Making the Most of Your Time at Home
by Patrick Slyman, Teaching Pastor
As the “shelter-at-home” mandate continues into another week, many of us have time at home we have not had before. What are we to do with this time? How can we use it for our growth in godliness? Here are a few practical suggestions on how you might do that.
Set Your Schedule and Read
Know your patterns. Are you a morning or an evening person? Set aside the most productive portion of the day for your time in the Word—and only allow emergencies to interrupt this time. Silence your phone, close your laptop, and ask the Lord for focus and clarity of thought. Remember, “What happens in the study determines what happens in the lives of people…A fruitful study will eventually become a fruitful body of believers as the Spirit uses His Word transmitted to mold people in the image of Christ.”
Then, begin to read.
Read the Bible to See God
Bible intake is essential, as it is what the Lord uses to nourish our soul and mature our faith (1 Pet. 2:2). Jesus’ words are as true today as they were when He spoke them: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Yet you must be careful to approach the Bible as it was meant to be read—as a God-centered book. Man is not the hero of God’s story. Far too often we read the Bible the same way we look at family pictures: we scan until we find ourselves. Where am I in this passage? is a question that far too often dominates our Bible reading. But the Bible is not primarily about us! It’s about God—His majesty, sovereignty, righteousness, grace, and mercy. It’s the story of redemption—God, having been scorned, now reconciling a people back to Himself. It’s the story of life—eternal life only granted through Christ. It’s the story of glory—the glory of God being put on display.
Thus, as you read the Scriptures, be content that often the story has nothing to do with you. Instead, ask yourself: (1) What attribute of God is being put on display? (2) How is the Lord’s hand of providence moving? (3) What new thoughts about God have I been taught? (4) How can I praise the one true and living God? These are essential questions because, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us” (Tozer). When reading the Bible, we must keep the center of the story at the center of our study.
Read Theology to Be Humbled
We are humbled when God is exalted. This is why it is important to read theological books, articles, and blogs. Far from being boring or dry, theology is spiritually invigorating. No being is more glorious, nor subject more essential, than God. As Steve Lawson writes, “If our lives fall short, it is ultimately because our view of God falls short. Transcendent living arises from a surpassing knowledge of God. A high view of God will always lead to holy, passionate living.” Read theology to be humbled, to be impassioned, to become holy.
Begin your journey with Peter Jeffery’s Bitesize Theology—a short read that summarizes the essential doctrines of the faith in bitesize pieces. Then, move on to R.C. Sproul’s Everybody’s a Theologian. Pick up J.I. Packer’s Knowing God and Michael Reeves’ Delighting in the Trinity. I would then recommend John MacArthur’s Biblical Doctrine, Matthew Barrett’s None Greater, and John Piper’s Desiring God—each book humbling and quieting our souls with God-exalting theological truth.
Read to be enthralled with God, our Creator and Savior. Read to be changed.
Begin and End Your Reading with Prayer
Prayer and the Word go together. Though reading is necessary for Christian growth and humility, prayer is where our growth and humility are seen. Where there is no prayer, there is pride. And thus, prayer must engulf our reading. Begin your time in the Word by praying along with David, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law” (Ps. 119:18). End your time in the Word by asking the Lord to make you a “doer of the word, and not merely [a] hearer who deludes [himself]” (James 1:22). And as you see more and more of the glory of God in your time of reading, “Always respond to every impulse to pray” (Lloyd-Jones). Prayer and the Word go hand-in-hand.
John MacArthur, Jr. and Robert Thomas, “The Pastor’s Study” in Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry (Nashville: W. Publishing Group, 1995), 216.