“The real strength of the church is not the amount of its work but the quality of its faith. One man who truly knows his bible is worth more to the church’s real strength than a crowd of workers who do not.” – P.T. Forsyth, British Theologian of the early 20th Century.
As we begin these series about a spiritual happy man lets establish this premise. The strength of a church is not proportionally related to the strength of its programs or ministries; not related to the number of members or people attending; not related to the popularity of the pastor or his ability to expand and deliver the Word of God; but, of the spiritual strength of each man who is in the church.
Beginning with this month and for the next several months we are going to look at the spiritual happy man. What do we need to do – habits we need to develop – to ensure that we are moving toward spiritual happiness and growing in our relationship with our Lord. The first thing we need to do is to encourage each other and the men in our churches to learn to read. Let’s face it, as a rule, men don’t like to read. We don’t even read instructions when we purchase a new product. I must confess that when I was recently setting up a new printer in my office I had to force myself to read the instructions. We just try to ‘wing-it’ so we can show we don’t need anyone telling us what to do.
Often when I talk with men I tell them there are three things I want them to do; 1st, Read; 2nd, Read; and 3rd, Read. I believe we will all agree that men are not avid readers and when it comes to the word of God, the Bible, we tend to justify in our minds why we do not have time to read or why we don’t need to read. But reading the Bible is valuable to every man. Why? Because it is true.
In Proverbs 30:5, we are told that “Every word of God proves true” and God “is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” Jesus said, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). Jesus’ words though can only abide in us if we read the Bible regularly. God told Joshua regarding the Book of the Law that “You shall meditate on it day and night,” (Joshua 1:8). The Psalmist writes that a blessed man delight “in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1-2). And of course, we are instructed by the Psalmist in Psalm 119:11 to store up the word in our hearts so that we might not sin against God. The Bible is full of encouragement for us to read, meditate, and hide the Word of God in our hearts.
The Bible is also how God speaks to us to instruct and teach us. Isaiah writes, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11). Paul wrote to Timothy and told him that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Men need to understand that our lives will never change in any significant way apart from the regular study of God’s Word. I have found that I have a bond with men who have made the Bible their final authority. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus by looking in His Word regularly and allowing His Word to penetrate deeply into our very being. The single significant contribution we can make to another man is to help him understand the path to finding peace and comfort is through Jesus and the reading of His Word.
So, what is our goal? In Hebrews we read these words, “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus” (Heb.12:1-2a). The phrase here that stands out to me is for us to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely.” How many of us are still clinging to a sin that is weighing us down and preventing us to endure the race? Keeping us from reading and studying the Bible like we should.
When I find active sin in my life that I have not confused I am less likely to be interested in reading God’s Word. When I finally come to my senses, recognize the sin, confess it, and ask forgiveness; I tend to be more active in my reading and allowing God to speak to me. In John 1:6 we find this to be true as the Bible tells us, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” Sin will keep us from the Word of God and will keep us from having a desire to practice the truth.
Another goal is to let the Holy Spirit teach us all things. John 14:26 tells us, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” As more and more of the word becomes infused into our lives we will find it easier to recognize false teachings which we are told to be aware. You will also find times when in conversation the Holy Spirit will bring back remembrance of scriptures you have read. When this occurs to you, you will find it powerful and encouraging. But it will only happen by reading the Word of God – the Bible – regularly.
I should not need to tell you the importance of a private devotion. We need to encourage every man in our groups to have a private time to read, meditate, and reflect on the Word of God. A time that is quiet and away from the busyness of the day. The Center for Bible Engagement states that in their research they find there is no significant difference in people who read their Bibles 2-3 times a week than those who do not read their Bibles at all. Studies indicate we need to read at least four days a week. People who read the Bible at least 4 times a week look at the significance of the word differently than those who don’t.
Here are some suggestions to encourage you to become more active in reading and listening to the Word of God.
- Get a Read the Bible in a Year bible. This Bible is laid out in a manner that will allow you to read a portion of scriptures over 365 days. If you do this don’t beat yourself up if you skip a day. Just make a commitment to catch up.
- Buy an audio of the Bible. If you are one who is on the road a lot like I was you can listen to the Bible. But beware this does not take the place of deliberate reading of the word; but, at least you will be hearing the Word of God.
- Make a commitment to read five minutes a day five days a week for 30 days. See if this does not create a habit to read the bible.
- Read a chapter a day in the New Testament. If you read one chapter every day for five days a week you will read all of the New Testament in one year. If you read five chapters a day, five days a week you will read the whole bible in about 11 months.
We need to be encouraging our men to read every day. Ask each man in your small groups what are they reading and how did the Word speak to them since your last meeting. Hold each other accountable. When our men make reading the Bible a spiritual habit, allowing God to speak to us and teach, we will find ourselves wanting more of the things of God.