I love reading! Ever since I understood that the little black marks on the white paper told colorful stories, I’ve been keen on everything printed. I read advertisements, labels on food products, cereal boxes, magazines, and books—even instruction manuals.
For my seventh birthday I was given my first Bible. I loved that little book. I was no longer dependent on a grown-up to find out whether or not Daniel survived the lion’s den or how David got the better of Goliath. Now I could read these stories for myself. Ruth and Esther, Joseph and David were the stars of my childhood.
More Than a Story Collection
Later I came to understand that the Bible was more than simply an exciting story collection. It gave advice and encouragement, and put its finger on the problem. It showed me which way to go when I saw no way out (2 Tim. 3:16), and, above all, it was here that I met Jesus Christ introducing me to my heavenly Father (John 5:39; 14:6, 9).
God communicates His plans, His will, and the way He works through the Bible. Pious feelings carry about as much weight as a melting ice sheet. Wonderful experiences in my faith life will eventually fade and become as brittle as the rose in last year’s birthday bouquet. But the Word of God remains.
The Bible bridges the beginnings of human history right to us (Gen. 1:27; 2:18; Matt. 19:4-6; Rev. 19:6-9). It shows us God’s plan of salvation, interwoven with our own lives. The Bible lets us in on God’s thoughts, His style, and His wishes (2 Peter 3:9). Foreign cultures come closer to us, as we read of people in far-off times who loved, suffered, experienced joy or cheated, took revenge or forgave injustice.
From their victories and mistakes we learn how it is done and what we could do better. We can test their goals and values and perhaps incorporate them into our lives. Through daily contact with Scripture we will be transformed (Ps. 1:1, 2; 119:1-11).
In the mirror of biblical reality we see many ideas for what they are—crumbling lies (Heb. 4:12). Here are some: “Everyone must love me,” “I must make everyone happy,” “I am worth nothing,” “I am always right,” “I am better than you.” Many lead a miserable life, caged in by rules and conventions made by others. However, when we discover in the Bible what God really wants, the iron chains that hold our thoughts captive fall. We are free! We are saved! “The truth will set you free,” said Jesus (John 8:32, NIV)—and He meant it.
I recently got to know a single-minded businessman who realized, through Bible study, that his worth was not dependent on his achievements. Listen to what he wrote: “Since I realized this, I feel so much more at peace. I don’t have to prove anymore to anyone how good I am. I can also handle failure. There isn’t any guarantee that everything should work out perfectly for me. The Bible greats also had their share of misfortunes. And did they immediately give up? Did they doubt God’s love? I learn so much through the Bible. I don’t want to forfeit my time with my Bible for anything. Since I began spending time with my Bible I have new courage. I used to often contemplate suicide. But now I believe that I have been given a second chance. The Bible has become so precious to me that I am prepared to give anything for it.”
I am amazed when I hear his story. Do I share the same experience? Of course, I value the Bible; after all, I’ve grown up with it, and all the precious promises it contains. But would I really be prepared to risk my life for it like the ancient Waldenses? And is the time I spend daily with my Bible really the highlight of my day? Or do I often have to fight the “I know this all already” syndrome?
It is really a strange contradiction. A part of me is as excited about Bible reading as someone discovering a treasure cave. Another part of me wants to turn on the computer first thing in the morning and catch up on my e-mails. Often it is already mid-morning before I realize that I haven’t made time for some uninterrupted time with my Bible. I know that there is so much more to having time with God than a half-awake prayer first thing in the morning and a quickly mumbled prayer over lunch. I am ashamed to admit it but sometimes I have to force myself to read my Bible.
The Bible and I—And You
Am I overfed? Have I absorbed too many theories and left the practice far behind? Perhaps a single verse that speaks to me is worth a thousand words that I may be able to repeat from memory with beautiful intonation. Do my own stubborn plans create a background noise that keeps me from really listening to God’s Word? Perhaps it’s the guilty memory of a harsh interchange that I had with someone yesterday that is stopping me from concentrating. Of course, there is the still small voice of the Holy Spirit that wants to speak to me from the open book and may be interfering with my own selfish reading agendas. Then there is also the painful memory of an injustice that I have suffered that can well up and interfere. Or perhaps it is my fears: What about my children’s future? Will our church be able to cope with its internal tensions? How will we manage financially on our pension? These are all walls that can block out the Word. I read but don’t comprehend a thing. I pray and my prayer rises no higher than the ceiling, or so it seems.
Yet our heavenly Father sees all and understands us. He wants to help us remove these blockades. He wants to give us daily, fresh gifts in His Word. Only when we hungrily take this daily bread will this void be filled—when we eat it with a thankful heart, when we “chew” it well. God’s Word loses its appeal only when we handle it as a theory rather than allowing it to transform us from the inside out; when my memory slots are full, or when His Word gets stuck in my mind and doesn’t make it to my heart and into my hand. Perhaps the truest path to finding the joy in Scripture is to pray, “Lord, give me a thirst for the Bible and let Your Word take root in me. Help me put into practice what I know; let me become more like You.”
This article originally appeared on Adventist Review magazine on October 2010.