Saturday, October 06, 2007

Help for the Weary Reader

The Word of the Lord is the theme of Psalm 1, and the Psalmist has great affection for it. “Blessed is the man” who devotes himself to it day and night. “Blessed,” meaning he is happy. The Lord has given to Him the desires of His heart, which for those in the Word of God turns out to be God Himself. The reading of Scripture fulfills what it promises. The more we read the more we want to know God, the more we read the more we get to know God. That is “blessedness!”

The man who reads God’s Word is not the man who seeks wisdom from the wicked world, nor one who models the evil of others, nor one who sits in judgment on the Word of God. The “blessed” man is one who “delights” in the Word and treasures it. This man “hides” God’s Word in His heart, with the intent that He might not sin against God! The man of the Word is one who hates sinning against God, and though He may still fail to obey, he despises sin, repents of it, and turns again to the Word that God might restore unto Him the Joy of His Salvation. The Word is a delight to the “blessed” man, and, in fact, the man is “delighted” because of that very Word. For in the Word he receives what he most desires: God.

This “blessed man” is compared to a fruitful tree, with leaves that do no wither. It is a man whose spiritual life thrives and blossoms and never fails. The Word of God is like rich soil that we sink our roots into for life; it is like the stream in the analogy that continually supplies sustenance to our branches. We prosper because we obey the Word of God, for it is our delight!

It is amazing how the Word of God works, and yet we hesitate so frequently to pick it up and read it. Why? Do we not grasp these facts of the power and beauty of Scripture? Do we not understand the word of God in Hebrews:

For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the divisions of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and the intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

This is not a word assigned to some abstract notion of divine revelation, or some super-spiritual language, or even some divinely inspired meaning above the capabilities of language to grasp. These words are assigned to the canon of Scripture, the Holy Bible, to its very self. The Bible is the Word of God and through the Holy Spirit it is the means to growing our faith, correcting us, rebuking us, teaching us, and sanctifying us. So why, then, if we do know this, do we still experience a dislike of it?

The short answer is sin; it’s also the obvious one and the easiest one. The other answer is much harder to hear, and more specific. For me, in my own case, it is a simple answer of not loving Jesus enough. O, I am thankful that Jesus first loved me and gave Himself up for me that I might be a son of God. But my heart does not seem to daily long for my savior, my mind does not think on Him hourly, nor does my life reflect a dedication to His Word. Where is my love? On self, on things, on others, etc. John Calvin said that our hearts are idol factories, I know from experience, as I am sure he did, that is more true than I wish to affirm. So what is the solution?

We cannot merely diagnose problems and think that it is sufficient spiritual work. No, there must be a plan for change. The answer is simple, but not simplistic. There is a three-fold cord of spiritual growth that we all need: (1) The Bible; (2) Prayer; (3) Fellowship.

It is not as though I forgot what we are talking about (“Why don’t we read the Bible), but the answer, even in the face of this struggle, is still “read the Bible.” Especially when we don’t feel like it we should read! Read short, read long, read great passages, read small ones, read a book or a chapter, or a verse. Read a Psalm everyday of the week, read through the Gospel of Mark. The point is clear, however it is done, read the Bible. We must force ourselves to be in the Word as much as possible. This is not to suggest that if you don’t read it everyday you are sinning or falling away, rather it is to say we should read it as much as we can. The more we do, the more we will love it, and the more we will learn of God and love Him.

Prayer is crucial for ever Christian life and especially for those struggling to be in the Word. The Bible teaches us that God’s desire for us is our sanctification, our spiritual growth. Therefore call upon Him to aid you in this stubborn lack of desire for His Word. Pray that He would increase your affections for the Word, and open it up to you that you may grow and benefit from it. Pray for help from others to encourage you to be in the Bible regularly.

This brings us to the final element, fellowship. Lone-ranger Christians are not Biblical, nor are they successful. The church was established by Christ for our benefit. We need others to help us and especially when we are facing “spiritual depression.” We need the uplift of Godly brothers and sisters, we need their encouragement and prayers, we need their love and support, and perhaps even their firm loving words of rebuke. Fellowship not only holds us accountable to growth, but the more we talk about God’s Word with others the more we will want to be in it.

So if you are struggling with reading Scripture regularly then pray, surround yourself with Christ-like men or women, and insist upon reading the Bible as much as possible! Pray for it, get help with it, and do it! Trust me friends, we won’t regret it if we do…for the Word of God is a delight and God blesses the man who reads it.

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