Open My Eyes to Your Word
BY JORDAN MAYER
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”
This past Sunday, several members of our church community got up to speak the words of Jesus in Scripture. It was truly a profound experience. As I listened, I had two thoughts come into my mind.
First, I was reminded of Scripture’s power, especially the power of it spoken aloud.
I think of Jesus during His temptation in the desert. As Satan attacks Him with his lies, Jesus responds with God’s Word. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 3:4). “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matthew 3:7). “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matthew 3:10).
In Ephesians 6, Paul outlines the various elements of a Christian’s armor. We are clad in the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the readiness of the Gospel of peace, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation. But notice, only one offensive weapon is given. It is the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17).
The Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). It trains us in righteousness and equips us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path (Psalm 119:105). It does not return void, but accomplishes its purpose (Isaiah 55:11).
This was the same Word spoken on Sunday. Think about that. The very words of God Almighty were heard aloud in that room. And they are there before us each time we open our Bible.
As I sat there, still and quiet, hearing God’s Word spoken, I also felt convicted. How often do I just bask in the light of God’s truth? How often do I simply sit under the weight of Scripture?
I find I am sometimes too quick to pick up a devotional or page through a commentary. Do not misunderstand me, devotionals, commentaries, and various Christian books are all wonderful resources. We are truly blessed by the abundance of Christ-exalting, biblically based literature available to us. But I have found, in my own life, a hidden danger of making these supplementary resources the default and primary focus of my quiet time.
If I am being completely honest with myself, the root is often one of laziness. As I hit a roadblock with a particular passage, how tempting it is to just reach for the commentary to ease my frustrations or to abandon the effort altogether with a straightforward, perfectly packaged daily devotional.
Simply put, Scripture can be downright hard to read. But Paul actually goes a step further. In our own strength and apart from the Holy Spirit, Scripture is actually impossible to read, in the sense of being able to truly understand and apply it. Listen to what Paul says to the Corinthians:
“These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:10-13)
No one can know the thoughts of God other than the Spirit of God. And it is the Spirit of God that has been given to us when we believe upon Christ as our Lord and Savior.
We can carve out the time in our schedule, find a quiet place to read, and open the pages of our Bible, but what happens next does not rest in our own abilities. It is solely a work of the Spirit to know the thoughts of God. Praise God for the Spirit’s help!
As John Piper puts it, “One of the greatest privileges of having two good eyes is that we can read God’s word. But there is another set of eyes that have to be opened if the glory of God’s word is to shine in our hearts — namely, the eyes of our hearts” (John Piper, The Shepherd, the Host, and the Highway Patrol).
So, we have set aside a time to read. We have found a solitary place. We grip the sword of the Spirit tightly in our hands. Here lies a critical moment, a crossroads of sorts. In many ways, reading God’s Word is an act of faith. Will we pursue God’s Word in our own strength, by the power of our own reasoning and mental faculties? Or, will we submit our minds and surrender our will to the power of the Spirit?
Often, my defeats in my quiet time are linked to my failure to properly prepare, namely to pray for the Spirit’s guidance in helping me understand God’s truth. So now I pray.
Lord, open my eyes to behold wondrous things from your law (Psalm 119:18). Teach me wisdom in the secret heart (Psalm 51:6). Do not let me go from this place without being changed and transformed by your truth, renewed in my mind and thinking. Not my will, but your will be done in this time. Lord, I trust you, by your Spirit inside me, to reveal what it is you want me to see in your Word. For it is you who gives wisdom, and it is from your mouth that true knowledge and understanding come (Proverbs 2:6).
Learning from The Bumps and Bruises
BY JORDAN MAYER
"It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes."
A few years back, I had a goal to learn how to ride a motorcycle. Having never been on a bike before, I signed up for a three-day safety course. The first day was devoted to classroom instruction with the second two days spent out in the parking lot practicing drills. The drills were meant to emulate the different situations you might encounter out on the road in the real world.
One of the drills involved a long straightaway followed by a sharp left-hand turn. The goal was to get the bike up into second gear (around 15-20 MPH) and then slow down before entering the turn. Given my conservative nature, I intentionally kept my speed down so I could cruise comfortably into the turn. My instructor, on the other hand, had me repeat the drill several times, pressing me to go a little bit faster. Finally, after repeated reminders, I gave the throttle a good twist. It was on this attempt that I knew my lack of speed would not be an issue! Before I knew it, I had reached the end of the straightaway and was already into the turn going way too fast.
In a car, a miscalculation in a turn can be easily remedied by a firm press of the brake pedal. You don't have to worry about things like "lean angle" and "gyroscopic forces" like you do on a vehicle with only two wheels. In the middle of the turn, I gave the front brake lever a hard squeeze and before I even had time to process, the bike and I were sliding across the pavement. Apart from a wounded pride as the rest of the class looked on, I came away with only a few minor scratches and some torn gloves and shirt sleeves.
If someone had asked me if I wanted a literal crash course in motorcycle braking and speed control, I would have said, "No thank you". If someone had asked me if it was a fun experience, I would question their definition of fun. And yet, the experience was immensely valuable because of the lessons it taught me.
I think the same is true with the trials we face in life.
I would love to say that the periods of rest and ease were also the times of greatest growth and development in my faith and trust in God. Sadly, that is not often the case. My tendency in these times is to think I need God less, that I seem to be managing pretty well on my own. But how quickly we come back to earth when hard times come. It is in these moments that we see how the trials we face can be the catalyst for learning and growth.
Wisdom would teach us that it's best to learn from the mistakes of others. While that is certainly true, we know by our nature that that is not often the reality. The reality is that our pride often prevents us from accepting truths at face value. Sometimes we need to learn the hard lessons. Sometimes we need to come to the end of ourselves to reach a new beginning with God. Sometimes we need trials. But can we honestly call them good?
Trials are not good by nature, they are good by design. This is what the Psalmist is getting at when he says it is good to be afflicted. It's uncomfortable, it hurts, but there is purpose in the pain. Before the trial, he strayed. But now that he's gone through it, he keeps God's Word (Psalm 119:67). It has drawn him closer to God and helped him better understand His Word. It is good because its purpose is good.
Romans 8:28 tells us, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose".
Likewise in James, we are reminded of the faith-building properties of trials. It is the testing of our faith that produces steadfastness (James 1:3) and it is those who remain steadfast that are called "happy" or blessed (James 1:12).
While it's true that we won't often choose the trials we encounter, we can choose to trust in the God who allows them. We can trust that He is good and that He works all things for our good. We can thank Him for the lessons learned from bumps and bruises.
Spoils of His Word
BY JORDAN MAYER
“I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.”
The title of this devotional, Spoils of His Word, comes out of Psalm 119:162. The idea of spoils is scattered throughout the Old Testament in the accounts of Israel’s battles with the other nations. I’m sure we are all familiar with the phrase, “To the victor goes the spoils”. That is precisely the idea. Spoils are the reward of victory. After a great battle, the soldiers had the pleasure of discovering what riches lay inside the conquered city. They’d take an inventory of all the treasure and resources, and then divide it among themselves. This imagery is used to describe the experience of opening God’s Word. It conveys the sense of value and delight in beholding and unfolding the very words of Creator God.
Spoil is spoil because it holds great value. It’s fitting, then, that reading Scripture is likened to one who finds great spoil. And yet, in Psalm 119:72, we read God’s Word is even better than thousands of pieces of gold and silver. For while gold and silver are valuable for a time, God’s Word is eternal and its truth impacts lives for eternity.
We are also told that the Word is sweeter than honey (Psalm 119:103). Why honey you may ask? It tastes good! As honey is sweet and a delight to the taste buds, so too is the Word a joy and delight to read. It feeds our soul, but it also satisfies our soul. How many times have you returned to the same passage, only to find a fresh truth to meditate and delight in? “My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off” (Proverbs 24:13-14).
My eager hope and prayer in beginning this devotional is that we may be reminded of the priceless treasure that has been given to us. Not only did God decide to make Himself known to us, He decided to give us His written Word. Compiled over hundreds of years, written by many different authors yet divinely inspired, and shepherded throughout history in order that we might know it and might know Him. May God forgive all the times that we neglect His Word and lose sight of its indescribable worth. Let this devotional be a showroom of sorts. A place where we discover and admire the golden nuggets and precious jewels of His Word. So now, I invite you to come alongside as we open the pages of Scripture and divide the spoils of His Word.