THE ‘SHARK’S FIN’ peak of Mount Meru in the Indian Himalayas is widely regarded as the most difficult mountaineering challenge in the world. Over the years there were many attempts to climb it. Then in 2011 it was finally conquered by a team of three men, after years of preparation, a previous failed attempt, intensive practice and physical training, then a gruelling 11-day climb involving a 4000-foot ascent of treacherous snow fields before they could scale the 1500-foot vertical granite face.
The inevitable question is—why? The team leader Conrad Anker explained: “Why do we do this stuff? The view!”
Everybody likes a challenge. Not everybody is up for the kind of challenge which involves pushing your mind and body to their limit of endurance with a constant risk of falling to your death in temperatures colder than a domestic freezer, on a climb which many people said was impossible. But here’s a challenge which you can take up.
Sit Down And Read
The Bible makes a very bold claim—it claims to be the Word of God, which can lead its reader to eternal life (John 6:68). The problem is, it’s a big book and it can be daunting. To contemplate reading it might seem like contemplating climbing a mountain!
So just read one of its 66 books. The Gospels are a good place to start because they will introduce you to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the perfect man, the Saviour of the world who is the focus of the Bible’s message. Matthew is the first Gospel.
Here’s the challenge. Arrange some time for yourself, in which you can sit down with as little interruption as possible. Matthew will take a few hours to read, it doesn’t have to be all in one sitting. Get hold of a copy of the Bible. Alternatively, read it online. Start by getting your attitude right, with a prayer to God. The words of Psalm 119:18 would do nicely: “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.” Then read, carefully and attentively. Take breaks when you need them. If you’re new to the Bible it may not be easy: it’s not written to be a page-turner! Also, the Gospel writers make many references to the Old Testament with which you may not be familiar. But enjoy what you read, and think about it. Ask questions. Make notes, if you’re the note-taking type.
There is an important principle which needs to be borne in mind when reading the Bible. It’s expressed in the prophecy of Isaiah:
Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word”
If the Bible is the word of God, it must be read with respect. There’s a tendency these days to be critical of everything. Perhaps this is born out of the popular notion that your own opinion on any subject is more important than any supposed ‘absolute truth’. But the Bible claims to be absolute truth (2 Timothy 3:16). So it’s good to ask questions and flag up bits you don’t understand or that make you uncomfortable—but remember what it is you’re reading!
There are people who have been reading the Bible all their lives, and they’re still asking questions and still discovering things they’ve never noticed before. You should not expect to get a grip on Matthew’s Gospel with one reading. But it may well give you an appetite to read more.
Then What Next?
There are 66 books to explore. Some are easier than others. What next? Genesis is the obvious choice—the Bible’s first book, the book of beginnings which lays the foundation for everything that follows. Some people are fascinated by the rich imagery in the last book, Revelation, but Revelation is tying together threads that have emerged throughout the rest of the Bible so it’s not the best place to start.
Reading an entire book in one sitting is like having a feast. A balanced diet, of course, involves regular meals. So here’s another challenge: set yourself the target of reading something from the Bible every day. You may want to use a reading planner, such as the Bible Companion which appears annually in Glad Tidings and is freely available on the internet. Remember that a good plan will cover the entire Bible.
Imagine the exhilaration of climbing a mountain, reaching the summit, and gazing down upon the world in wonder. The only thing left to do is turn round and go back. Now imagine the exhilaration of coming to realise that your Creator has called you to everlasting life, and in the pages of the Bible He is showing you the way. It’s a lifetime’s journey, but when you reach the destination you will be at the beginning of eternity.