Let Us Value God’s Word!

holding bible

I received a Voice of the Martyrs magazine the other day that focused on smuggling Bibles into various countries.  There were several articles throughout describing some of the hardships and lengths people have to go to just to get a copy of the Bible into people’s hands (and hearts).

I couldn’t help but think, as I was reading the article, about how blessed many of us are when it comes to access to the Bible.  Right now, I can think of at least seven different English translations of the Bible sitting on my shelves (not including two updates of two of them that are slightly different).  I have some of those translations in different editions of study Bibles, increasing the number of Bibles I have access to.  In addition, I have two different audio Bibles in my room (plus two in the car).  If I need more insight, I can pull out my laptop, iPad, or phone and immediately access probably another 20 or so English translations there.  Again, let me say, most of us are blessed beyond measure!  Some may call it an embarrassment of riches.

Yet, at the same time, it seems that this blessing has also led us to be somewhat . . . well . . . spoiled, ungrateful, and somewhat desensitized to just what a treasure we have.  I don’t mean for that to sound harsh, but it struck me hard today.  The magazine articles, coupled with a video I have seen a few times now of people literally weeping, hugging, and kissing their Bibles when they finally received copies in their own language, really hit me and made me think about their perspective on having Scripture they can read versus ours.

Let me speak for myself.  I truly don’t feel I memorize, read, and pray over the word like I should.  There is no sense of urgency, I suppose, because I know that it is always there.  I can pick it up and read it any time, so there’s no pressure to read it right now.  Especially after a hard day’s work, I just want to relax and watch TV, mindlessly scroll down the unending social feed that is Facebook, or play a game.  When I do feel like reading, for some odd reason, I will reach for other Christian books about the Bible, but not necessarily reach for the Bible itself.  (That, too, is another blessing we take for granted, but I will focus on just the word itself in this blog post.)

Maybe if we lost access to the Bible we would actually respect it and value it more.  Maybe that is what it will take to cause us to yearn for the word of God more than anything else.  Maybe if access to the Bible is restricted, our hearts and spirits will finally be stirred to realize how much we need it.  Maybe then we would hug our Bibles, read them until they fall apart, and memorize and recite Scripture more than our favorite songs (even Christian ones).

Or maybe, just maybe, we can learn from seeing how other Christians who are not as fortunate (part of me wants to put quotes around that word) as we are treat their Bibles and access to the living and powerful word of God.  Maybe we can realize the blessing we have been given without having it taken away, and we can begin to treat our Bibles as the gifts they truly are.  Maybe we can pray for ourselves and encourage one another to hunger and thirst for God’s voice in His written word as much as we hunger for food and thirst for water.  Maybe we can really believe that we do not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4).  Maybe we can let the word of Christ dwell in us richly (Colossians).  (Reread that last sentence a few times, focusing on the words “dwell” and “richly.”) Maybe we will hit a point where we carry our Bibles as lovingly as if we were carrying the most expensive treasure on Earth.  Maybe we will learn to hug our Bibles as we pray; to shed tears over them every time we open the pages and realize the lengths that people have gone to so that we can have access to the word of God.  Maybe we will learn to reach for our Bibles (in whatever format) in our spare moments rather than for games and social media, meeting with God as often as possible and learning from Him.  Maybe we will start hiding God’s word in our heart more, memorizing as if our lives depend on it because maybe, in a way, they do.

Maybe, just maybe.

“God, forgive us for taking your word for granted.  Forgive us for failing to see the treasure we have in front of us.  Forgive us for treating your word as an accessory to be used at suitable times rather than as your very words to us that we need to live.  Please help us to love your word more.  Help us to hunger and thirst for it.  Let us reach a point where nothing else can satisfy us.  Thank you, Lord, for giving us this blessing.  Let us treasure it for the riches contained in it.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

Letting the Word Dwell in You

I was blessed last night to have the opportunity to dramatically present the book of Jonah from memory at a local church.  I love being able to share God’s word in a fresh way with others.  I pray it blesses them as much as the people I got the idea from (Bruce Kuhn, Tom Meyer, Jason Nightingale, and Marquis Laughlin) bless me.

One of the things I do when I present dramatically is to encourage those listening to consider memorizing larger portions of God’s word (chapters or books) rather than just memorizing individual verses.  While memorizing specific verses is important, I believe that memorizing larger portions in context does something deep in us to make the word of God take a deeper root in our hearts and lives.

I want to encourage you to actively hide God’s word in  your heart (whether it is individual verses or larger passages).  We are told in Colossians to “[l]et the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (3:16, ESV).  Does the word of God dwell in you?  Is it living deep down inside of you instead of just visiting occasionally as you open the Bible and read?  Again, reading the word of God is good and necessary.  But letting the word of God dwell in us has special benefits.

For one thing, we are told that the person who meditates on God’s word is blessed (or happy, although this is a deeper form of happiness than we normally think about) in Psalm 1.  As we ponder God’s word and think about it, we become more firmly planted, “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.” (Psalm 1:3)  This is not a picture of a tree barely surviving, but of a tree that is flourishing!  Our lives should be like that, and they will be more and more as we meditate on God’s word.  The idea of meditating is a picture of turning something over and over in our mind.  This is no casual reading of God’s word, but a deep and focused thinking on the content of the word of God.  To do this well, we really need the word inside of us, not just in a book that we pick up on occasion.

Second, as we meditate on God’s word, we will then realize it is one of the main ways God transforms us to be more like Christ.  As we begin to understand God and His ways and thoughts, we will “be transformed by the renewal of [our] mind.” (Romans 12:2, ESV)  As our minds are changed, so are we.  Our thoughts determine how we live our lives, so as our minds are filled with the very thoughts of God, our lives begin to morph into a life patterned after those thoughts.  Dallas Willard, one of the foremost teachers on spiritual discipline and being transformed into Christlikeness, has argued that Scripture memory is basically the most important spiritual discipline one can practice for this very reason.  If anyone is interested, he recommends memorizing Matthew 5-7, John 14-17, and Colossians 3, among other passages.

One last reason why Scripture memory is so important is that it keeps us from sin.  Psalm 119:11 says, “I have stored up your word in my hear that I might not sin against you.” (ESV)  As we meditate on God’s word and allow it to transform our minds and form us to be more like Christ, we are increasingly aware of what is holy and what is not.  By deeply immersing ourselves in God’s word, and letting it dwell in us, we are protected and armed against the tricks that Satan brings against us to turn us away from God’s ways.  As we know God’s word more, and as it abides more deeply in us, we can say with Paul that we “are not ignorant of [Satan’s] designs.” (2 Corinthians 2:11, ESV)  We are in a daily battle, so let’s be sure we are prepared to guard ourselves.

These are not the only reasons to memorize Scripture and let it dwell in us, but they are good ones to consider, I think.

Make it a point to begin committing Scripture to memory.  Challenge yourself to memorize larger portions.  Start with Psalm 1 (it’s only 6 verses) or 1 Corinthians 13.  Work your way up from there.  Take it one verse at a time, and God will enable you to grow in the knowledge of Him.