Being raised in a Christian home, and brought up faithfully attending church, you memorize key scriptures taught and those you regularly heard mentioned in sermons or recited in conversations. One could get a really good knowledge of scripture (at least enough to sound knowledgeable to those less studied) without ever truly reading the bible for themselves.
For a long time, this was me. As a child, I loved to read story books about those written of in scripture. I understood the moral values and I grew to love what I knew of Jesus. I asked a lot of questions and as I grew older, I would study what was needed to pass a memorization test or what was needed to beat other churches in the bible bowl. Most of these were usually written out for me on a lesson sheet and rarely required my own bible reading. Even in my early teens, I found it exceptionally boring reading the bible myself. I would often fall asleep or find myself daydreaming and needing to reread what I already read for the fifth time.
In my late teens, I became intrigued, even fascinated, by prophecy and end times. I loved trying to figure out what scripture may be referring to in modern times. My dad and I seemed to share this fascination which fueled my hunger for knowledge and desire to be educated on the subject. I loved to talk for hours with him and exchange books on the subject. I studied books of the bible such as Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel, and a few others, while occasionally looking up verses in other books of the bible mentioned in a book I happened to be reading. Still, I had no real desire to read the entire bible.
I had a good understanding of the Christian way of life, and I knew a lot about the bible and the stories therein, I knew little, however, about relationship with Jesus Christ Himself. God was always in heaven and as for me, well, I’m here in the world. Relationship with Him to me was metaphorical in the present, anticipating the day it would be personal upon entering heaven.
Because of my naïve reasoning, partly due to my lack of interest in reading God’s Word, and partly due to my selfish, self-serving nature, I believe certain popular scriptures such as Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, were often used out of context. Aside from the comfort in this verse that I always felt, I believed anything I set my mind to do could be accomplished because Jesus would give me strength. It wasn’t until years later after using this verse a long time according to my own will and purposes, God finally called me to read the entire context in which it was written.
Talk about eye-opening! To understand the context in which this scripture was written I was taken back a few verses to Philippians 4:10.
Philippians 4:10-13 NLT — How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
I thought to myself, that changes everything. This whole time I’ve been using this verse to convince myself that I had the power backing me to do anything I set my mind to, like move mountains and such. All the while knowing not one mountain I commanded to move budged even an inch. I would have been happy with even one moving a centimeter, a millimeter for that matter. I knew beyond any doubt that God, Father, Son, and Spirit were not the problem so had to be my lack of faith why mountains were not moving.
Because I had not made it a practice to read and study God’s Word I was defeated and believed I didn’t have enough faith.
Hosea 4:6 NLT — My people are being destroyed because they don’t know me. Since you priests refuse to know me, I refuse to recognize you as my priest. Since you have forgotten the laws of your God, I will forget to bless your children.
Father God does speak to His children in many ways. The sad thing is, the number one way to hear God, is also seemingly the number one way rejected by His children. I know a lot of professing Christians who rarely if ever even pick up the Word of God. I am not naïve to believe God won’t find other means to grab the attention of those He calls, however, I am absolutely sure that He is a Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
Hebrews 11:6 KJV — But without faith, it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Before Holy Spirit led me to read Philippians 4:13 in context, my understanding was prideful at the very least. I was not displaying an attitude of humility and surrender to Almighty God. My use of His Word was more like rubbing a bottle expecting a genie to appear ready and able to help me accomplish my own will and purposes.
When put in context, it’s not about strength obtained to go out and conquer, it’s about strength to get through current circumstances. The secret to living with plenty or in poverty, having a lot of family and friends around or being alone not having anyone, having a life full of love and joy or trying to fake a smile with a shattered heart, having unlimited options for a beautiful future or running into nothing but slammed doors, being fairly treated or becoming a victim of injustice. Also, the secret too remaining kind, gentle, and self-controlled when enraged, to forgive others that repeatedly hurt us, etc. The secret to getting through any circumstances in life is surrendering to Christ who strengthens me.
Reading His Word for myself with the help and leading of the Holy Spirit, made all the difference in my understanding.
To believe God means to believe He is who He says He is. This belief alone should bring a humbling to anyone who truly believes. How small are we compared to the Almighty, all-powerful, all-knowing, always-present God? Even just a healthy fear of Him one would think reading and applying His Word would be a no-brainer.
So the question then is, do I believe He is? If so I wouldn’t want to be on His bad side. I sure wouldn’t want to be prideful about or toward Him.
The amazing realization is, although He most certainly can demand my obedience, He doesn’t. Instead, He is pleased by my belief and rewards my willingness and desire to seek Him through His Word.
For years I wanted God to be a part of my life. I wanted my prayers answered, I wanted to be a straight A, top of my class, Christian, I wanted to stay out of hell and be invited into heaven, etc. The problem was watching American Idol was entertaining, reading God’s Word and trying to get to know Him, wasn’t.
Karaoke night with family and friends was my idea of a fun, good time, allowing Father God to speak into my life through His Word, a chore I will tackle someday.
Why ever would God try to speak to me in any other way when I repeatedly reject His first choice of ways to speak to me? Why give me anything more when I can’t be bothered to use what I already have?
I’ve heard it said that every single Christian in the world, already has the relationship they want with Father God. The question I finally had to answer was, how much effort am I willing to put into having a real, tangible relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
I found the Word of God is 100% opposite of the boring I once had thought it to be. Changing my perspective about why I’m reading His Word opened the door for me to experience the most exciting, worthwhile, adventure it truly is. Furthermore, I am always quite amazed as Father God shows me another mind-blowing secret within the pages.
Jeremiah 29:13 KJV — And ye shall seek me, and find me when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
To seek Him with my whole heart, to me, undeniably means, searching for Him, His ways, His likes, His dislikes, His plans, and all His attributes within His written word. So He is my perspective as I read. I look for what I can learn about Him. I’m learning, this is also where I find myself, my worth, my purpose, my weaknesses, my strengths, His thoughts about me personally, and His will for my life.
Until next time may God bless you and keep you as you seek Him with your whole heart.