There was a man who 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. Where he lived there were no Bibles available in his native language, and he was willing to risk everything to get them into people’s hands. 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
Why was there such great resistance to the translation of the Bible, beyond the fact of the clergy wanting to retain its hegemony on power? The answer is this: the Word of God is powerful, and when a believer starts reading the Word daily with the aim of getting to know God, the kingdom of darkness trembles.
Knowing God without reading His Word: Impossible
Five hundred years after those first brave men began risking life and limb to get Bibles translated and into the hands of everyone, the majority of people in the world have the Bible available to them. 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 naturally conclude that there would be very high 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. If the Word of God is our daily spiritual bread, those statistics mean that two thirds of all believers are spiritually starving. Considering the love, devotion and faith it took those men over five-hundred years ago to risk their lives to give everyone the right to access the Bible, it is heart-breaking to realize how few of us make use of that precious right.
As a pastor, it doesn’t take long to notice the effects of spiritual malnutrition from not reading the Word. We make it a habit to ask people who are seeking council for persistent difficulties in their lives whether they regularly read the Word, and we have discovered that a high percentage of them do not. And they tend to have an anemic prayer life as well.
The only way to experience real change emotionally is to grow spiritually. 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 with God that we are privilidged to have.
Taste and See!
It can be a real challenge finding the time for prayer and meditation on the Word with busy schedules and the noisy distractions in everyday life. As believers we have access to every kind of worship or the latest message from our favorite preachers, and it is easy to put on worship or listen to a good sermon or teaching while cleaning or cooking or driving to work. However, hearing about Him is not the same as spending time with Him. When all we do is “hear about Him” from others, we will not know Him or His voice. Because this one step is so absolutely integral for believers to start growing, maturing and fulfilling their destinies in God, and because it makes us absolutely dangerous for the kingdom of darkness, the devil spends extra time trying to throw distractions at us to keep us from carving out that time each day.
Here’s a little secret: when you sincerely pray God’s will, He always comes through. If you want it with all your heart, and you ask Him for help, and you don’t give up, even when you’ve fallen off the wagon for a few days or a week, He will give you the grace to push through the initial challenge of making His Word and prayer a daily part of your life. When you do, you are in for a great surprise: spiritual hunger increases when you start feeding it on the Word and the sweetness of His presence. Before you know it, you will miss Him if you skip a day, that’s how satisfying His presence is. Soon enough you will discover the wonderful, constant journey onward and upward in Your relationship with the Creator of the Universe!
If you don’t spend time daily with the Lord in prayer and reading His Word, I want to challenge you to take God at His Word, to taste and see how good He is! Then share your experience with us.
by Tamar Afriat