You can’t separate spiritual growth from the Word of God. This is not to say that they are mutually dependent. You can spend time in the Word and never grow spiritually. But it is to say that if you want to grow spiritually, you cannot do it without the supernatural aid of God’s Word. You must spend time in it.
Jesus said inJohn 16:33 (ESV) – I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
See? Jesus has something to say. We need to hear what he has to say. If we want peace or any other spiritual blessing, we’ve got to know and understand what Jesus thinks. This is how we see things from God’s perspective. It’s how we can see clearly enough to take the next right step. God tells us what’s ahead because he sees it. He asks us to then step where we cannot necessarily see. He sees. We don’t see. We take a step and trust that what he says is true. But we must first hear what he has to say.
We want peace. We need peace. We are bumfuzzled because we should have peace and we don’t. We’ve got stuff. More than ever. We’ve got money. More than most of the world. We’ve got time. Look at all the modern conveniences that wrestle with each other for the outlets in your house. We’ve got access. With the flip of a switch or the press of a button, while you’re sitting on your couch, you can view much of what’s going on in the rest of the world. Sometimes watch it live. But we don’t have peace. Why?
I hope to answer that question in a later post, but for now, I’d like to point out that peace is connected to God’s Word. Jesus said what he said so that his followers could have peace. If you want peace, you need to know what Jesus said. You need to know his word.
Now, some are tempted to approach this mechanically. “OK. I read God’s Word, then I feel peace.” Kind of like your car. You add oil and gas; it’s ready to go. You steer the wheel, the car turns. You step on the brakes, the car screeches to a halt. And when it breaks down, you take it to a mechanic. He fixes what’s broken, you pay him, then it works again as you drive away.
Often I speak with people who are lacking peace, and I ask them if they are spending time in God’s Word. Usually the answer is “no,” but sometimes the answer is “yes.” Inevitably though, the person who says “yes” is spending time in God’s Word as if their life is a car and the Bible is an auto mechanic. “It should work,” you expect. “I read the Bible this morning.” You think, “I take my eyes to the word and read it, then it should just automatically fix my heart so I can feel peace.” But that’s not what God wants.
Now, there are similarities. There are mechanics to reading the Bible. You do use your eyes, or ears, and a book, or a tablet. And your brain. Fair enough. But there’s a big difference between your car and your heart. One has an engine, the other is your soul. One is purely mechanical, the other is an unfathomably complex mixture of body and spirit. One is based strictly on the cause and effect relationship of our physical universe, the other was made for a love relationship with its Creator. And that is the main difference that makes all the difference in the world.
It’s not in reading the Bible alone that gives us the spiritual strength necessary to endure trials with peace, it’s in reading the Bible and growing in your love relationship with the Lord that provides the peace of heart and mind you long for. Re-read the verse. He said, “in meyou may have peace.” That’s why he said what he said. So that you could hear HIM, come to know HIM, grow in your love for HIM. It’s relational, not purely mechanical.
So, if you are spending time in God’s Word and not finding any peace, you might consider reading the Bible as a letter from a friend rather than as mechanic studying an owner’s manual. Ask yourself those guiding questions. What is Jesus telling me about who God is? Who I am? And who is he? And how does who he is and what he does solve the deep problems of my heart and meet my eternal needs?
If you’re studying the Bible like a mechanic, you’re probably motivated by a desire for the gifts that God graciously gives us. Like peace. This is fine and necessary, but it’s not enough. God wants us to find peace in a relationship with Christ. Jesus said you can have peace “in me.”
Spending time in God’s word is a necessary but insufficient element in experiencing the peace of God that passes all understanding. God’s Word teaches us about Jesus, emboldens our faith in him, deepens our love for him, fuels the fire of our obedience to him. Peace then follows from that deepening friendship with the Lord of glory.
Keep reading God’s word, yes! But don’t ever trust your reading to change your heart. Trust Jesus, the whole point of the written word, to do what only he can do and what you could never do for yourself, no matter how long or hard you read. Read, yes, but with an eye to seeing Jesus. Only he can fix your broken heart.