Transformed by the Word

Description

Charles Stanley discusses how to handle the Bible and grow closer to God.

We live in a digital age, constantly propelled by new electronic devices. Technology changes so quickly that keeping up with the latest developments can be overwhelming at times. Before we’ve figured out one gadget, a new one takes its place. In fact, learning how to use all the current technical gear may leave us feeling intimidated and confused.

That’s the way many folks—even Christians—feel about the Bible. They own one but don’t understand how to use ort interpret it. Finding it big and confusing, they don’t know where to begin reading or how doing so will affect their troubles, if at all. The result is that such people simply don’t bother with Scripture. It just doesn’t seem worth the effort.

The truth is, how you and I handle something depends on its value to us, and many people simply don’t realize the absolute treasure God has given us in His Word. Consider this: If I gave you an old shoebox, you’d wonder, What am I going to do with this? But if there were fifty thousand dollars inside, you’d cherish the box for what it contained and make use of every dollar.

Likewise, nothing you or I own is more precious than the Bible. People who ignore Scripture suffer as a result—going through life’s hardships without ever realizing the riches at their fingertips. But those who embrace God’s Word discover benefits that money could never buy.

Using the Bible Effectively

Is anything keeping you from the blessing of God’s Word? Some people tell me they don’t read Scripture because it’s too difficult to understand. So I’d like to provide you with some simple and practical ideas to help you use this holy Book and comprehend what it says.

Read.The first step is to open your Bible and begin reading daily, even if in small portions at first (Prov. 8:33-35). I suggest meditating on the Word first thing after you wake. This isn’t always possible, so choose a time when you can focus all of your attention on reading without interruption. The Bible is not just for emergencies. Sure, we can find help in times of trouble, but God wants to reveal Himself to us each day. Apart from prayer and worship, reading the Word is one of the primary ways we get to know Him. Those who read Scripture only during times of crisis miss the joy of an intimate relationship with the heavenly Father, which develops through consistent fellowship with Him.

Benefiting from the Scriptures

In the life of a believer, the Bible:

  • Guides (Ps. 119:105)
  • Gives wisdom (Ps. 119:98-100)
  • Strengthens (Ps. 119:28)
  • Provides peace (Ps. 119:165)
  • Reveals hearts (Heb. 4:12-13)
  • Protects from sin (Ps. 119:9-11)
  • Produces hope (Ps. 119:49)

People often ask me, “Where do I begin?” Start with one of the gospels, like John, or an epistle, such as Philippians. Even if you read just a chapter a day, in a week or a month you will have covered an entire book. You could try reading one chapter of Proverbs each day for a month, or Psalms if you’re going through a hard time. As you open your heart to God, His Holy Spirit will guide you in your readings. All that’s required of you is to make the effort to begin.

You might wonder, How much should? I read each day? Bible reading should be a matter of quality, not quantity. In other words, you should be more concerned with how effectively Scripture is changing your life than with the number of pages you’ve completed. As you go through the Bible, are you storing the Lord’s truth in your heart or merely finishing the task of reading? The goal is character transformation and an ever-deepening relationship with the Savior. If you’re not experiencing greater Christlikeness and intimacy with God, you may need to go more slowly and thoughtfully. Sometimes reading less will actually allow the Word to really permeate your soul.

Meditate. Meditation is simply a conversation with the Lord about the passage you’re reading. If a section is difficult to understand, meditation is the process that will make the meaning come into focus. But this can’t be done in a hurry. It’s a discipline that requires silence, stillness, and concentration. The process involves focusing on one particular verse or passage at a time—pursuing the truth of the text until it sinks into the depths of your being. Word by word and phrase by phrase, ask the Father to reveal both the meaning and the application He wants you to make in your life.

The process is slow and thoughtful, but as you continue, the Bible’s pages will come to life with significance. Remember, your goal is to gain a deeper understanding of God and yourself. Ask Him to show you His ways, search your heart, and reveal any changes you need to make. If a verse doesn’t make sense, look to the Lord to guide your search for answers.

Through the process of contemplation, exploration, and prayer, the Lord’s transforming power is released in your life, and He enables you to face every difficulty or situation that comes your way. Therefore, begin reflecting on God’s Word today by trying the meditation exercise at the end of this article.

Study. So often we read the Bible only when we’re longing for a verse to help us through a moment of need. But how often do we really look for the Lord—examining Scripture for understanding about His ways? Do we care enough about Him to search out His character and learn who He really is? One of the greatest benefits of investing our time in thoughtful Bible study is an ever-increasing love for our Savior. The more we learn about Him, the more we love Him, and that increases our desire to continue meditating on and studying His Word. What a wonderful cycle of joy!

As you go through the Bible, are you storing the Lord’s truth in your heart or merely finishing the task of reading?

Don’t let the word study scare you off—this doesn’t have to be some abstract, academic process. Think of it as a more intense form of meditation. Any believer facing a challenge or difficulty would greatly benefit from seeking deeper understanding of his or her situation through Scripture (Isa. 55:9-11). For example, if you’ve been badly hurt and have trouble letting go of your bitterness, research what God says about forgiveness.

Having some basic study resources will greatly enhance your time in God’s Word. Those who are computer savvy might want to invest in some Bible software or check out Bible study websites. If you prefer books, a Bible dictionary and a concordance (an alphabetical listing of words in Scripture) would be good investments. Just make sure the concordance is the same version as your Bible. If you need further help in understanding difficult passages, try using commentaries.

You may be thinking all this sounds somewhat difficult, but I assure you it’s not. The truths discovered through your study time have a way of sticking with you more than those handed to you by teachers or pastors. Don’t be afraid—jump in and discover the endless riches of the Word.

Apply. This last step is very important. If you want become a spiritually mature Christian, application of what you learn is essential. As we spend time reading the Bible, the Lord reveals what He wants us to do, whether through direct commands, principles, or examples. But if we ignore His promptings or refuse to obey, we’ll get stuck and stop growing. Why should God reveal deeper truths if we haven’t done the last thing He said? In that case, our understanding of Scripture will be limited, our walk will suffer, and our spiritual fruit will dry up.

Doing what God’s Word says is not always easy. When the Lord tells us to step out of our comfort zone or do something we don’t want to do, we may be tempted to back off. But at such times, remember that obeying God is always the best path. The Father both uses and blesses those who say no to self and yes to Him (Prov. 3:5-6).

Making the Bible a Priority

The Lord has so much to give us if we will make Bible reading a priority in our lives. He wants us to long for “the pure milk of the word” so that we can grow into mature believers (1 Pet. 2:1-2). Few of us will miss a meal, but how often do we skip spending time in the pages of Scripture? How can we be so careful to feed our bodies, which will one day die, and yet starve our spirits, which will live forever?

If you’ll start seriously “tasting” God’s Word, you will begin to develop a hunger to go deeper. Not only that, but the more familiar you and I become with the Bible, the more we will value and delight in it (Ps. 119:111). Instead of feeling an obligation to read, we’ll long to spend time hearing from our Savior and growing in our understanding of His character and ways. We’ll become walking treasure houses—filled with wealth that cannot be stolen from us, even by death (Matt. 6:19-21).

The article was selected from In Touch magazine.

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