Study 7             Thoughts On a Changed Life

Before we move on I would like to comment regarding the power of Scripture to change our lives. So often we read the Bible and shake our head in agreement with what we read, but there is no real connection to the words. Have you ever read a chapter of Scripture and suddenly realize you don’t remember anything about the verses you just read? We have come to think that just reading the Bible is a sign of devotion without understanding that the words of the Bible are inspired and written to transform our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I believe we need to come to the Bible expecting to be confronted by knowledge that will penetrate into our lives and give us hope, encouragement and assurance regarding our relationship with God and the world He created. My mother would pray before she read the Bible, and I think that “old school“ way of approaching the word of God makes sense. We should ask God for wisdom and understanding when we read the Bible because it is a message from Heaven that is designed to lift us up and strengthen us in our spiritual walk with God. Also we need more time studying the Bible and not just giving it a casual read before we fall asleep at night.

If you are reading a book of the Bible and decide to study the book, ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom to apply the words you read to your own life. It might be a good idea to go out and buy yourself a commentary on the book and get a feel for the background and setting for the verses you are reading. If you want to dig a little deeper, then you might want to add a Bible atlas to your bookshelf or a second commentary to get a further opinion on the book, and of course everyone should have a good concordance.

If you are reading a book of the Bible and decide to study the book, ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom to apply the words you read to your own life. It might be a good idea to go out and buy yourself a commentary on the book and get a feel for the background and setting for the verses you are reading. If you want to dig a little deeper, then you might want to add a Bible atlas to your bookshelf or a second commentary to get a further opinion on the book, and of course everyone should have a good concordance.

Don’t rush through the text you are studying, instead take time to think about the meaning of the verse for the people who would have been reading the verse when it was first written and then how it may apply to you today. Do a little dissecting of the verse and see what components are found within the verse that relate to verses around it. Always remember that the verses you are reading should be read in context with the other verses in the chapter and the book. We get into trouble when we haul verses out of context and try to make them conform to our preconceived ideas of what we already believe. Let the verse dictate what we are to believe and not our ideas dictate to the verse.

Share your findings with family and friends. It is one thing to study, but quite another to pass the information on to others. I don’t know how many times I have discovered something wonderful in my studies and shared the information with someone only to have that person add further thoughts and ideas about the text.  Soon we have this amazing discussion going on and the text becomes real and part of who we are. It is for us to understand that when we study the word of God we are under the direction of the Holy Spirit and need to be open to His leading and promptings throughout our study. You might start out reading Ephesians chapter 2 and the Spirit might lead your thoughts to Colossians Chapter 2, so be willing to flip over to Colossians and see what the Spirit has for you in those verses. People who remain slavishly rigid in their study, I believe, miss out on a great deal the Spirit would teach them if they were a little more flexible in their approach to the Bible.

The reason I gave this simple overview of reading the Bible for spiritual growth is because of my own growing process in reading James. I mentioned at the beginning of our studies that I didn’t know how much I was going to get out of the book because, quite frankly, I always thought of James as a bit of a “home” for Christians who liked to beat you up with legalism. As I am studying the book it has become clear to me that the problem I had with James wasn’t James but how people handled the book and used it to distort the Gospel. I truly have been surprised by joy, and I hope you have as well.

A while back at a Bible study group I belong to, while praying God impressed us to study James chapter one again. I’ve been studying James of course, but the impression went well beyond my simple recalling of what I had recently studied. I was prepared for our study in the Gospel of John and was very excited about teaching it, but something said go to James. As we read and discussed the verses that you and I have been studying over the last six studies, for the first time the verses became alive in my life and touched me, as well as a number of others in the study group, with the power of their truthfulness.

We were looking at the idea of counting it all joy when we face trials and temptations because it is an opportunity for God to strengthen us and build our confidence in His leading. He tells us that when we face those problems we should turn through prayer to Him and ask for wisdom on how to deal with the situation. He promises us that He will give us wisdom if we pray without doubting and turning away from Him when things don’t go the way we think they should.

As the Spirit moved in the room these verses became alive and penetrated into my heart in a way I had never experienced before. I was suddenly introduced to the reality and truth that God loves me beyond my wildest dreams and wants to help me in every situation if only I will ask for His wisdom and not try to fix the problem without His guidance. For people like me who think they have to have an answer for everything and have to fix every problem that comes my way, this was an amazing insight into God’s love. I can lay my problems at Jesus feet and seek His advice and direction without my interference.

I always thought that God could work the problem out but it would be through me. I hadn’t come to the understanding that God has a thousand ways to bring a problem to conclusion without my interfering. He could lead me to an article that would give advice on the situation, or a friend might have a word of wisdom for me, or a text might jump out of Scripture that applied to the problem, or God might use someone all together different from me to help with the trial. I think what I learned that night at the study from James is that God is bigger than me. I know many of you are saying to yourself he should have known that long before this. And you would be right, I should have known better, but I didn’t.  Intellectually I knew God was much bigger and greater than me, but the other night at that study for the first time I really began to understand how big God really is in comparison to me. When I hold up my puny answers to problems that I try to figure out on my own and compare them to how the all knowing, all loving, and all understanding God deals with the trials, temptations, and tests in our life, I realize just how big God is.

Too many of us go through life thinking we are God. By that I mean we think we have to have the answers to life’s problems because somehow God isn’t big enough to solve our problem or we are just too insignificant for Him to worry about. The result is that we rely on our own independent rational reasoning to solve our problems when we should be relying on God to give us the wisdom to make the right decision. (See Jeremiah 9:23 & 24 and really think about these verses).

As Christians, God wants us to be more than we are spiritually. He calls us to be His followers and that includes trusting Him through the storms in our lives. We learn to trust through the study of the Bible and developing a faithful and productive prayer life. Both our study and prayer life are under the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit and the outcome is that we become courageous and strong in our Christian journey. We become bold in our witness because we have seen the reality of God in our lives.

On Thursday evening a friend came to visit me, and we talked about a new Bible study group we are starting in our town and during the conversation he said a very interesting thing. He mentioned that in our town a great many people are involved in new age practices. He thought the reason that so many people gravitated to those practices is because they saw power and results in what they did. They felt better, they had clearer understanding, they felt looser and more at ease. He went on to say, “so where is the power in Christianity? Where is the power to change lives and draw people closer to God?” He is exactly right. When our faith only consists of worshipping God for an hour a week, and throwing a few dollars in the collection place we have lost our connection to the power of God.

As Christians it is time we took back the spiritual high ground and became disciples of Jesus speaking truth and proclaiming the Gospel with power that changes lives. But in order for that to happen we need to become serious about our own journey with Jesus. Open the word of God and study, pray in the strength of the Holy Spirit, find some friends to share what you are learning, and allow God to make you bold in your faith. Trust God with your problems and trials, seek His wisdom and walk assured that He has your life covered by His grace, love and compassion. Leave your guilt, failures, sins, indifference and pain at the foot of the cross and walk in the newness of life that springs from the bigness and amazing grace and love that is God.