When the Bible is not Helpful

When the Bible is not Helpful

“Helpful” is a computer with internet access, the car starting on a cold morning in Minnesota, coupons at the grocery store, and extra ranch. But the Bible is not helpful; it is essential.

Too often I view my Bible like many others view their coffee; I just need the dose of spiritual caffeine to get me going, and then I’ll be fine. While the Bible does provide inspiration and encouragement for my day, I need to view it as something more than that. The Bible is not the dessert after a big meal. Rather, it is more akin to the daily ration of a weary soldier. The problem is that I view the Bible as something nice for my day and not as Jesus did in the wilderness: absolutely essential.

Consider the setting with me from Matthew 4. The Spirit leads Jesus to fast for 40 days, and Matthew sums up the situation with one of the great understatements in Scripture, “he was hungry.” Here in the wilderness, Jesus’ humanity is on full display. He’s hungry, tired, exposed, weak, and facing temptation. Seizing on perceived opportunity, Satan appears intending to destroy the Lord.

Satan’s first temptation is simple enough. “You’re hungry! Why not eat something? Why not just make some bread for yourself? Oh, you’re supposed to be fasting and following the leading of Spirit? That won’t work well if you die of hunger, will it? C’mon, just one loaf of bread!”

Jesus’ response reveals his view of Scripture.

Man shall not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

In this desperate situation, Jesus relies on Scripture to support him. He knows that the sustaining power of God’s Word to the soul is greater than food to a starving man. The principle follows: if I fail to eat food my body will die, but if I fail to take in the Words of God, I risk the death of my soul.

The rest of the Bible claims the same priority for Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says a believer without Scripture is unequipped for life, Jesus asserts in John 8:31 that a mark of a genuine believer is that he abides in the Word, and Psalm 119:105 claims a person is stuck in darkness without God’s Word. The reality is that you can’t live without your Bible.

Why, then, do we neglect it?

The short answer is that we take God’s Word for granted. Like the “helpful” computer with wi-fi access, we think, “It’ll be there when I need it. I’ll just log on and get the answer to my questions when I have them.” But the Bible doesn’t work like that. It is the believer’s feeding tube. Remove it, and you starve your soul.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that a growing child needs food, and it shouldn’t take a super theologian to understand that a growing Christian needs God’s Word.

Essential, not helpful.

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To My Dear Jennifer

Dear Jennifer,

Congratulations! Tonight, you graduate from high school, and you become a freshman all over again. I’m proud of you and all that you’ve accomplished. I love watching you play volleyball and wearing my #1, and I love being at the cabin with you. You’re my rollercoaster buddy and my favorite person to sing duets with in the car. But most of all, I love to watch you serve others. I love to see you talk with older people and patiently play with young children. God has gifted you to love others, and I thank the Lord that you are using this ability for Him.

As you prepare for college, I want to remind you of three things that God has taught you in our home. Remember them, and they will be a help to you at school.

Dad has asked us both countless times questions like, “Can you be a servant?” or “Are you thinking truth?” or “Will you trust God?”  Those questions cover three of the most important things for your life: serving others, loving others, and trusting your Father.

So let me ask you. Can you be a servant?

Philippians 2 says this:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men

Your Savior was a servant every day of His life, but He was tempted just like you to serve Himself.In the same way you will be tempted to serve yourself every day. Your roommates, friends, and even family will disappoint you and fail to recognize what you are doing for them. But that isn’t the point. The point is that Christ served you with His entire life, and you are commanded to have the same mind. So I ask again, “Can you be a servant?”

As you serve people, you’re expectations will not always be met. This is why you must always Think Truth. Paul writes this in 1 Corinthians 13, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” When people come to you, do what Paul says – bear, believe, Hope, and endure all things.  Give them the benefit of the doubt, just as Jesus gave you the benefit of the doubt. You see, people will disappoint you.  Jesus Christ experienced this every day of his ministry. He constantly served others, and others constantly failed him. Even those who were closest to Him fled from Him the night of His crucifixion; those who once sang His praises nailed Him to a cross. Yet He never spoke out against them. In fact, He forgave them. He thought truth, and the truth was that this suffering was the will of His Father for Him. So Jennifer, make the Father’s will your will and always Think Truth.

Finally, Jennifer, Trust God.

Being a servant and thinking truth are important but that doesn’t mean that life won’t have some disappointments or hurts. Obedience always brings blessing, but sometimes it brings pain as well, just the way that running all those sprints in practice did. When it hurts the most and you are at your weakest, trust God.  Remember God’s promise, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”.

And Jen, don’t let go of God ever.

Do you remember when Jacob wrestled with God all night? Jacob wouldn’t let God leave until He blessed him. There will be nights when you have to wrestle with God over people, health, and even sin, but if you trust Him and never let go of Him, you will be truly blessed (Psalm 1).

So Jennifer, Congratulations! You are just starting out in life and soon you will leave home. Don’t forget what you’ve learned –  Be a servant. Think truth. Trust God.

I love you,

Michael