Monday, August 22, 2016

Wrestling with the Word of God

I heard the lament again this morning. "I am not hearing from God, either in prayer or through His word." My friend relayed this comment from his wife. Her complaint is not uncommon. The silence of God often speaks louder than His written word. Even in the biblical narrative, generations passed away without an utterance of divine revelation.

But God's silence is not the same as His absence. And His word - both spoken and written - reverberates. God wrote Himself into creation. His initial Let There Be Refrain echos with every sunset and season, ocean wave and starlight night, singing bird and nursing child.

"The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours fourth speech, 
And night to night reveals knowledge." 
(Ps. 19:1-2, NASB)

And He writes Himself on human consciousness. All people have some sense of right and wrong, justice and beauty. The human capacity for moral choice is part of the Imago Dei (Genesis 1:26-28). People may suppress, deny, or sear their consciences (Romans 1:18-32), but that does not erase the fact God speaks through moral cognition.

But God's primary method of communication is through His written word. He handpicked a collection of men (and a few women?) to write His Story in Holy Scriptures. It the Bible - 39 books in the Hebrew Scriptures and 27 in the New Testament - through which God speaks most consistently and comprehensively. It is the Bible through which God speaks most personally: In His Son, Jesus the Living Word (John 1:1-3; Heb. 1:1-3). Thus, the written word serves as the focal point for followers of Jesus to hear from the living God.

Yet often we do not hear from Him. We wrestle with misunderstandings of the biblical text or distractions of our addled minds. We plod along with no reading plan or posture ourselves with a slouching sense of familiarity. We reduce Scripture reading to a remote slot on our schedule, failing to integrate God's Word into conversations or meditations throughout the day.

And like the diet that does not cause immediate weight loss, the budget that does not produce immediate wealth, or the parenting advice that do not result in "new kids by the weekend," we write off what God has written before we give it enough time to take effect. 

Discipline takes time to develop into habit. Habit works slowly in forming character and reshaping lives. Spiritual disciplines are no different: they require effort. "God is not opposed to effort," taught Dallas Willard, "He opposes earning."

So what does one say to the person wrestling to hear from God in His written word?

"Keep wrestling and read on. In time you will reap the rewards. His silence does not spell His absence. Perhaps, God wants to see you sweat before He blesses you with His voice."

Eight Ways to Improve Your Bible Reading
If Biblical Literacy Is Relatively New for the Church, Do We Overemphasize Bible Reading?

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