When I first became a Christian, a friend of my mother’s would greet me each Sunday at church with the words, ‘And what has God been saying to you this week?’ She had an eager desire to know what God was doing in my life throughout the week and her question validated me in a way I did not fully appreciate at the time. She taught me that God’s word to us is personal and isn’t always mediated through other people.
The question made me pause and consider. At that time, I was reading the Bible for the very first time and it felt like there was some new truth pouring into my life every morning as I opened this precious book. Answering her question made me stop long enough to review those truths and reflect them back to someone else. I learnt it wasn’t enough to absorb truth into my own life; reflecting it back to another person gave it an added edge of reality to me. This principle of receiving and giving out, this cycle of getting-in-order-to-give, is a vital one to growth. Sometimes the very act of speaking to her reinforced the truth in my mind and made it more real.
I doubt this lady fully appreciated the quiet mentoring her question gave me, but from this, I learnt the value and importance not only of reading God’s word but of approaching it as a living word, expecting God to speak through it. The Bible is more than just a book. It is God speaking to us.
At times, those conversations were crystal clear and obvious, immediately applicable to my everyday life and situation (no one told me to split up with my boyfriend, but as I read ‘do not be yoked together with unbelievers’ (2 Cor 6:14), I knew I couldn’t continue in that relationship any longer.) At other times, the conversation felt like those in a family where one person is another room, yelling at you to do something you can’t do because you can’t hear what they’re saying! God can seem obscure at times. As I wrestled through genealogies with unfamiliar names and obscure Levitical laws, as I listened to the arguments in Job and gazed, bemused, at the apocalyptic language of Daniel and Revelation, I often wondered, ‘What is God saying to me?’ or ‘What’s the point of all this?’ But doggedness soon gave way to delight as I realised that all of God’s word is alive and applicable.
Now, more than thirty years later and entrusted with the precious job of teaching the Bible to others, I realise perhaps I ought to be asking YOU that pertinent question: ‘What has God been saying to you this week?’ What is God saying to you? Which parts of the Bible are you reading? Which parts seem obscure, irrelevant, incomprehensible?
Many people simply give up on reading the Bible or only rely on others to tell them what to read and what to think about what they have read. There’s nothing wrong with Bible reading notes or getting help in interpreting and understanding the Bible, but at some point, there has to be a connection between you, the reader, and God, as you open this wonderful book and prayerfully read.
Without a daily diet from God’s word, your faith will not grow and develop. Without the miracle words from God’s book, your life will be like flat lemonade, lacking any fizz. The shepherd can lead the sheep to green pastures, but the sheep have to eat the grass for themselves. Please, please, please open this book today and give God the opportunity to speak to YOU.
Every word you give me is a miracle word—
how could I help but obey?
Break open your words, let the light shine out,
let ordinary people see the meaning.
Mouth open and panting,
I wanted your commands more than anything.
Turn my way, look kindly on me,
as you always do to those who personally love you.
Steady my steps with your Word of promise
so nothing malign gets the better of me.
Rescue me from the grip of bad men and women
so I can live life your way.
Smile on me, your servant;
teach me the right way to live.
I cry rivers of tears
because nobody’s living by your book! (Ps 119:129-136, The Message)