our hands dirty and dig into the messy, uncomfortable areas of Scripture. We may not walk away with a concrete takeaway or life application, and that’s OK. Sometimes, all we’ll walk away with is a slightly bigger picture of God’s glory and character. And that alone is a gem.
Mistake #3: Setting Unrealistic Goals or Trying to Follow Inflexible Bible Reading Plans
I know a lot of people who like to read the Bible in a year. And if you can pull that off, great. But I don’t prefer this method. I’m currently making my way through the Bible, one book at a time, and it’s not going to be done in a year. I don’t think I’m any less holy for it.
Some parts of the Bible are more dense than others, so they demand more time. Some invite meditation, while others can be read through more quickly.
For example, you might want to spend more time on a chapter of Psalms than you would on a genealogy chapter. Not all chapters are created equal. So if you’re on a schedule, you may end up rushing through some parts that shouldn’t be rushed or foregoing meditation when it would have been helpful.
And meditation is not a modern concept. It involves entering into His presence, allowing ourselves to be loved, and seeking guidance through His Word. Joshua 1:8 says this:
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
And Psalm 119:14-15 says this:
I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.
I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.
The problem with strict reading plans is that if we skip a day, we fall behind. Rather than moving us into action, the guilt can often be paralyzing. As we fall more and more behind, a thicker and thicker sense of dread begins to cloud the task of catching up.
Dread should never be an impediment to our time with God. We should look forward to it. So I say quality over quantity when it comes to reading.
Some fall prey to religiosity when it comes to reading their Bible. They become obsessed with never missing a day or with reading an impressive amount daily. This religious vanity is not healthy.
But sometimes the pendulum swings too far the other away. Many have adopted the belief that to see Bible reading as a necessary component of the Christian faith is religious and too much to expect.
But the Bible makes it clear that we are to be avid students of all of Scripture:
● All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17
● Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” - Matthew 4:4
● For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. - Romans 15:4
If we will take the time to pore through Scripture, God promises that we will reap spiritual rewards.
Mistake #4: Not Reading Holistically
One of the most common hindrances to Bible reading that I hear of is that the Bible is too “intimidating” or “overwhelming.” People are scared to approach it.
If you struggle with this perception, I suggest reading through the books of the Bible holistically- each book from beginning to end. This is the fastest way to make your Bible reading confidence skyrocket.
When we read a book from beginning to end, we have a much clearer picture of what’s going on than if we were to pluck a passage right out of the middle of a book. Holistic reading also allows us to notice things like repetition of phrases, speech patterns, and recurring themes that we wouldn’t be able to pick up on by jumping around between books.
The Bible contains many different genres of books. Most often, we can only get a sense of genre by reading the whole book. And genre informs interpretation. For instance, we might take something literally that, in context, is obviously metaphoric or hyperbolic.
2 Timothy 2:15 says this:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
The King James Bible translates this last phrase as, “rightly dividing the word of truth.”
When we don’t read holistically, we run the risk of incorrectly handling the word of truth and “dividing” it in the wrong places.
Mistake # 5: Not Listening to Enough Outside Sources
Another way to trump the intimidation factor is to listen to what others have to say about the Bible. Of course we should always take the time to approach the Bible by ourselves, filter-free. But in order to do so confidently, we may need to round out our knowledge by seeking outside sources. This knowledge will give us some idea of what’s going on in the grand scheme of things and how to go about interpretation. And we have the gift of knowledge at our fingertips. In the age of podcasts and Youtube, nothing is holding us back from listening to some of the best spiritual leaders in the world.
If you don’t have your go-tos already, here are just a few recommendations to get you started:
● John Mark Comer of Bridgetown Church
● Matt Chandler of The Village Church
● Francis Chan with We Are Church
● Darren Rouanzoin with Garden Church
And of course, these online resources should never replace our local churches and pastors. The Christian faith is best lived in community.
As much as the Bible emphasizes its own authority, it also urges us to listen to our teachers:
● Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge. - Proverbs 23:12
● The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin. - Proverbs 10:8
● Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. - Proverbs 11:14
● Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. - Proverbs 19:20
● My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. - James 1:19
By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll learn to steer clear of any fear, intimidation, guilt, and dread surrounding the Bible.
We hope this post blessed you with encouragement and practical advice for your walk with God. If it did, please let us know in the comments!
Erica is a professional writer and editor, helping ministry leaders and entrepreneurs share their stories.
She is passionate about pointing women to God's Word and empowering them to take fierce ownership of their discipleship to Jesus.