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Proactive and Reactive Bible Intake

It is easy as older Christians to coast on our knowledge of the Bible. Unconsciously we say to ourselves, “I know what’s in there. I know all the stories.” 

Younger Christians who have grown up in a Christian home or gone through a Christian school can have the same complacency. “I know the basics of what’s in there. It doesn’t really apply to my life right now. I need other information to succeed in life.”

Certainly we need more information for life. A nurse needs to grow in her field and a journalist in his. But God also tells us that we never outgrow our need for the Scriptures. Just as we need food whether newborn or elderly, so both the young and long-time Christian need the Scriptures. They are our daily nourishment that meet us in the different circumstances of life.

How should we take in Scripture so that it meets our needs?

For this post, let me suggest two large categories: Proactive Intake and Reactive Intake.

Proactive Bible Intake

By proactive Bible intake, I mean regular systematic Bible reading, sermon hearing, and book consumption to give a general knowledge base. Jesus assumed the Scriptural knowledge of his disciples when he referenced OT characters. For example, he ended one lesson by saying, “Remember Lot’s wife,” (Luke 17:32). To remember something, you have to know it in the first place.

Similarly, Jesus stated that the Pharisees were in error because they did not know the Scriptures (Matt. 22:29) or that they had misread it, emphasizing minor matters over the major ones (Matt 23:23).

Continual proactive input is a mark of a mature Christian. That input allows the Spirit to make connections so that we have greater insight. We see this usage when the Scripture says: then the disciples remembered his words (John 2:22) and then he opened their minds so that they could understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45).

There had to be something in there for the Lord to work with. The disciples knew the Scriptures but needed his teaching or an experience to understand them more deeply.

How is our proactive Bible intake? We need to make sure that we are reading, listening to, and studying the Scripture. That’s why the new year is a perfect time to commit to a Bible reading plan.

This is where most Christians stop. But there is another equally important Bible intake category: reactive Bible intake.

Reactive Bible Intake

By reactive Bible intake, I mean letting the circumstances of life drive us back to the Scriptures. It means opening up our Bible reactively when we are in pain or in doubt or have confusion about life.

The psalmist experienced this when he wrote. “It was good for me to be afflicted that I might learn your decrees,” (Psalm 119:71). In other words, pain, questions, and confusion drove him to open up the Scriptures. And he was glad for it.

If we really believe the Scriptures are sufficient then trials will drive us back to look for things we have not seen or understood deeply. The pain rips open the soil of our heart to allow the word to drop down deeper. Now our heart is tender, ready to take in the word.

I have seen this in my own life as confusion, pain, or questioning have caused me to search the Scriptures. Struggles have driven me back to the Scriptures to ask questions like:

  • What am I missing about how Jesus and Paul developed leaders?
  • What does the Bible say about anger? How do I overcome this sin?
  • What does the Bible say about helping others become stronger disciples?
  • What are my priorities as a dad? What does God want from me?
  • How do I love my wife in this situation? What does she need from me?
  • Does God have a plan for my life? What promise will help me in this crisis?

I never would have studied these subjects in my daily, normal, systematic intake. But the problems of life drove me back to gather new insights from God’s word. The pain caused me to take out a concordance and to study a word or topic in the Scriptures, crying out to hear God’s voice for my situation.

In many ways, proactive Bible intake prepares us to know where to open the Scriptures when we need reactive Bible intake.

Where is the pain or confusion in your life? Scripture is ready to come alive. Have you opened the word?


God uses both proactive and reactive Bible intake.

Recommit yourself to regular intake of God’s Word. Faithfully read God’s word on a regular basis. Take in sermons. Read good books. Ask God to speak to you in each one. Trust that he will.

And recommit yourself that pain, confusion, and emptiness will cause you to open up your Bible and cry out to God that he might speak to your need with specific Scriptures. Trust that God will speak to you in these affliction as you open up the Bible. I know that he will.