What did you have for lunch today? If I told you I had a doughnut and coffee, would you tell me that I was not nourishing my body very well, and that I was likely to have all kinds of health problems if I kept eating that way? Of course, you would be right. Luckily, doughnuts and coffee are not a usual lunch for me, so having it today will not automatically send me to the hospital. Did you know that there is something even more important to your life than how you feed your body? It is how you feed your spirit.
The Bible passage for this morning was 2 Timothy 3. This is part of a letter that the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, a young pastor. The beginning of chapter 3 gives a list of the difficult things that Timothy will have to deal with as times get worse. If you read the list, you will probably be able to recognize some of the things that we see happening today. The good news is that Paul gave Timothy, and us, a way to deal with these troubles. Paul said that Timothy could be equipped to deal with things because he knew the holy scriptures!
Just like we need to eat healthy food in order to have a healthy body, we need to feed our spirit with healthy spiritual food. Rev. Singleton spoke this morning of how God's Word can be food for our souls. Remember, though, that we have to take it in. All of the fresh fruits and vegetables in my refrigerator will not make me healthy if I leave them there and eat doughnuts instead. Your Bible will not feed you spiritually if you leave it on your shelf while you fill your mind with spiritual "junk food."
There are several things that reading the Bible will do for us. First, it will convert us. Paul said that the scriptures will give us wisdom. They will change us so that we know the truth. Second, it will convince us. As we spend more time reading the Bible, we will see more and more how the ways of the world go against God. Third, it will convict us. Conviction is a knowledge of guilt. At this point, we will not only see what others are going against God, but we will be able to see where we have gone astray, ourselves. Thankfully, God has given us a way out of this guiltiness - we only have to confess our sin to him, and he will forgive us (1 John 1:9). Fourth, the word of God will correct us. We know what we have done wrong, now we can go forward doing what is right! And last, it completes us. Paul said it will make us adequate, and equipped for every good work.
So, you ask, how do I get these benefits? Well, Rev. Singleton did not disappoint. She gave us a plan to get what we need from the scriptures.
First, we have to receive God's word. In Paul and Timothy's time, this was mostly accomplished through public readings of the scriptures. Now, we are blessed to have the Bible published in most languages, and can even access it on our phones! We have no excuse for ignoring the word of God. We were challenged to spend time reading the Bible every day. But what do we do after we read it?
We need to reflect on what we have read. We need to think about what it says, and what it means in our lives. Here is a good method to do just that:
Read the Bible in the morning. Look for a key verse that you can meditate on and apply that day. Before you start to read, remember to pray for guidance.
Memorize the verse that you've picked. Underline it in your Bible, and write it down on a card or paper to carry with you so that you can look at it throughout the day.
Start a journal. Each day, write down how your verse applies to you or affects you, and how you hope to have it apply to your life going forward.
Next, we have to relate. This involves spending time with other Christians. We need fellowship with other people who can encourage us, and we need to be there for each other. Find a church to belong to. Join a Sunday School or Bible Study class or prayer group. If you can't get out, invite other people to your home, or call someone up who can talk with you about God!
The last step is to respond. Keep notes about what you're learning. Spend time in prayer, communicating with Jesus who is the Word (John 1). Be obedient, and be willing to share what you are learning with others.
Our lives can be difficult. We have to do what we can to take care of ourselves. But we are so much more than these physical bodies, and our lives are so much more than these few years we spend in them. Don't get so caught up in the troubles of the world that you can't see the bigger picture. The Bible assures us that though our bodies may decay, our spirits are eternal. When Jesus was tempted by Satan to turn stones into bread in order to relieve his physical hunger, he responded with Deuteronomy 8:3 - "man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord." Jesus knew the scriptures and was able to use them when he needed them. We can have the same boldness when faced with those who would take away our faith.