There is a well-documented account of a man who risked everything to get Bibles into people’s hands. There were no Bibles available in his native language, and he firmly believed that access to the Word of God was the only way to bring about real personal and societal change, especially for the poor and disenfranchised in his country. His name was Jan Hus, and he was burned at the stake in 1415 for translating the Bible in the Czech language. During Jan’s day, Bibles were only available in Latin, Greek and Hebrew and were the monopoly of the tiniest fraction of the population—church clergy and academics. Back then, making Bibles available to non-elites was a bloody business and many were brutally executed by religious authorities for attempting to translate any part of the Bible. For the next couple hundred years following Jan’s murder, many brave and deeply committed men paid with their lives for attempting to get Bibles into the hands of everyday people in their own language.
“If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause the boy who drives the plow to know more of the Scripture than the pope does.”
~William Tyndale, burned at the stake in 1536 for translating the Bible into English
Knowing God without reading His Word: Impossible
Six hundred years after those first brave men began risking life and limb to get Bibles translated and into the hands of everyone, the vast majority of people in the world have the Bible available to them in their own language. In the west (including Israel), we not only have multiple versions of the Bible in our native language, we have easy and instant (thanks to smartphones) access to it. According to the American Bible Society, the average American household has 3 Bibles. With such easy access, one might conclude that it would lead to higher Bible literacy rates. Sadly, the opposite is true. According to a study by LifeWay Research, over 40% of church attenders in the US read their Bibles only occasionally, once or twice a month, and only 45 % say they read their Bibles more than once a week. As a pastor, it doesn’t take long to notice this fact and its effects: most of those seeking council and prayer for persistent difficulties in their lives do not regularly read the Bible and have an anemic prayer life as well. The only way to grow spiritually is getting to know God. The only way to get to know God is spending time in His Word and in His presence through prayer each day. Period. There are no short-cuts in any relationships, and that includes the incredible relationship we can have with God.
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