I did not even believe in the Bible I was so eagerly studying. How ironic.
By Diane Omondi
Has your daily schedule changed during this unprecedented lock-down season? If yes, perhaps you have time for things that you are usually too busy for. Delving more deeply into God’s Word would be an excellent way to use some of that time. And even if the time is not “extra,” I want to encourage all of us, myself included, to seek the Lord in His Word and in prayer.
My relationship with God’s Word has taken many shapes. As a child, I remember enjoying the pictures in my small, blue, treasured children’s Bible. During high school, I had the coveted privilege of being on our church’s Quiz Team. It was a Bible quizzing program that led us into intense study of specified books or chapters. For those who were diligent, like I was, we came close to memorizing entire chapters. This earned our team a chance at regional and state-wide competitions. Great memories!
But at that age, I did not even believe in the Bible I was so eagerly studying. How ironic. Despite that, I believe the Word of God shaped my life and the study of it laid a strong spiritual foundation that still holds today.
Fast forward to a powerful experience of salvation and a journey in faith. Different Bible reading programs have worked for different seasons of my life. For many years, I read—or tried to read—the Bible through in one year. If I lost pace, one year might be extended to 18 months; then I would start from Genesis again (feeling guilty for being behind schedule). At other times, I have decided to read a specific book or chapters daily for one month. If a short book like Ephesians, I might read the entire book every day. If a longer book, I might read it through five or seven times over the month. Then switch to another.
I remember being led to read John chapters 14-17 daily several years ago. One month extended to two. Toward the end of the second month, we experienced a potential split in the DOVE Africa church family. The words of Jesus as He prayed for unity in His body came bursting through my spirit so powerfully during that experience. As I read that portion of John 17 in one of our very tense meetings, we could almost literally feel walls of contention breaking down. I thank God for planting that Word that would accomplish what it was sent for (Isaiah 55:11) precisely when it was needed.
Making It Real
Now, it’s time to be totally honest. There have also been times when reading God’s Word is a chore. Or when I just don’t do it. For too long.
Seven years ago, we introduced the idea of a Bible Read-a-Thon in DOVE Africa. Willing participants gather daily to read the Bible aloud, one person at a time. It takes about two weeks (not round-the-clock but on a 9-to-5 schedule) to read the Bible through from Genesis to Revelation. We repeated the activity five years in a row. Totally life-changing!
More recently, we have been using the Discovery Bible Study method in most small group settings. This method encourages everyone’s participation as the truths to believe, examples to follow, and lessons to obey are uncovered in open discussion.
How Should We Relate to Scripture?
Your and my journey with God’s Word might involve any or all of these interactions:
- Reading (or listening to). Reading the Word is basic. Reading allows us to become familiar with God’s Word. As explained already, different Bible reading plans can be used according to your own preferences. Reading is the starting point.
- Studying. Study involves devoting time and attention to gain knowledge. It might mean doing detailed analysis of the Word. Paul tells Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16-17). If we want to be equipped to serve the Lord, Bible study is a must. Several useful steps in study include:
- Understand the context
- Understand the whole message
- Understand the type of literature
- Understand the human component (the Bible is the inspired Word of God, but did not “drop from heaven” as a complete book!)
- Understand what the writing meant to the people it was written to
- Understand the relationship between the Old and New Testaments (some things are changed; some things are consistent; some things are a fulfillment of what went before)
- Meditation. When we meditate, we might roll scriptures over and over in our minds, and allow the Holy Spirit to work the Word into the core of our beings. Psalm 1:2-3 says, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
- Memorization. This takes a higher level of discipline. The Psalmist declared, “Thy word have I hid in my heart” (Psalm 119:105). You could memorize a verse a week, a verse a day, work on a section or a chapter… whatever works for you. Memorized scriptures often provide a “Word bank” in times of ministry or times of need.
- Application. We need to make the Word of God practical for our lives and present situations. This is application. After reading a specific Bible passage, it is helpful to ask:
- What is the truth to believe?
- What is the example to follow (or not follow)?
- What is the command to obey?
- Prayer. Praying the Word is a powerful prayer method. Many passages can be used when praying for others or our own situations. Certain psalms, the apostolic prayers of Peter or Paul (Ephesians 1:18 ff; Ephesians 3:14 ff; Ephesians 6:10 ff), and Jesus’ prayers (John 17:10 ff, for example) are especially suited for this. We might also use the Word to pray God’s will into situations or declare His purposes with confidence and authority.
- Teaching. When we teach, we transmit the truths and lessons of God’s Word to others. But it is not only others who benefit. We actually learn more, ourselves, in the process of teaching. The Bible says that once we have known God’s Word, we really “ought to be teaching” others (Hebrews 5:12).
So, what effect does all of this reading, studying, memorization, teaching, and application have in our lives? Several analogies directly from Scripture help us understand what the Bible is to us.
The Word of God is our:
- Light: Psalm 119:105. It shows the way and dispels darkness.
- Mirror: James 1:23-24. We can see ourselves and our challenges in the Word of God.
- Map: Psalm 119:133. It is a guide; it directs my steps. It also gives boundaries about where we should go and where we should not go.
- Bread: Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3. It is required every day! Bread gives physical nourishment; the Word gives spiritual nourishment. Without it, we become spiritually weak.
- Honey: Psalm 119:103. Honey is very sweet. We enjoy eating it almost any time. It gives a boost of energy, and makes things taste a lot better.
- Sword: Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12. The Word is a weapon we can use against the enemy. Jesus quoted scriptures when warding off Satan’s attack after forty days of fasting.
- Belt (of truth): Ephesians 6:14; John 17:17; II Timothy 2:15. God’s Word is the belt of truth and is part of our spiritual armor. As our belt of truth, the Word gives us strength to resist the enemy. Truth always overcomes lies.
- Water for cleansing. Ephesians 5:26; Romans 12:2. The Word is a tool for cleansing and washing. Through the washing of the Word, we are able to get rid of dirt that we pick up from the world and experience a renewing of the mind.
- Silver and gold: Psalm 119:72. These precious metals are very valuable, and so is God’s Word. In the natural sense, silver and gold represent the provision that is necessary for doing the work of the Kingdom. We need God’s Word in order to do His work.
Correct or Incorrect?
There are correct and incorrect ways of handling God’s Word. We are exhorted in II Timothy 2:15, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
Unfortunately, the Bible can be used to “prove” just about anything! I cringe to think of how God our Father must feel when His Word is misquoted and misused.
Lack of correct application of the Word of God is not just due to laziness or lack of training. It is actually a tool of the enemy to keep people in bondage and misrepresent the message of Christ. Satan is the father of lies; that is his native language (John 8:44). This is demonstrated in the classic example of Satan’s abuse of God’s Word when he was trying to tempt Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-4). But as noted above, Jesus was able to counteract these lies because He understood the true meaning of the verses being quoted.
Among the Jews in Jesus’ time, Pharisees and teachers of the law were the keepers of the Law and the Word of God. Yet, in Matthew 22:23, Jesus came down on them very, very hard. He pronounced seven woes against them, and even called them “snakes.” Jesus says, “You are in error because you do not know the Word of God.”
In the opposite approach, The Bereans examined what Paul told them to see if it was true (Acts 17:10). We have right and responsibility to critique those who teach or preach the Word of God. It is not disrespectful to be a critic in this sense; in fact, it is our responsibility to ensure that the Word is being taught and appropriated correctly.
Bottom Line of Obedience
When all is said and done, the bottom line should be obedience. Reading the Word, studying the Word, memorizing the Word, or teaching the Word are totally useless if we do not obey what it says! Jesus said it categorically, “You are my friends if you obey what I command” (John 15). Obedience is proof of our relationship with Christ through His Word. “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands” (I John 2:3).
May we all enjoy and renew our walk in the Word of God.
About Diane Omondi
Diane serves on the DOVE International Apostolic Council along with her husband, Ibrahim. They also serve as the DOVE Africa apostolic team leaders, overseeing over 200 churches in six nations of Africa. Read about Diane or their blog.