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God’s Word

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I do not know whether Edith was regenerate. She professed to follow Jesus, but her religious background gave some cause for uncertainty. I have concluded that it is wise to allow our Lord to be the final judge. What I do know is that she valued God’s Word more highly than many evangelicals I have met.

Edith was born on a remote ranch in southern Idaho at the turn of the 20th century. I met her when she was 94 years old. Edith began to attend the church my wife and I pastored in Wyoming after she stood as matron of honor at her 64-year-old daughter’s wedding. She told me later that she had never met an evangelical Christian until her 50th birthday. Nor was she familiar with the Bible until later in life. Even then, she rarely attended church, so I became her first pastor. Of course, it was not long until the good health Edith had enjoyed for almost a century began to decline. Soon, she was hospitalized for what would prove to be the final few days her life on this earth.

Death did not come easily. I visited her, of course, but my wife, Iris, stayed for long hours at her bedside during those difficult days, often seeing her writhe in discomfort despite the best efforts of the hospital’s staff. There was just one thing that seemed to give Edith comfort and peace during her final moments—the Word of God. Whenever Iris began to read the Bible aloud—every time she read the Psalms—God’s Word brought quiet to Edith’s otherwise difficult journey. Although I am hesitant to draw conclusions about Edith’s spiritual state, I am able to draw an unfailing conclusion about the power of God’s Word.

Bible reading is at an all-time low among professing Christians. It is seldom read aloud during worship, and congregational reading is rare in “contemporary” worship services. Yet, most of the Bible’s 66 books were meant to be read out loud in public gatherings. One can only imagine the impact that familiar verses like John 3:16 or Ephesians 2:8–9 must have had on those who first heard them read as what they are: the Word of God.

One of the most significant things about the God of the Bible is that He speaks. And when He does, His words bring about the reality they represent. God speaks and dry land appears. He speaks and plants spring forth. He speaks and the sun and moon take their places in the heavens. In fact, speech is one of the most distinguishing things about the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Prophets like Isaiah chide the inhabitants of wayward Israel because they have chosen to follow idols that are both deaf and dumb. Unlike Israel’s God, the One who delivered His people from bondage in Egypt and appointed the prophets to speak on His behalf, the gods of the nations have nothing to say.

The writer of Hebrews declares that God speaks most clearly in the incarnation. Hebrews 1:1–2 puts it this way: “In the past God spoke to our ancestors by the prophets at many times and in many ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, and through whom also he created the universe.”
The words of Scripture do not bring peace to the troubled soul because they contain magical power. They bring wholeness to broken men and women because they are the very words of God. And He has said, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish that which I desire, and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11).

Many in the church today have lost confidence in the Bible. The causes for this lack of assurance in the ability of the Word of God to change lives and create spiritual life are many, but in the end they all betray unbelief and a failure to comprehend the nature of God. There are times when it may be sufficient to sit quietly. There are circumstances in which our deeds must speak.  But people cannot respond in faith apart from a spoken word of testimony rooted in God’s own Word. Ministry requires words—God’s own Words—to be spoken and believed as such. Faith comes by hearing, Paul says, and hearing by the Word of God. Apart from the Word, most of what masquerades as ministry amounts to nothing more than vain attempts to manage poverty of soul.

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