Early in my Christian life I learned that the more I spent time reading, studying and memorising the Bible, the more my life reflected the character of Christ. The Bible, the living Word of God, was an essential part of my daily life with God.
Eventually I transferred to a Christian college… I thought I knew the Bible as well as anyone. In truth, looking back, I became a bit of a snob. Then something unexpected happened. My faith life began to die. I had been trained to study, analyse and dissect the bible. The problem with dissection is that you end up with a dead subject.
I met with my spiritual director and told him of my emptiness. He said, ‘Jim, how do you fall asleep?’ I said: ‘I lie in bed and turn out the lights.’ ‘Right,’ he said. ‘You create the conditions for sleep. It is the same with contemplation of the Bible. You can’t force God to speak, you have to create the conditions. When you surrender yourself to the passage, the Spirit will speak.’
In verse 16, Paul tells the Colossians: ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.’ The word of Christ is the teaching of Jesus, transmitted to us by the written word and interpreted by the Holy Spirit. God longs to communicate with us, to bless and encourage and at times exhort us. The Spirit knows exactly what each of us needs, every day.
Our part is simply to come to the Word in an attitude of surrender and openness. I had trained myself to be an interpreter of the Bible, but in truth, the Spirit is the only interpreter of the Bible. We let the word of Christ dwell in us richly when we come with a hungry heart, with open ears, and with a desire not only to hear but also to do what God calls us to do.
The word of Christ is a gift from God to me, but can only be received when I come to the Bible with an open and hungry heart to hear what God has for me.
Gracious Abba, thank you for the gift of the Scriptures. They are the primary way you communicate with us. Help me to come before the Bible as one who wants only to hear from you. Give me the word you want me to hear, and may I then ponder it and let it dwell richly within me. Amen.
Describe a time when God spoke a word directly to you. If you have not had this kind of experience, what are some of the ways that God communicates with you?