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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Skilled in the Word

 

Reading Bible to child

by Dennis Pollock

I have always been somewhat in awe of people who possess tremendous skill in their professions. Whether it be a musician, an athlete, a brain surgeon, a writer, a carpenter, computer technician, school teacher, or Navy Seal, people who rise to the top of their profession and acquire skills that most of us ordinary folks could never dream of, intrigue and impress me. They make things look easy that would be incredibly difficult and even impossible for almost anyone else attempting the same feat. Put most of us in the batter's box in a major league baseball game and tell us to hit a ninety-mile-an-hour fastball, and we would be hopeless and laughable. Challenge us to return the smashed serve from a tennis pro, or to drive a golf ball to a tiny green surrounded by water, two hundred twenty yards away, or to guard an NBA center, or to play a violin with a professional orchestra, or perform quadruple bypass heart surgery, and we might as well attempt to fly to the moon. Such skills are simply beyond most of us.

Almost nobody thinks of skill in relationship to the Bible. The Bible is a book that we read; it inspires us and encourages us – but it seems inappropriate, perhaps almost carnal, to relate the Scriptures to the idea of skill. Yet the Bible itself uses this term to describe the mature believer. We find this in the book of Hebrews:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14)

In this passage the Holy Spirit is encouraging God's children to determine to become skilled in the Scriptures and in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is also rebuking those perpetual, never-maturing, baby believers for their refusal to give themselves to the study and careful meditation on God's word which will lead them to an ever increasing knowledge of God and His Son Jesus Christ. Whatever your profession, whatever your level of intelligence, whatever talents you do or do not possess, every man and woman who names the name of Jesus Christ is called to become skillful in the word of righteousness – the holy Scriptures by which we are made strong, knowledgeable, and effective in our divine calling.

What Does It Look Like?

golf

One of the most fundamental aspects of skill has to do with familiarity. Skilled people have practiced again and again until the desired ability has become second nature to them. Golfers go to the driving range and hit hundreds of balls day after day, even on days when they are not playing in a tournament. When Jack Nicklaus was a youth his dad and trainer built a type of Quonset hut for him, with half of it cut away so he could hit golf  balls from it onto the driving range during the winter. A heater was placed in the back of the hut to keep him warm, and while other boys were watching television or driving around town looking for girls, Jack was hitting ball after ball with club after club. Some days he would have bloody hands by the time he was finished, but eventually Nicklaus grooved a golf swing that would serve him well and enable him to win 73 PGA tournaments and 18 major championships.

Becoming skilled in the word of God, in a similar manner, requires time and practice. Just as the golfer must feel comfortable and totally at ease with his irons and woods, so the Christian must become attached to, familiar with, and at ease with the Bible. The gospels, the epistles, the psalms, the prophets, the books of Moses, the life of Abraham, the life of David, the life and writings of Paul, and most of all, the life, death, resurrection, teachings, commands, and promises of our Lord Jesus must become bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.

It will not happen overnight. There are promises to be memorized, warnings to be heeded, challenges to be embraced, biographies to be read and re-read, and values to be assimilated. All the while, what we read and meditate on should be affecting the way we live, think, and act. No musician ever took up their instrument one day and became proficient the next. Hours, days, months, and years must be spent becoming steadily more adept and skilled in the words that have proceeded from the mouth of God. Reading, considering, meditating on, pondering, and analyzing must occur as our eyes continually pass over the words which are able to make God's ways our ways, and His thoughts our thoughts. In the Old Testament, we read of Ezra, who is referred to as "a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses" (Ezra 7:6).

There is a need for spiritual maturity. Whatever professional sports you may watch, you will never find a child among the athletes. There are no seven-year-olds playing professional basketball, no twelve-year-olds on the football field at kickoff, no five-year-olds teeing up the ball at the PGA tournament. The verse from Hebrews talks about believers who no longer live on the milk of the word, but desire the meat, and by reason of use have learned to discern good and evil. They are no longer praying "God bless me, make me rich, make me happy, make me famous." They have set their lives on a course to follow their Master, the Lord Jesus, to take up their cross, and "live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again." Reading the Scriptures in the morning has become as natural for them as eating breakfast. Seeing them sitting in the living room reading the Bible does not come as a shock to their family; it would be far more surprising to have a day or two pass, and not see them do so.

The Purpose

People generally develop skills with a purpose in mind. Athletes spend countless hours perfecting their skills at shooting baskets, hitting a baseball, striking a golf ball, or catching a football because they believe that if their skill level reaches a certain point, it can mean a career, enormous amounts of money, fame, popularity, and as many possessions as their hearts can imagine. From a Christian perspective there is a far superior reason to become skilled in the word of God.

The reason has to do with our prayer lives. For the Christian, the ability to pray effective prayers which are heard in heaven and are met with positive responses from our heavenly Father is all important. It is far more valuable than the ability to throw a football, play a French horn, or set up a computer network. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime – but teach a man to pray and you not only feed him for a lifetime, but clothe him, pay his bills, bless all his family and friends, deliver him from the attacks of the evil one, and launch him into a fruitful, victorious life of blessing and power that will last him all of his days. Until believers becomes effective in prayer, they will always live on the edge of collapse, they will always be susceptible to the wiles and snares of the evil one, and they will inhabit that terrible place where total disaster and unimaginable loss are only one bad event, one unforeseen tragedy, one fearful phone call, or one grim doctor's report away. A Christian without the ability to pray effectively is like a soldier without a rifle, a basketball player wearing concrete boots, a golfer trying to hit the ball with a baseball bat, or a concert pianist forced to play a plastic child's toy piano. Christians don't have to be smart, don't need to be pretty, and aren't required to be witty and clever – but they had better learn how to pray!

Grown-up Praying

Child's prayerMany Christians don't realize it, but often their prayers are childlike and devoid of power and authority – much like the little girl who prays: "God bless Mommy and Daddy, and Grandpa and Grandma, and Uncle Bob and Aunt Betty…" They are a little more sophisticated in their words and phrases, of course, but in the eyes of God their prayers are the prayers of milk drinkers and not meat eaters. The key to mature, effective praying is the word of God. Your praying will never rise higher than your knowledge of and familiarity with the Scriptures. The reason is simple: for prayer to be effective it must contain an element of faith, and faith always finds its support in God's word. Consider the young woman who prays for a husband thus: "Dear Lord, you know how lonely I am. I need a husband so badly! Please send me a husband who will love me and whom I can love. I am just miserable, God. I've been alone for so long now, and I'm asking You, no I'm begging You to send me a man of my own." Such a prayer may have lots of emotion in it, but it is not the prayer of faith; indeed there may not a trace of faith in it. The woman is simply begging God, hoping He will hear her, but believing He probably will not.

A far more faith-filled, Word-based prayer for her might go something like this: "Father, I come to you in the name of Jesus, praising You for your kindness to me. Your word tells me that You are rich unto all who call upon You, and I am calling upon You for a husband. I trust You to richly provide me a man that will be just right for me. You are God who gives good gifts to those who ask You, the One who gives liberally to those who pray to You, the One who grants the desires of the heart to those who delight in You.  I do ask You and delight in You, and trust You to provide me the desire of my heart, which is a husband who will be good to me, and with whom we may serve You and fulfill Your perfect plan for our lives.." This is a far more adult prayer and is much more likely to receive a positive response, because it is based on the word of God. I haven't given you all the Scriptural references, but that little prayer is filled with Scriptures, Biblical phrases, and promises.

The Language of the Bible

But the thing that would make it most effective is when it springs from a heart that is filled with the word of God, and when the promises and language of the Bible flow naturally as we approach the throne of grace. Sure, we could teach people to pray those words, but it would probably do little good if it were just a canned prayer prepared by someone who looked up a few verses. But when we pray with our hearts aflame with love for Jesus, and our minds filled with the word of God which we have been reading and meditating on over months and years, that is a different matter entirely! All over the world people pray to God in many languages, but the language that is most effective in prayer is the language of the Scriptures.

We are told that the word of God is "living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword." It is highly effective in drawing men and women to Jesus, and it is also incredibly effective in gaining the ear of God in our time of need. As we saturate our hearts and minds with Scriptural truths, thoughts, phrases, promises, and declarations, we are preparing ourselves to become mighty in prayer and skilled in the handling of God's word. As we base our prayers on Jesus' name, and His death, resurrection, and gift of righteousness, we shall be heard. Lives will be changed, blessings will flow from Heaven in a rushing stream, victories won, demons defeated, snares avoided, evil schemes brought to nothing, doors of opportunities opened, and much fruit shall appear in our lives. Let us avidly pursue the greatest of all skills, that skill which will benefit us in this life and the next – skill in the word of righteousness.

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