The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it. [Isaiah 55:10-11 (NLT)]
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! [Anonymous]
Back in January, many people made resolutions to read the Bible. If you pledged to read the entire Bible this year, good for you. Like many who make that resolution, however, you may already have fallen behind schedule and are tempted to quit. Having tried to do it in a year, I feel your pain. After finally getting through Leviticus, Jeremiah nearly did me in with his doom and gloom. It’s not just the reading that takes time; it’s the understanding, the digesting, of what we’ve read that can slow us down. After all, there’s no point of reading it if we don’t understand it! I could read the words in a college astrophysics text but, if I didn’t understand them, I’d know no more about astrophysics on the last page than I did on the first. This year, I’m reading the Bible in chronological order and, in spite of my goal to do it in a year, it will probably take longer. For those who are discouraged or soon will be, I thought I’d rerun a previous devotion for you.
When in Africa, four hunters each bagged an enormous elephant. The elephants weighed 14,000 pounds apiece and, after butchering and processing, the men ended up with 7,000 pounds of edible meat in each of their freezers. Resolving to eat their elephants in one year’s time, they had to consume about nineteen pounds of meat a day. Within a day or two, George, realizing there was no way he could eat all that meat every day, quit. Tom made good headway until he got to the elephant’s trunk. It had a gamey taste and, with its 100,000 muscles, was tough to chew; discouraged, he also quit. Abe tried hard but he was a slow eater and only averaged five pounds a day. Knowing he’d never meet the deadline at that rate, Abe also quit. Ted, however, understood that some is better than none so he ate a little bit every day. If he was hungry, he ate more and if he wasn’t, he ate less and just picked up where he’d left off the previous day. When he encountered the chewy trunk, he moved over to the tender tasty ear for a while before returning to the tough part. One look at the calendar told him he’d never be done in a year but he didn’t let that bother him. He just kept eating the elephant, one bite at a time, until it was all gone.
That one bite at a time philosophy goes for reading the Bible as well as for eating elephants! While it’s nice to have a goal, sometimes that goal isn’t feasible. Not achieving your day’s objective, however, isn’t a reason to quit. As Ted learned, some is better than none if you want to accomplish anything. Like the elephant’s trunk, some parts of the Bible are really tough and hard to digest. When Ted got to the trunk, he took a break and moved to something easier to chew before returning to the tough part; we can do the same with our reading. Ruth, Esther and James are far easier to digest than Chronicles, Lamentations or Isaiah and we can move around in our reading when things get tough. Some people read slower and some parts of the Bible take a whole lot longer to digest than others. While setting a target date is admirable, it may be unrealistic; struggling to maintain an unrealistic pace can turn what should be uplifting into drudgery. Ted changed his objective from consuming his elephant in 365 days to polishing it off eventually and he achieved his goal. The same philosophy works for our Bible reading. If we read a little a day, taking it one page at a time, sooner or later, we will come to the end.
I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. I praise you, O Lord; teach me your decrees. … Be good to your servant, that I may live and obey your word. Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions. [Psalm 119:11-12,17-18 (NLT)]
P.S. No elephants were harmed during the writing of this devotion!