Monday, January 5, 2015

More Suggestions for Growing

In my last post I discussed the value of setting spiritual goals, recognizing we can’t truly measure our personal growth. But reasonable, realistic goals can get us moving in the right direction.

Devoting daily time to pray is important. But I’ve found spending at least a few minutes a day reading the Bible is equally valuable. If we want to build a relationship with someone, we need to talk with them – and afford them time to talk with us. God is not an exception.

If you’re ambitious, you might even attempt something like reading the entire Bible over a period of a year or two. I’ve done that, and it’s been very enlightening to gain an overview of the Word of God from start to finish.

However, I’d recommend not reading front to back as we would with a typical book. Genesis and Exodus, written in narrative form and consist largely of stories, are very engaging. But frankly, when I’ve ventured into Numbers, Deuteronomy and Leviticus there have been times when I’ve felt like I was wandering in the wilderness with the wayward Israelites.
If you want to grow, you must be willing
to let it go.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t read those books of the Bible, because I believe they’re just as important as any of the others. But it might be good to try to balance reading a portion from them while also reading a chapter or two from another book, like Psalms or Proverbs, or something from the New Testament. That way, you can “come up for air” when a passage from Numbers or Leviticus starts seeming confusing, or too obscure and irrelevant for life in the 21st century.

If reading the entirety of the Bible, 39 Old Testament books and 27 in the New Testament, seems too daunting, select a single book to read, not just for information but also for inspiration. Try reading thoughtfully, meditating on what you come across and asking God to speak to you personally. You might even pray the verse I’ve cited before: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law” (Psalm 119:18).

If you read something you don’t understand, don’t let that bother you. I’ve been reading the Scriptures almost daily for more than 30 years, and find it’s like peeling an onion. You remove one layer and discover there’s another layer underneath, ready to be explored. And because the Bible is “living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword…” (Hebrews 4:12), a passage that doesn’t seem to make sense or have much meaning when you read it will suddenly become alive when you read it again some other time.

One other suggestion: Don’t keep what you learn to yourself. Share it with others. This accomplishes two things. First, what you share with others might well be a special blessing to them. You can do this in the context of a small group, while mentoring someone, or just in the course of a conversation. Second, when we’re willing to share what God has taught us with others, He then promises to entrust us with more understanding.

In a little New Testament book, Philemon, it says, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ” (Philemon 6). Whenever I read this verse, the words “so that” seem to jump out – if we are obedient in sharing what God has given us, then He’ll give us more.

Jesus affirmed this in Luke 16:10 when He stated, If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won't be honest with greater responsibilities.” I understand this to mean, “Why should I give you more if you’re not willing to put into practice what I’ve already given to you?” Or in other words, use it or lose it.

Is one of your goals for this year to grow spiritually, to draw closer to God? Then pray. Read His Word. And share with others what He’s teaching you along the way. Growing will follow.

No comments: