And we also thank God continually because, when you received the Word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the Word of men, but as it actually is, the Word of God, which is at work in you who believe. (1 Th 2:13)
Last year, my local church sponsored a parish mission to kick off the Advent season. On the very first night, the priest who was giving the mission stood in front of the congregation and asked the following question: “How many of you read the Bible?”
In a congregation of several hundred, I believe only five or six people raised their hands, and two of those people were the pastor and the deacon of the church!
On another occasion, when I was preparing to publish my church’s first newspaper, one of the deacons pulled me aside and said, “When you publish articles for this newspaper, you’re going to have to make sure that everything is written on a third grade reading level, as most of our people have no working knowledge of the Scriptures or the Catechism.”
The Holy Bible is unlike any other book in the entire world, and yet, sadly, it is one of the most neglected, not by the unbelieving world, but by many in the Church who, for one reason or another, just don’t care to read it.
Words to Transform
According to the words of St. Paul referenced above, the Word of God contains words that, once listened to or read, contain supernatural power from God to go to work within us and transform us. Unlike any other book in the world, the words in the Holy Bible are living and active.
Paul taught that when we expose ourselves to the Word of God, this Word literally begins to go to work within us, correcting us, changing us, instructing us, enlightening us, molding us, transforming us, training us, guiding us, and moving us on to spiritual maturity. I just love those words, “at work in you who believe.”
These words aren’t dead; they’re alive! They don’t just sit on a page, going nowhere. Once read or listened to, they enter the heart and immediately begin to go to work on behalf of God.
But when we do not discipline ourselves to read the Sacred Scriptures on a daily basis, how can that Word go to work in us? Exposure to the Word of God (whether through listening or reading) goes hand in hand with our sanctification. If we don’t expose ourselves to the Word, we are giving the Holy Spirit very little to work with in our lives.
Do you remember that commercial for Dow Scrubbing Bubbles Bathroom Cleaner? There’s a scene in the commercial where all these little bubbles with scrub brushes beneath them begin to move and glide all over the bathroom, scrubbing and cleaning everything they come into contact with. As they do their work, the tub and other bathroom fixtures begin to sparkle and gleam. In the end, the bathroom is completely transformed.
God’s Word sort of acts like those Dow Scrubbing Bubbles. The words enter our heart and immediately get to work within us. No other book can boast of this same power. None. Every spiritual book that pertains to the Christian faith has its foundation in the Sacred Scriptures.
When we make it a daily habit to spend some time reflecting and meditating on the Sacred Scriptures, our lives will become more and more transformed by the Holy Spirit.
When you read the Bible, it isn’t necessary to sit at a kitchen table for hours on end polishing off chapter after chapter. Truth be told, I used to study the Word of God like this, and it really didn’t do anything for me.
A Single Step
I found that what worked best for me was to simply read a few verses, meditate on them, write out a reflection about them in my spiritual journal, and then pray about what I just read. I have learned the hard way that it is better to read one verse slowly and thoughtfully than to read an entire book of the Bible yet retain nothing.
When you do this year after year, you’d be surprised at how much Bible knowledge you will gain – and all because you were willing to spend time each day meditating on only a few verses a day. It adds up, my friends! It really adds up!
After I meditate and write out a reflection, I then spend time praying to God about what I’ve just read. Bible reading imparts knowledge, but it is prayer that gives us the supernatural power from Heaven needed to put what we’ve just read into practice in our daily lives. The two disciplines go hand in hand.
Journal Your Thoughts
Let’s use Steve as our example. Each morning, before he goes to work, Steve pours himself a cup of coffee and sits down at his desk in his study in order to read several verses of Scripture, and then scribble out a reflection on them in his journal.
For the past few months, he’s been reading St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans. One morning, he happens to read the following verses:
In Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; and if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (1 Co 12:4-8)
After reading these four simple verses, Steve begins to reflect on them and to write down his thoughts in a journal in front of him. His journal entry reads as follows:
I never really gave much thought to the fact that every single Christian has been given some sort of gift from God for the strengthening and edification of His Church. I’ve been a member of my parish church since I’ve been a little boy; yet, I’ve never even thought about how God might want to use me to build up his Church. Up until now, all I’ve been doing is assisting at Mass without any thought whatsoever as to how I might give back to my local parish. I need to take time thinking about where my gifts and talents lie and then ask the Lord to show me how I can use them for His Church. If I’m a part of the body of Christ, then this means that I also have a gift that the Holy Spirit desires to use in me so that Christ’s Church will be edified.
After he jots this down in his journal, he prays and asks the Lord to help him to discern where his gifts lie so that he can be used by the Holy Spirit to build up the Church. He then meditates for a little while longer, and then he goes off to work.
Room to Grow
Do you see how simple this is? By taking the time to chew on and digest just 4 verses of Scripture, Steve has given the Holy Spirit much to work with in his life. The Holy Spirit was able to use this simple morning devotion to remind Steve that he, too, has been given a spiritual gift from God – a gift which God desires him to use for His glory.
But what if Steve had not read these four verses of Scripture because he was not in the habit of spending any time whatsoever reading the Word of God? In all likelihood, he would have continued going through life believing that gifts were for others, but not for him, and he would never achieve his full potential as far as his gifts and talents are concerned.
I don’t believe it’s possible to achieve spiritual maturity without exposing ourselves to the Word of God and taking the time to learn it. Growing in our knowledge of God’s Word goes hand in hand with the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. He takes what we read and then uses it to line our lives up with it more and more.
The Lord isn’t looking for theologians; He desires sons and daughters who will live in obedience to His Word. But if we don’t know what His Word proclaims, how can we put it into practice in our lives?
So, as I hop off my stump, dear friends, it is my sincere and prayerful hope that I have left you with something to mull over in your hearts and your minds as you consider how you might grow more and more in the knowledge and grace of God.
God’s Word is like a seed planted in the soil of our hearts. If we want it to take root in our lives and to transform us, we must first take the time to sow that seed daily in our lives.
So…let’s open up the Word, read a few verses, jot down a few thoughts, meditate on what we have read…
…and watch that seed grow!
Header Image CC J. Mark Bertrand