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Paul J. Bucknell
Purpose: Many Christians are not sure how God's Word is suppose to help them in their daily lives. God's Powerful Word, part 2/5, shows how the Lord builds our faith up through His Word. Gaining Strength is the third lesson in the Discipleship Level 2: Reaching Beyond Mediocrity.
The scriptures speak clearly about the need for us to love God. Teachers of God's Word know this knowledge is important so they preach and teach it. Good teachers will train you to study God's Word for your own. They are right! Many, however, do not know how God's Word actually brings benefits to their lives. ￼Romans 10:17 can give us insight here.
"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).
Faith or belief originates from the Word of Christ. The verse could not be more clear. Paul's conclusion is that we need to preach God's Word to the lost. By hearing it, the unbeliever will gain faith. Without the preaching, he will not be saved. Anyone familiar with Paul's writings, however, knows that he speaks the same way with regard to the growth of a believer. This is the reason the teaching and preaching of God's Word continues to be so crucial to a believer's well-being.
"As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude" (Colossians 2:6-7).
Again, listen to Peter, "Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (1 Peter 2:2).
Gideon, Abraham, Moses and millions of other saints were raised up through the Word of God. Exposure to God's Word, the scriptures, is the key component to building up our spiritual faith. I can remember being discouraged (sometimes I am not conscious why I am discouraged), but just by meeting with the Lord and meditating on His Word, he strengthens my faith. The discouragement is peeled away from my heart. We all need to expose ourselves to the Word of God.
God's Word has a way of generating faith into our lives. It is this faith that strengthens, warns, directs and encourages us. Like Gideon, we have no vision or shaping belief, but then because of exposure to His Word, we now know what God wants and are willing to take our role in the adventure.
We need to be careful not to box God in. God has spoken through His Word, the holy scriptures. We would be foolish, however, to try to restrain Him only to speak through the scriptures. A brief word study on ‘word of God’ will show how complex this phrase is. At times it refers to the scriptures (2 Corinthians 4:2), the spoken word of God (Hebrews 11:3) or even to Christ Himself (Revelation 19:13). Paul says the scriptures are sufficient for us to build us into a godly people (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God's vision for us become our vision. His guidance becomes our strength. Our experiences with God's Word is sufficient for this.
The Reliability of the Bible Texts
Learning how to use the scriptures in such a way that we will be shaped more into Christ's image will be our main focus. All the way through the Bible, though, we find that God is quite free to speak as He wills whether it is telling Stephen to go to a place to evangelize, directing a prophet on what to say or communing with His people.
Jesus Himself spent time learning from the Father. He modeled for us that regular close time of communion spent before God. He spoke to God the Father, and God spoke to Him.
"For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me commandment, what to say, and what to speak" (John 12:49).
Now the Holy Spirit works in a similar way with His people. "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you" (John 14:26).
Some believers think God's speaking to us is limited through only the scriptures. This simply is not so. The Spirit of God illumines His people. Even at times He speaks through visions and dreams but most of the time, and this is where our focus is, He speaks through His Word. Simply follow the example of Christ and Master, and we will regularly hear God speak to us through our prayer and times of scriptural meditation. These should be considered regular and normal.
Our greater problem is positioning our heart so that we are sensitive to what God wants as we read and meditate on His Word. If our minds are tuned into the world, we will not hear God speak. Many believers are scarred with secular thoughts which have them believe the reading of the Bible is a mechanical process. We need to regain our confidence in the Spirit to speak to us through our readings of His Word to build up our faith. What do I mean by the phrase, 'God speaks'?
When reading the Word of God, all of a sudden some words jump out. They seem much more relevant and real to me than the other words. This can be a phrase, thought or even just a word. The Spirit suddenly interjects a thought in my mind to comfort, encourage, warn or guide me.
The devil does this too, but it is called temptation. He inputs a word, image or phrase in our mind. He wants to stir our attention by this 'word' and ensnare us. Satan even tempted Jesus but notice how Jesus responded.
"But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God'"" (Matthew 4:4).
The Word of God is like spiritual food for our souls. Let us take seriously this thought. Without regular times in God's Word, we will be weak. As we spend more time with Him, He will grow us. The important place that scripture has to strengthen our faith is undeniable. But it is true, our faith is not always strengthened as we read the Word of God. There are other forces at play.
Interpretation is a minor problem for God's people if they have grown up in a good church. The larger problem is that our hearts get dull through unbelief. This can happen during a sermon, teaching or devotional times. I have shared this elsewhere in more extent, but let me summarize. We allow things to get in between us and God's Word. Much like the Parable of the Sower, God's Word is snatched from us.
We might get up early to read His Word with good motives, but we find that other things are on our mind. Soon we spend all our time thinking about those unresolved matters or plans rather than on the scriptures. We are unmoved. Our lives were not benefitted. Jesus gives us a very descriptive view of this problem in the Parable of the Sower.
"The sower sows the word. And these are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. And in a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, and the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful."
"And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it, and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold." (Mark 4:13-20).
Can you see how Jesus in the above verses is intimating why in many cases the Word of God is not properly received? They all received the Word of God (i.e. the seed). In other words, they have all heard God's Word. It is not a matter of hearing (in this case).
But who else is in the scene? The evil one. Were you ever encouraged by God's Word but then totally distracted? Be careful. Satan is trying to keep God's Word from our heart so that we do not grow in our faith. He uses everything even affliction and worries to make God's Word ineffective. He will even flash the world before our eyes - DISTRACTION.
Who in the end will be impacted through the sowing of the seed? Those whose hearts are readily receiving it. So I have come to a conclusion, largely based by Jesus' teaching here. If I am not being impacted by God's Word, it is because of some form of dullness in my heart.
I now regularly ask myself, "Do I really want to hear from God's Word?" "DoI sense my need for God's Word?" Often, right there I find hardness in my heart.
To be honest, in these cases I think I can go my way without hearing from my Father. (This is the way I feel and think if I get a close-up look at my thoughts.)
Here is an illustration. A child goes to his father and asks him for advice. He starts talking, but the child takes out his cell phone and talks to someone else. As he is talking, he just walks away. What is his Dad to conclude? The child really does not want his advice.
By opening our Bibles, we are 'going' to God so that He will speak, but if our minds go here to there, then I am just like that child. I have embarrassingly discovered in these cases that I do not really want to hear His Word. I am like that son on the cell phone. This is hard to admit, but a good understanding of this situation leads to change.
Fortunately, if we are desperate to hear from God, He will speak, but so often, we really do not think He will speak or that what He says cannot help. Unbelief and doubt drive God away. I want to address this on a more practical level but there is a series, Reviving Our Personal Devotions, that address these issues more in depth.
Discipleship at the 2nd level
by Paul J. Bucknell
God's Word comes alive as you learn how to use it to overcome personal struggles like anxiety, depression, pride, lust and anger. God has made you strong! Many worksheets! (300+ pages). This is the full resource with all the complete and updated pages included!