For the past month, I have done little else but read a three part series set of books. Books. In the morning, when I would wake, I would grab my Kindle and head for the kitchen table to continue the reading from the night before. When the kids played, I would curl up and read; I would read while they napped, and sat on the porch and read while they played outside. We would go to the lake, but there I would sit, on the beach blanket…reading. I got lost in the fictional story that was set just 40 something years after the death of Jesus. The turmoil surrounding the fall of Jerusalem and the gruesomeness of the games of the gladiators whisked me away into that time, and lured me into each character’s story. There was love, hate, faith, forgiveness, hope, evil, good, mercy, justice, danger, war, and grief all wrapped into this amazing story. I marveled at the way the heroine in the story kept scripture so close to her heart and would keep it running through her thoughts with every situation that she found herself in. How did this become possible? Her father taught her the law as she was younger, and she would attend the secret meetings held with other Christians and take in every word of the letters written to them by Paul, Luke, and John. With every trial and with every joyful moment, scripture would fill her thoughts and come forth from her mouth. Reading the story, I became somewhat jealous of this “ready recollection” and wanted the same for my life. Then, at the end of the last book, it hit me. How can I ever obtain this kind of wisdom with my time consumed with this reader’s block I have placed myself in? How am I to allow the Word to affect my heart in the way it effected the characters if I was not in it? Sure, I was filled with its power when it was laced throughout the series, but was that enough? I was more caught up in what was going to happen next with the characters.
I reflected back on my own Christian life after the book was over, and I hate to say it, but I have not picked up my Bible and read from it outside of worship services since beginning the series. I set a huge stumbling block before myself, and didn’t have the self control to get out of the fictional book, and into the living, breathing book of life. I felt ashamed, I feel ashamed. I know that curling up with a good, clean book is not wrong, but when it consumes you as much as it has me, I believe it can be. So what are we to do? We must find a balance. Now maybe your time consuming weakness isn’t a book, but it could be TV, Facebook, Twitter, your job, your hobby, even the work you are doing for the Lord may take you away from his word. Distractions from learning and growing through reading the word are tempting, but can be overcome. Listed below are some great tips that I collected from the characters in the series. Their determination to keep the faith and share it with others kept me drawn in as a reader, and gave me good tips on strengthening my faith as the characters had strengthened theirs.
Start each morning in prayer
The more experienced Christians started each and every morning in a prayer of thanksgiving, and requests to God along with the newer Christian. Their steady and peaceful habit rubbed off on the new Christian and helped him develop a deep, meaningful prayer life with the Lord. As you wake each morning, put everything else aside running through your mind, and focus on God first making each and every request known to him each day. “Seek first the kingdom of God..” Matthew 6:33
Bind the word on your heart
It was amazing how in whatever circumstance, the Christians in the series kept the word alive and in their hearts. The word was so precious to these people that upon hearing the word, they treasured it up in their minds and memorized each and every letter they could get their hands on so they could be filled with the life that the words brought. Are we seeing the Bible as precious? Are we craving what our Lord wants us to hear and reading it and meditating on it? Deuteronomy 8:3 tells us “but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Where is his word in your life? Is it alone, unopened, abandoned like I had let it, or is it alive, flowing from the pages, and into your heart. We must get ourselves back into the word daily, and let it nourish us with its truths.
Let the scriptures speak for you
Often, instead of offering their own words of advice, the characters would speak to others with scripture. Again, the word was alive and in their hearts, so they were able to share it with others in varying ways and in different circumstances. They also used the Psalms in their prayers of thanksgiving and praise. In struggles, they replayed encouraging words from the letters and used these words to comfort themselves as they spoke with God. Matthew 12:34 warns that “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Is your heart filled with scripture? Share it, allow it to flow from you as you communicate with others.
Stand firm flee the Devil
The anguish and the temptation to go back to the old self was a strong presence in the books. Some characters struggled with it more than others, but each of them choose to flee from the temptations set in their paths. Some choose to remove themselves from things they knew would drag them down, and others stood firm when their beliefs were in jeopardy of being compromised. Are we doing the same? We are told to resist the devil (James 4:7) and that the battle belongs to the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:15). When faced with the temptation to put the word aside to perform other things are we fleeing from the thought or allowing Satan to give us reasons why we can get to it later. If there is a stumbling block in the way, ask God to remove it, give the problem over to him, and flee the temptation to put it back into your path.
I hope these tips serve as a reminder as to why we must allow the Word to rule in our hearts. Let us all start each day we have been blessed with speaking with God, and reflecting on his promises in our lives. Let us set aside the time given to us to bind his words in our hearts that they may speak for us in our lives. Resist the temptations to set your Bible aside and discipline yourself into reading from it with an open and willing heart to do the things it commands us all as Christians to do. Happy reading!