What Role Does God’s Word Play in Our Lives?

I haven’t written in a while, at least on this blog, and I’d like to get back into it.

To be honest with you, ideas have been a little dry. I haven’t really had much to write about lately, at least spiritual things. I’ve been writing about local elections in Sanford — which is plenty enough — but as far as things to do with Jesus and God, it’s been little.

As I evaluate why that is, one thing comes to mind — I haven’t been reading the Bible very much recently. I’ve written about this before in a post. Many times in my life, the motivation to read just hasn’t been there. And that’s OK. God doesn’t condemn us to hell or shun us for not looking at His Word.

But as I sat down a little bit ago to look at Scripture, I realized the point of it, and the role that Scripture should play in our lives.

I’m slowly reading through Deuteronomy. I say slowly because it hasn’t been anywhere near consistent. That’s a whole other conversation in itself. But as I read today’s passage, chapter 6, I learned something about the importance of God’s Word in the life of a Christian. I’ve probably written about this before, but I got a fresh look at it.

In the early part of Deuteronomy, the Israelites are on the brink of entering the Promised Land, and Moses, who will not be entering into that land with them, is giving them final instructions. Much of it has been given before in the Pentateuch — commandments, instructions on sacrifices, etc. As chapter 6 rolls around, we see perhaps one of the most important commandments Moses gives to the Israelites (v. 6-9):

…these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

I did a bit of digging and found that many Jews have applied, and some continue to apply, these verses literally. Some context:

Phylacteries, sometimes called tefillin, are small, square leather boxes containing portions of Scripture worn by Conservative and Orthodox Jews during prayer services. Phylacteries are worn in pairs—one phylactery is strapped on the left arm, and one is strapped to the forehead of Jewish men during weekday morning prayers. The word phylactery comes from a Greek word meaning “safeguard, protection, or amulet.”

The Scripture is literally bound to their arms and foreheads. Whether or not you want to interpret this Scripture literally is up to you — I’m not quite sure what the proper response is here — but the concept is enlightening.

If something is on our heart, it is something we’re passionate about. It’s something we’re driven by. One of my passions, something that’s “on my heart,” is to help educate Christians and the church about mental illnesses like depression and anxiety and help remove the stigma. That’s part of my driving force. That’s what helps guide me in my life. It helps guide what I think, what I say, what I do.

If Scripture is on our heart, as Moses commands the Israelites here, it will be our driving force. It will guide what we think, what we say, what we do. That doesn’t mean there aren’t places for other passions. But Scripture, God’s Word, guides the pursuit of those passions as well.

Moses instructs the Israelites to construct physical reminders of Scripture, and to have conversation wherever we go about it. There’s instruction to pass God’s Word along to children raised in a faithful household.

Scripture, God’s Word, the commandments, the instructions — they’re designed to be everywhere in our lives, whether visible or not, audible or not. They’re designed to be immensely practical and immensely applicable in any and every situation. To say that the Bible isn’t relevant is to miss the point, to miss the purpose of the crafting of God’s Word.

There is no arena — our homes, our bedrooms, our breakfast tables, the places we go everyday — where Scripture is not to have an influence. That means on Facebook, at the coffee house, at the small group meeting, at the football game. Wherever we walk, wherever we go, Scripture is to be our guide. There is no place where Scripture is not influential and relevant.

And we must strive to not let it ever become that way.

We will mess up in this, we’ll forget. We’re humans. We’re flawed. It’s wonderful that there’s a truth in that Scripture that reminds us we’re loved and cared for and forgiven when we don’t do things the way they’re laid out in that Scripture.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

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Not Qualified Is Where God Starts

One of the most disheartening things that has ever happened to me was not getting hired for the position I wanted at the student newspaper at Elon during my junior year of college. I had applied for one of the highest positions, but I got what was basically a watered-down version of it with the leadership aspect of it taken out.

The editor-in-chief told me that I hadn’t proven myself enough as a capable leader that could fill the proposed role well enough. I was devastated for a little bit. I felt that a vital part of my personality had been personally attacked. Was that the proper way to think about it? I don’t think so. But it was a dig nonetheless, whether intentional or not. I felt like I was unqualified, incapable of performing the task that I so desired.

I often feel that way when it comes to ministry opportunities. An opportunity may present itself, and I think about whether or not I should do it. The first question that crosses my mind is usually: “Am I qualified?” Or “Have I done anything that would disqualify me?” I think there’s a sense where this is a legitimate question, but at the same time often it’s the wrong question to ask if we take it too far.

God Is With Those He Calls

There are three specific instances I love in Scripture where God calls men to be of service to Him. I love them because I can relate to each and every one of them.

First, Moses. In Exodus 3, God appears in the form of a burning bush and tells Moses that He’s going to use him to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt. Moses isn’t sold. He questions whether or not he’s the right guy because, well, who is he? Verses 11-12:

But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ (God) said, ‘But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.’

Second, Gideon. In Judges 6, “the angel of the LORD” comes to Gideon and charges him with the task of saving Israel from the invading nation of Midian. Gideon isn’t sold. He questions why him because he’s the weakest one in the weakest family. Verses 15-16:

And (Gideon) said to (the angel), ‘Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.’ And the LORD said to him, ‘But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.’

Third, Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 1, God calls Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah isn’t sold. He questions why him because he’s a young guy. Verses 6-8, Jeremiah writes in the first person:

Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.’ But the LORD said to me, ‘Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the LORD.’

Notice the pattern developing? Each time, God told His man that He was with them. And what happened? Moses led the people out of Egypt, was given the Ten Commandments and is responsible for writing the first five books of the Bible. Gideon led a group of 300 soldiers against more than 100,000 men and was victorious. Jeremiah spent his life prophesying about judgement and punishment, but also about coming grace and salvation.

God Qualifies the Called

When I read the Jeremiah story in particular, a few months ago, I was in the midst of a season of depression and frustration over a lot of things in my life. I read that first part and keyed in on how God basically ignored Jeremiah’s complaint and says, “Look, I’ve set this up, I’m calling you! Doesn’t matter what complaints you have. I’ve got you!” What I learned from that is that God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called simply by His presence. There is something to be said for having the skills and tools and talents for doing a certain thing in ministry. But there’s a sense where we shouldn’t be totally reliant on those things. We should be reliant on God working in us and through us in ministry.

Oftentimes it’s easy for me to look at ministry opportunities I’ve been given – like this blog – and think, “Well, because of this one particular sin in my life and my young age and my relative lack of life experience, who am I to do this? There are people far more qualified than me.” And yes, there are.

But I have the opportunities I have because God has given them to me. Not because I have any special qualifications or skills, but because He’s given them to me, because He deemed it necessary for me. Maybe He gave me the talents or skills to help with those things, or set up opportunities for me to learn those things.

But at the end of the day God calls me and you to different kinds of opportunities, within ministry and without, on His merit, not ours. And we should embrace and rejoice in those opportunities, praising God for Him qualifying us by His call on our lives. When we feel inadequate in whatever our calling is, we should pray and ask God for strength, trust that He knows what He’s doing by giving us these opportunities, and move forward, not leaning on our own understanding of ourselves and our weaknesses, but trusting what God says of us and what He’s giving us.

God’s view of you and His leading in your life are the most qualifying things you’ll ever have.