Part 1 of a 2 Part Series
Does your Bible have a layer of dust that menacingly stares you down every time you walk past it? Do the dust bunnies have teeth and taunt you when you think of reading it? You just might be in that small percentage of the population who suffer from amathophobia (fear of dust). OR, maybe you avoid the Bible for a different reason.
You are not alone. The Bible is HARD, right? It’s big and full of all kinds of seemingly difficult to understand things, like laws and prophecies and instructions and visions! Oh my. But here’s the thing. Much of the Bible was written by average, everyday people, among whom were fishermen, tax collectors, and shepherds. And it was written to average, everyday people like you and me. Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s encouraging! I’ve got a few more encouraging things to share with you that will hopefully inspire you to conquer the dust and dig into God’s word – just as they did with me.
Part 1: Get Your Mind Right
Before we can karate chop the dust and open the Bible to read or study it, we need to have a mindset that sets us up for success. Think about it. We do this when we face other challenging tasks. Athletes mentally prepare before training or competing. Pregnant mommas do this when preparing for childbirth. I do it when I’m facing a week of night shifts (hold me, Jesus). This mental preparation not only impacts our success, it shapes our overall experience during the challenge. In the same way, preparing our minds to study God’s word will make a huge difference in our understanding. Here are five attributes of the mindset we need to help us:
Check. Is it time for second-breakfast? But, that’s not exactly the kind of hunger I’m talking about. This hunger is the attribute that gets us to open our Bibles in the first place. Psalm 63:1 says, “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You…” This hunger drives us to know more about God and to know who we are in Him. 1 Peter 2:2 says, “…as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby…” and Proverbs 28:5b says, “Those who seek the Lord understand all.” We are to desire God’s word in the same primal way that a new baby desires his mother’s milk, and this desire, this seeking, this hunger leads to understanding. (See also Psalm 119; Proverbs 15:14, 28:5b)
Here’s some good news: We can understand God’s word! Psalm 119:130 says “The entrance of your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.” Did God have his servants over thousands of years record His laws, His life, His future plans so that we could sit around and be confused by it? Of course not! He allowed His spoken word to be recorded so that you and I could know it, and thereby, know Him. This attitude is absolutely foundational to understanding the Bible.
Some things in the Bible are easy to understand. For instance, a young child can easily and quickly understand John 3:16. On the other hand, some things are harder to understand. After my first reading of Romans (written by Paul, the run-on sentence champion of all time)…well, I didn’t have a clue. But I didn’t give up. I went back many times, and I can now say that I have a decent grasp of arguably some of the most epic truth in the whole Bible. Here’s the bottom line: The more time we spend in God’s word, the more our understanding will grow. This is a process. We must not get frustrated when we don’t understand something right away. We need to be patient with ourselves and with the Holy Spirit, our teacher. Which brings me to the next one…
More good news: God did not throw us this book and bid us good luck in understanding Paul’s heady letters, or the cataclysmic saga of the Revelation, or what in the world is going on in Zechariah. If you’ve believed in Jesus for everlasting life, you were indwelt by the Holy Spirit at the moment you believed. We can fully rely on this Helper to help us understand His word. 1 Corinthians 2:12 says, “Now we have received…the Spirit who is from God that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” Teaching is His job (John 14:26), and we can trust Him to help us.
It’s not going to do us much good to know God’s word and have no intention of doing it. James talks about this in his letter to believers (James 1:22-25). Verse 25 gets to the meat of it, “He who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” Obedience takes our closeness to Jesus to the next level, and simply starting out with a heart that is open to that as we study God’s word will blow it wide open for us.
Feeling empowered yet? Good. You’re on the right track. Part two of this series of posts will cover some actions that will help us even more in understanding the Bible. But in the meantime, get your mind right, kick the dust bunnies to the curb, and dig in!