Reading Scripture: the Struggle is Real
By Molly Schiller
It’s no surprise that deep study of God’s word does not always come easy to us. This is certainly the case for me, and from conversations I’ve had with other women I know I’m not alone. In fact, I feel slightly out of place writing about the importance of studying Scripture when I have such difficulty with it.
I loved reading God’s Word when I first became a Christian, but at that time I rarely came close to “studying” Scripture. I would often read Scripture without regard to context, a verse here and a few verses there, looking for quick bursts of encouragement to illuminate life’s confusion. God might occasionally use the Bible to give me some answer or encouraging word, but I would often leave feeling more confused than when I began. The Bible was a book of answers to my problems, a roadmap about my life, revolving around my experience and my struggles. I thought that the Bible was essentially God’s word about me.
But God did not leave me in that immaturity. He continues to show me that He is the fundamental core of Scripture and it is erroneous to read the Bible with only myself in mind. Instead, I am learning to read the Bible as a book about God, and the goal is to know Him rather than learn about myself. Scripture is not just God’s answers to my troubles (though it is that), but more importantly it is God’s revelation of Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself taught that all the Scriptures were about Him (Luke 24:27, John 5:46).
But if this is true, what does it have to do with the importance of studying Scripture? We can learn about God from plenty of other good books. Why this one? Paul takes great care to explain to the Corinthians that they didn’t come to know God because of their own wisdom (what he calls worldly wisdom). “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (I Corinthians 1:20-21). Paul’s point is simple: nobody comes to know God by being super-smart and figuring Him out. In fact, the character and personality of God revealed in the gospel is foolishness according to worldly wisdom. If truth about God is foolishness to the world, then how does the world come to know God? This question is answered in the next chapter: It is the Spirit of God who truly knows the inward thoughts of God. Paul goes on, “we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit” (I Corinthians 2:11-12).
In other words, the world comes to know God when God reveals Himself by His Spirit. And this revelation is contained in words that Paul spoke, taught by the Spirit. Paul says that his writing is unique – not because he was unusually intelligent – but because his words about God are none other than God’s words about God. We find an earlier version of this thinking in Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Ultimately, both Paul and Peter argue that the whole of Scripture is “spoken from God” (II Timothy 3:16, II Peter 1:20- 21). Scripture is not just a wise person’s ideas about God; Scripture is none other than God’s ideas about God.
Why are God’s ideas about God so essential? Why isn’t worldly wisdom good enough to know Him? Simply stated, it’s because our own ideas about God are terribly wrong. They’re shaped by a God-hating heart inclined towards the things of the world. We love independence, so we imagine a God who isn’t concerned with our choices. We fear guilt, so we imagine a God who couldn’t possibly punish people. We all tend to have a customized concept of God that fits our desires. Ideas like this usually feel good, but they push us farther and farther from actually knowing God. We can only know God relationally when we have God’s ideas about God – anything else is like making friends with a puppet.
And this one thing, to know God relationally, is the single most valuable thing we could possibly imagine. No joy will ever exceed the joy of knowing Him intimately – a joy so great that anything else is utter death. This is why Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). If we desire to experience this life and joy, we must replace our own imagined ideas about God with God’s ideas about Himself. Our struggle to study Scripture is the struggle to find joy. If we give up, we miss out on the greatest joy we could ever know.
Molly is a wife to Andy and special education teacher. She is growing in her love for God’s Word and learning more about trusting in what God says over her own “worldly wisdom.” When she is not telling corny jokes, she enjoys doing “outdoorsy” things with her husband, freestyle dancing, and hanging out with friends.
This originally appeared in the Winter 2015 edition of By The Way.