It is often difficult to describe the emotions that are a part of a Christian’s life. Living according to God’s Word means acting in ways that are counter intuitive. The redeemed spirit and the fallen flesh are locked in conflict on a daily basis. When times are good, the flesh wants to party. When the going gets tough, the flesh wants to make everything way worse. While our redeemed spirit knows that we should love those who hurt us, the flesh prompts us to strike back. When money is tight, the flesh says to withhold our tithe, while the spirit knows to respond in trust and give to God what is His. The struggle is real and it is constant.
I’ve discovered that it is easier to navigate the emotional conflict as I gain a better knowledge of God’s Word. While this may seem fairly elementary for a person that gave her life to Christ at 7 and grew up in Sunday School, the directive to “read the Bible” is not as simple as it may seem. I’ve spent my entire life “reading the Bible.” I went to seminary, where reading the Bible was a part of my course work. I have notebooks FULL of sermon notes and retreat musings. Still, when clouds start to gather, “read the Bible” and “go to God’s Word” are difficult instructions to follow. We wind up playing Bible roulette, opening the pages at random and poking our finger onto the page with eyes covered, hoping that it will land on a verse that contains the answer to our problems. In these moments danger looms as we allow the Bible to become a magical talisman, the words little more than an incantation. Hoping to find some kind of magic spell, we take verses out of context, because without it we have a much easier time convincing the Bible to say what we want it to say. Ignoring the context means that we don’t have to do the hard work of understanding the greater narrative. We don’t have to read the “boring parts” or all of the begats. Instead we prefer to float around the prettier verses that lend themselves to brush lettering, flourishes, and flowery frames. But we’re not living airbrushed lives and this is no Instagram gospel. It’s time to stop avoiding the hard work of knowing God’s Word.
Read the Bible. No, not books about the Bible. The Bible. Don’t worry about finding the right plan because you’re not going to be on a schedule. Just get your Bible, open it to Genesis, and start reading. Read as much as you can. Read as often as you can. Prayerfully open your heart and your mind and allow God to tell you HIS story. The Word is God’s revelation of Himself to us. How can we know Him if we don’t read His story? And while I’m thinking of it, write that down. It’s HIS story. HE is the main character. The supporting cast of characters are flawed and they will let you down if you put your faith in them. God is the Hero of this story and HE will never let you down. When needed, consult a Bible commentary if certain passages are difficult to understand, but for the most part try to make your journey through God’s Word as unfiltered as possible. As you do, you will be amazed at how much better you understand the struggles you face in your own life. There will be no more Bible roulette, scrambling through the pages looking for a verse that will make sense out of life. Instead, those words will float to the top of your mind not as mantras or spells, but as reminders of God’s character and the gentle help he offers to us in our daily lives. Your perspective on these problems and temptations will change as you view them in light of God’s greater plan and work in creation. Even today, as I struggled to do what I know to be right (tithing…it was tithing), a verse came to mind and I spoke it as a prayer, “Uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:12, ESV) The NIV puts it this way, “grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” I was reminded that it’s not about the money, it’s about trust. It’s about my heart. My flesh may be kicking and screaming, but my spirit knows what is right and why it is important. I need the Holy Spirit to grant me the strength to follow through. He will if I will just ask! An intimate knowledge of God’s Word helps us to better understand the conflict within. In those moments we can better know how to pray, and we can have confidence that HE will answer us. How wonderful it is when the Holy Spirit helps us to recall a story from the Bible so that our fallen hearts can know how to even begin to approach the Lord in the midst of our inner turmoil. I am continuously amazed by the power of God’s Word.
I posted this on Facebook in December of 2016, and it is still true today. (It is also still rife with spelling errors! Sorry!) I challenge you to “taste and see that the Lord is good” as your feast on the simplicity of just reading His Word.
“I used to hear pastors say this and I was like, “Yes, but HOW?” I read books about the Bible. I went to Seminary, graduated, taught at a Christian school, but I never could figure out how to soak my soul in God’s Word, how to experience it the way others do. Then, last year I resolved to read the Bible strait through. (I’d tried before, but never made it.) I’ve started Bible Art Journaling along the way. Now I’m in Chronicles, and still going. It’s taking longer than planned, but I’m not sad. And now, I get it. There is something outrageously simple about letting God speak for himself through His word. No commentary, no filter, just His Word. I finally get this statement. Now, I say this very thing! What I love about my personal journey is that I also know how to help people find that understanding for themselves.”