Summary: If you want to pass the tests of life and come out on the other side of your trials a better person, more like Christ, then with God’s help: Receive the Word – do it! Reflect on the Word – fix it! And practice true religion – live it!
In her book Amazing Grace, writer and poet Kathleen Norris shares what she calls “the scariest story” she's ever heard about the Bible. Norris and her husband were visiting a man named Arlo, a rugged, self-made man who was facing terminal cancer. During their visit, Arlo started talking about his grandfather, a sincere Christian. The grandfather gave Arlo and his bride a wedding present: an expensive leather Bible with their names printed in gold lettering. Arlo left it in the box and never opened it. But for months afterwards his grandfather kept asking if he liked the Bible. Arlo told Norris, “The wife had written a nice thank-you note, and we'd thanked him in person, but somehow he couldn't let it lie, he always had to ask about it.”
Finally, Arlo grew curious enough to open the Bible. “The joke was on me,” Arlo said. “I finally took that Bible out of the closet and I found that granddad had placed a twenty-dollar bill at the beginning of the Book of Genesis, and at the beginning of every book… over thirteen hundred dollars in all. And he knew I'd never find it.” (Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, Riverhead Books, 1998, p. 95; www.PreachingToday.com)
Sad to say, that describes a lot of people. They own a Bible, but they never open it to find the treasure that it contains.
Just a few years ago (2012), the American Bible Society commissioned the Barna Research group to do a study on Bible reading and biblical literacy in America. Some of what they found was encouraging. For example:
85 % of American households own at least one Bible, with a household average of 4.3 Bibles. Furthermore, 69 % of Americans believe the Bible provides answers on how to live a meaningful life.
Even so, 26 % of Americans never read the Bible. Another 10 % read it less than once a year. And 54 % were unable to identify the first five books of the Bible.(American Bible Society, "The State of the Bible 2012"; www. PreachingToday.com)
That’s sad, because within the pages of this Book (hold up Bible), there is a treasure far greater than any amount of money one could hope to find. And if you have your Bibles, I invite you to open them and turn with me to James 1, James 1, where we find the treasure that it contains.
James 1:21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (ESV)
If you’re a follower of Christ, God planted His Word in your heart, so it could “save your soul”. Now, in this context, God’s Word can save you from giving up and giving into temptation in the midst of your trials.
James is not talking about our eternal salvation here, since he is addressing “brothers” (vs.19), i.e., those already in the family of God. No. James is talking about a temporal salvation, i.e., our deliverance from despair and disobedience when life gets hard. In verse 18, the Word of God caused us to be born again. Here, in verse 21, the Word of God keeps us from sin in our trials. Do you want to pass the tests of life and come out on the other end of your trials a better person, more like Christ? Then…
RECEIVE THE WORD!
Welcome God’s Word into your life. Accept God’s message to you in the Bible. That means more than just own a copy of the Bible (or 2 or 3).
That means, at the very least, open it up and read it every once in a while. Develop a daily habit of getting into God’s Word, so it can rescue you from despair and disobedience in the midst of your trials. The psalmist said, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).
Someone once figured it out that if you read the Bible at standard pulpit speed (slow enough to be heard and understood), it would take you 71 hours. If you break that down into minutes and divide those minutes by 365, you could read the entire Bible from cover to cover in a year, investing less than 12 minutes a day.
I challenge you, if you are not already doing it, invest just 12 minutes a day in God’s Word. Set aside just 12 minutes every day to read the Bible. It will give you a whole new outlook on life and “save your soul” from a debilitating despair in the midst of your trials.
Receive the Word! That means read it every once in a while, but more importantly, that means do it! Put God’s Word into practice. With God’s help, seek to live it out, to make it a part of your life.