Summary: What to do with God’s Word as we seek a more mature walk with Christ.
There are a lot of lessons we can learn from the field of medicine. By collecting a list of symptoms and various indicators throughout the body, a doctor can diagnose and treat a disease with remarkable accuracy. As the field advances, more diseases which often proved fatal in the past are becoming treatable illnesses in our day. The secret in every case is treating the disease instead of merely dealing with the symptoms.
The problems we face in our lives as Christians are similar. Too often we attempt to diagnose our spiritual diseases by treating only one symptom at a time. We load ourselves down with the antibiotics of more involvement or more faithful attendance rather than face the reality that our unconfessed sin may lie at the heart of the problem.
The Bible offers answers to the problems of Christians. The Holy Spirit stands ready to reveal the cause of our spiritual maladies. Our own brothers and sisters are readily available to pray for and counsel us in our difficulties. Yet, too often we rush to conclusions or try a new spiritual fad, and we find ourselves no better off and usually a little more out of sorts than before.
Christians need to mature in their faith. They need to deal with the spiritual weaknesses in their lives and treat the diseases of dysfunctional faith, rather than throw “quick fixes” at the symptoms and maintain the status quo of immaturity and spiritual anemia.
James understood this problem. As he wrote to the dispersed Jewish believers of his day in the midst of their persecution, he offered spiritual guidance for living empowered lives. He offered them wise counsel in facing the difficulties of their day. The thing we would do well to understand is that their difficulties are not unlike our difficulties today.
I have entitled this message, “Word Power.” The recurring theme of “the word” is one that began last week in verse eighteen. James discussed the “word of truth” that led to salvation and adoption as children of God. Today, we continue this theme as we look at four ways to act on “the word” in order to lead empowered lives.
The cover of our bulletin today carries the words of Hebrews 4:12. Let’s consider them together as we look at applying God’s Word to our lives:
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
Listening to the Word brings righteousness. In a practical sense, verses nineteen and twenty are good advice for everyday living. We would all do well to listen more, talk less, and be less aggressive. But how does this advice figure into our understanding of God and His word?
I believe the answer lies in our receptiveness to God’s Word. Mark Twain once said, “It’s not the parts of the Bible that I don’t understand that bother me – it’s what I do understand that creates the problems.” Twain uttered true wisdom in his comments.
Amy Carmichael said, “If no word from God has ever hurt you, then you are not very familiar with God’s word.” Carmichael knew well the necessity of not only hearing the Word, but the reality of listening to what it said.
We are all well and good to pay cursory attention to the Scripture when we read it or are in a place where it is read. The Bible Broadcasting Network carries a segment every day at three o’clock where a portion of Scripture is read. The place where our hearing becomes listening, though is where we take the words to heart and compare our lives to them.
I have often found myself involved in a conversation where I was eager to make a good showing and therefore spent much of the time when the other person was speaking trying to decide what I should say next. As a result, I often misspoke and missed the entire meaning of what the other person said because I was too busy collecting my own thoughts.
We have all been engaged in arguments as well where our eagerness to get in our blows meant cutting off the other person in mid-sentence or, in the case of telephone conversations, we hung up with a fiery vengeance. It is a good example of what James called, “the wrath of man.”
The end result of all this cool-headed, quiet listening is ultimately the righteousness of God. It becomes obvious, too, that the process of listening to what God has to say is not a mindless task. The sense of listening to the word is one of sharp-witted reception and processing of the word. I suppose the next natural question, then, is how we go about doing this.