There are two ways to read the Bible: as cataloguers or obeyers
I discovered this while doing my morning devotions yesterday. I was in the Psalms and read this:
“For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; you have brought us out to a place of abundance.”
Interesting, huh? This passage says God brings us into agonizing situations—and then through them into a wonderful new place. I was reminded of another passage of Scripture in James that says the same thing:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
That, in turn, reminded me of verses in 1 Peter that teach the same:
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith … may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
That, in turn, put me in mind of yet another Scripture passage in Romans with the nearly identical message:
“… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. …”
There are many other Bible passages besides these that make similar observations regarding God’s judicious and merciful use of suffering in our lives, and I was a busy beaver flipping back and forth to cross-references that came to mind. Toward the end of my hour, I was thinking what a rewarding and profitable time in the Word I was experiencing, having catalogued many verses under the rubric of the suffering-sanctification connection.
To my horror, I suddenly discerned the trap: It is possible to read the Word of God in a way that pleases only the devil, and that is, to make it a sterile object of study that never goes deeper in one’s life than intellectual assent. We may know a lot about the Bible and confuse that knowledge with godliness. But as Jesus said, it is not those who hear the Word who please God, but those who actually obey it.
Then I went back and prayed over the verses I had catalogued, and it made all the difference. I found prayer conjoined with reading to be an antidote and safeguard against a study of the Bible that has little value in sanctification.