This past week, I taught different Bible passages three times — twice for a church retreat and once for a Sunday School class. In all cases, the passages I taught were familiar, passages from 1 Samuel describing important events in the life of David, and a section from Hebrews 2.
As I taught, a reality struck me: God’s Word recorded in the Bible has startling power.
The Power to Transcend Time
I taught these passages to adults. The circumstances they faced differed greatly from the people described in the texts. Yet the words resonated and challenged. Things biblical characters experienced two thousand years ago or more jumped through time and provided challenging insights to people living today.
I enjoy reading many forms of literature. While reading, I often note passages that inspire me. But the words in the Bible connect with me and others in ways that other forms of literature do not. The Bible’s words strike hearts with unexpected power that permeates and lingers.
The Power to Transcend Experiences
As far as I know, none of the people I taught last week were currently kings. Without a shocking turn of events, none of them will assume the throne as the head of state and any country. We studied some difficult times that David faced before he became king, noting his race away from King Saul and God’s progressive plan for him to become king. To our amazement, David’s experiences transferred insight to our experiences.
I can say with confidence that the application of the passages we studied did not rely on my skill as a teacher. The passages, the stories, the principles, and truths applied intrinsically. All I had to do was suggest application, not forcing a point, but allowing the texts to make their own point. In ways I cannot explain, the words from the Bible transcended time.
The Power to Transcend Ages and Educational Backgrounds
One of the reasons I love to read and teach the Bible is that as I do, I find that all people can interact with it. I can help by explaining terms and orienting them to the key themes of the story, but the message strikes with force on all kinds of people.
I continue to enjoy watching people “get it” as I explain passages of the Bible. While some sections challenge world class scholars, the rest of us can work our way through the texts slowly, talking, asking questions, and sharing insights and still reach a level of understanding that prompts application.
Often, I share with people I teach, “It’s not the parts of the Bible I do not understand that bother me; I worry about the parts I understand and fail to apply.” I could stay busy the rest of my life applying and obeying the parts of the Bible I already understand.
I’m grateful for the wonderful Bible study tools and resources that help us analyze the Bible, but I’m convinced that if we simply read the Bible regularly and applied what we understood, we would grow as Christians and deepen our discipleship. God’s Word will work in us if we bring it into our minds by reading it or listening as it is preached and taught.
The Power to Convict and Prompt Change
Some people question the value of motivational speakers, those people who share stories, quotes, and helpful tip to crowds in auditoriums. I don’t. I enjoy the encouragement such speakers offer and watch with amazement as they captivate people with their words. At the same time, I know I could not do what they do.
Teaching the Bible is a completely different experience.
Through the years, I’ve watched the words of the Bible as preached and taught strike people’s minds and hearts with unexpected impact. Whether I’m speaking, or listening to someone else teach the Bible, I sense that power resides in the words of the Bible rather than the oratorial skills of the speakers.
That’s great news for someone like me, for it removes the pressure to sway people with my words. I know that if I speak God’s Word, God will use His Word in people’s lives. The Holy Spirit will drive those words into hearts and minds to convict of things gone wrong and to motivate us to take corrective steps.
If I walked through my neighborhood with a lion on a leash, people would not think about me; they would simply wonder what would happen when the lion decided to do whatever it wanted to do. In a sense, that’s the way I feel as I teach the Bible. I’m simply along for the trip. The power resides in God’s Word. I don’t unleash it; I simply recognize it and watch it work.
Still Startling After All These Years
I turn 60 years old this week. I’ve been reading the Bible for decades and teaching it weekly for almost 40 years. As I’ve grown older, my respect for God’s Word has grown. Over and over, I’ve led groups of people to read the Bible, talk about it, seek to understand what it means and how to apply its message to our lives. As we do, this ancient text stirs people, challenges people, and changes people.
I saw this reality again this week. Once again, God’s Word startled me with its power to engage and spur change . . . changing me and changing those who interacted with the Bible along with me.
I think that’s why the writer of Psalm 119 spent so much time talking with God about His Word and capturing his thoughts so that others could find inspiration and challenge. The psalmist knew the startling power of God’s Word and never recovered from it.
I don’t want to recover, either.