Romans 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
From my present perspective it can be hard to remember that many people don’t want to read the Bible. They think of it as a rule book or a book of philosophy, and they particularly don’t think (or they don’t want to think) that it has any connection to their daily lives. They don’t understand what this verse says, that it is to give us hope through encouragement. Everybody likes to be encouraged! That’s why it’s so good that the Gideon Bibles I hand out to counselees have a section at the very first that says, “Help in Time of Trouble.” It lists various life situations and then gives the reference, with page number, of a passage that applies to that situation. I’m careful to point that out, telling people that if they will start there they will find the Bible to be interesting indeed. For the average Gentile, Matthew starting off with a long genealogy is a real put-off, if they pick up a New Testament and try to read it like a regular book. Paul was actually writing here about the Old Testament, because the New Testament was still being written and even the Gospels weren’t codified as Scripture. Sadly, many Christians today know next to nothing of the Old Testament, because their churches/pastors ignore it. They are ignoring the roots of the faith they profess, so it is no wonder that they are easily led astray. When we are familiar with the whole Bible it’s easy to understand that every human experience has been common to mankind since Creation, even though the cosmetic changes of history have been great. With that understanding, we can indeed receive the encouragement and hope that we desire and need. Perhaps the most important thing, however, is to understand that God caused the Bible to be written for our benefit: not to oppress us but to liberate us. When we have that awareness then we will be eager to receive all that He wants to give us through its pages.
As I am frequently reminded, I was raised in a home that loved God and His Word, and that is a magnificent heritage indeed. Since my father taught Biblical Greek and Hebrew, he was well aware that no single translation was 100% accurate, for a number of reasons, and he also knew that we need the help of the Holy Spirit to bring the Word to life in our hearts as we read. He wasn’t completely effective in transmitting that understanding, but I at least had a huge head start over most people picking up a Bible. As long as I thought of it as obligation, something I should do, I had no real success in getting into a consistent habit of Bible reading and prayer. However, God is patient, and He got through to me. Once daily devotions became an essential part of my life, I understood why I had made so many horrible mistakes in the years previous! As a pastor, perhaps my greatest desire is that each believer learn to feed themselves, discovering what a rich feast the Bible is and getting their needed spiritual nourishment on a daily basis, and not just a dollop on Sundays.
Father, thank You for giving me Sunday’s message! Help me lay it out as You intend so that it won’t come across as condemnation but as good news indeed. I pray that each member of this church would renounce spiritual anorexia and feast on Your Word, putting it into practice as You intend, to become strong and tall in Christ, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!