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The Power of the Written Word

Lili Chan

There is a famous saying that “The pen is mightier than the sword,” which suggests that the written word is a more powerful influence than physical force. We see even in Chinese history how rulers have burned books in order to censor schools of thought that could threaten their authority. They knew that the communication of ideas through writing could influence people's thinking and mobilize action. How much more so should reading the Bible, which is “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16) and which the Holy Spirit Himself helps us to understand (1 Cor:2-14), radically transform our thinking and behaviour.

  A Personal Journey
  Childhood years

&  When I think about how God's Word has affected my life personally, I think back to the first lessons I treasured from the Bible as a child. I still remember feeling very comforted as a young child that God loved me and would protect me. When I got older, I studied hard in school because the Bible said that you should do everything for the glory of God. I tried to respect and obey my parents, even when I didn't want to because the Bible said that it was pleasing to God. However, even though the Bible affected my life in positive ways, some of my attitudes toward it were very immature. For example, I knew that Jesus taught, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4) so I understood that daily devotions were important to spiritual growth, like food was to physical nourishment. However, sometimes I treated this spiritual food like the Israelites who complained about manna, the food God blessed them with for survival in the desert (Numbers 11). Every Sunday I went to church starting around 5 years old and eventually started teaching Sunday School classes when I was about 16 years old, so I became bored of going over the same Bible stories again and again. Wrongfully, I was in a way grumbling against the gift that God has given in His Word. I had read through the entire Bible, but I tended to focus on the New Testament, which I believed was more important and practical than the Old Testament since it recounted Jesus' life and teachings. I didn't study the Old Testament very seriously, which I viewed as being boring historical records of “who begat who” and old Jewish laws that were no longer relevant to our lives. Even though I valued and applied parts of the Bible, I also ignored and actually opposed other parts of it—for example, that women should not be pastors or teachers (1 Timothy 2:12).

  University years

  My attitudes toward the Bible changed after University. I remember that studying was my priority in University and I used to spend so many hours and so much effort poring over my textbooks that I would practically memorize chapters of information. After 6 years of this intense study was over and I had my degrees, one day I just reflected on how much of the dates, formulaes, and other minutia of information I actually remembered from those textbooks and how useful all those tiny details were to me in daily life. My sober realization was that the answer was “not much.” I did appreciate and value the education that my parents worked hard to pay for, but I also had to confront the fact that I would have known God so much deeper and been better equipped to give an answer for my faith if I had spent that much time and effort reading the Bible as well. That moved me towards reading the Bible more seriously over secular materials.

  Trusting God's Word

  God was also gracious in leading me to a good Bible teaching church in Chinese Gospel Church when I moved to Toronto. The pastors provide solid expository teachings on the Bible from the pulpit. Our Fellowship and Sunday School Classes also hold helpful Bible studies. I am blessed to have mature brothers and sisters in Christ to help me in my spiritual walk. I remember one time I voiced one of my beliefs that was more influenced by the world than by God, and a sister handed me her Bible and kindly asked me to look up a Bible verse and read it out loud. I did so and was convicted. There it was in black and white. My views on the issue were in direct contradiction to what God teaches. I had to submit my beliefs to what God says is right, or I could rebel and rely on my own understanding. My prideful nature told me that I could question and disobey God's Word. However, thinking back to the very beginning of Creation, the serpent also convinced Eve of the same thing, which led to sin and the Fall of Man. There are plenty of examples in the Bible to show us the effects of sin and the rewards of obedience to God. We just have to be willing to learn from them. br />
  Satan tries to blind us to God's truth in insidious ways. We do not realize how much our thinking is influenced by society, by an ever liberal culture and media that feeds on sensationalism to sell. We don't question our own assumptions about our beliefs that we hold as “truth,” even if they contradict the Bible. We are so used to embracing as truth and justice what Science and Law uphold that we don't critically evaluate the validity of their claims. One thing that I've seen is that scientific theories and societies laws change, but the truth of the Bible never does. If truth is absolute, it cannot change. Thus, all other “truths” must be compared against the eternal measure of truth, God's Word.

&  I think it's only when I made the commitment to trust in God's Word, rather than my own wisdom that I truly came to love God's Word. Instead of trying to fight against God's Word or dismiss it so readily, I sought to earnestly understand it. Through this God has kept His promise to help me understand His Word better and to find joy in it. As Proverbs 2:1-5 says, “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.” I treasure the Bible for revealing the character of God, His plan for my life, His plan for humanity, and His precious wisdom that He generously offers to all who seek it.

  Ways to Meditate on God's Word

  When I think about what it means to meditate on God's Word, I think of studying the Bible, prayer and reflection on its meaning, and memorizing its words. Here are some ways that I've found to be personally beneficial in these areas:

  Studying the Bible

  Keep a regular reading schedule for your devotions. You will be able to cover much more of the Bible spending time daily in God's Word versus reading it only during the sermon at church on Sundays. Some people have said that it's a real blessing to start the day meditating on God's Word because it brings peace and joy to the rest of the day. Other people have recommended doing your devotions when you are the most alert, whether that is in the morning or evening. br />
  Study the Bible with others and discuss it honestly. I used to not ask questions on things that I wasn't sure of for fear of looking stupid or ignorant. Also, I used to hold back my opinions if I thought they conflicted with others because I didn't want to argue with anyone. Looking back, these are wrong, and even dangerous attitudes. We should approach studying the Bible with humility, knowing that we can't know everything, and being willing to be corrected if our views are not right. Another benefit to studying the Bible with other Christians is that it deepens your fellowship together.

  Read through the whole Bible and try to understand how the different parts fit together. For example, which parts in the Old Testament foretell the coming of Christ and reveal who He is.

  Cross-reference what the Bible says on a certain topic. It will give you a fuller understanding of what the Bible says on a specific area. Also, read the whole chapter to try to prevent taking a verse out of context.

  Use commentaries and other Biblical resources, after you have studied the Bible on your own. While the Bible is solely sufficient to reveal God's Will to us, commentaries will provide more background on the history and customs of Biblical times.

  Reflect on what you have read and how you might be able to apply its truths in your life. We are told that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuki  Reflect on what you have read and how you might be able to apply its truths in your life. We are told that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16), so every part of the Bible is useful for some purpose.

  Praying

  Pray that the Holy Spirit would help you to understand what God wants to teach you. Come with a humble spirit and a passion to search after God's truth. ray that God might deliver the blessings promised in the Bible.

  Memorize Bible verses. In one of our small groups, each person chose a favourite Bible verse that everyone in the group had to memorize. Psalm 119:9-11 says that you can keep your way pure by hiding God's Word in your heart. How do you hide God's Word in your heart? By memorizing it. The Holy Spirit can then help you remember it when you need guidance or comfort. There are different pockets of unused time that can be put to good use, memorizing Scripture. For example, on the commute to work, standing in line, etc.

  In meditating on God's Word, let us remember to “Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:7b-8). Indeed, we will surely gain a wealth of great blessings in wisdom and deeper fellowship with God as we meditate on His Word. Praise God!