There are basics to spiritual formation that anyone who wants to make spiritual progress in Christ must learn and practice. Some spiritual disciplines don’t need to be practiced by everyone, but the two core disciplines, which all other spiritual disciplines use and enhance, are prayer and bible reading.
I like the hand illustration by the Navigators regarding the bible. The five fingers of the hand represent five ways to get a grip on the bible: hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating. All of these are important. They don’t need to be practiced in any particular order. I have found that the third step of Bible study is critically important for my own development. But hearing the word is fundamental to all the others. Numerous methods provide opportunity to “hear” the word. Faithful participation in corporate worship and then listening intently to the word being preached is primary. Participating in small group bible studies is another. It is relatively easy, and in many cases free, to listen to scripture being read. Free options include the online ESV bible and Bible Gateway. I own the ESV audio bible ,which I have uploaded into Itunes and onto my itouch.
Stunning resources are available for hearing the word through listening to free podcasts. My favorite are Tim Keller, John Ortberg and John Piper but there are many others.
Why is this particular step of hearing the word important? If I understand
Romans 10:17 it is how faith it is developed. Romans 10:17 (ESV) 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Here is how that works. Hearing the word of Christ directs our attention to God’s faithfulness instead of on the circumstances that trouble you or frighten you.
The question remain is then will you, will I, be intentional about hearing the word of Christ? There’s no way to make spiritual progress without it. As I heard John Piper say in a message some time ago. “I can’t promise you that if you will get faithful to hearing God’s word that you will grow. But I can promise you that if you don’t, you won’t grow spiritually.”