Prayer & Bible

Biblical serendipity

Do you read the Bible methodically or are you a lucky dipper? Do you start at the beginning of a book and work your way through, or do you merely open the Bible and let your eyes alight upon the first thing you see and take that as God’s word for you for the moment?

In over 25 years of experience in ministry, I have observed that most people, if they read the Bible at all, are lucky dippers. I didn’t invent that term. I picked it up from an old friend who is now with the Lord.

You couldn’t talk to John for more than five minutes without him telling you about his faith. His age and demeanour gave him instant credibility. He was one of those people that you felt you should trust. Hedge funds could’ve made a fortune with him as their spokesman. He oozed trustworthiness.

John had retired as the personnel manager from one of the area’s biggest companies. By his own admission, he had struggled with an alcohol problem for many years, but you would’ve never suspected. When John came to have a living faith in Jesus, he had a desire to know more about God. So he started trying to read the Bible on a consistent basis.

As a new Christian, his reasoning about studying the Bible was simple. It was all the word of God–so it all must be for you on any given day. Every morning John would sit down for his quiet time. He would say a short prayer, then close his eyes with Bible in hand. He would flip through the pages before putting his finger somewhere on a page to find his lesson for the day. He never shared with me what had broken him of this approach, but something had rattled him. I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d landed on something like Ezekiel 16:17, 23:19-20, or 2 Kings 18:27. Nevertheless, he soon saw the wisdom of a different, more methodical way of studying the Bible, and he became well-versed in it. He always had an answer for why he believed, and his radiated living hope.

How should we study the Bible? All of it is good, but start at the beginning, not in the middle, whether in reading Genesis or other parts of the Bible. If reading a book, read through to the end before trying to dig in deeply. Notice to whom it is addressed. Determine the context in which it is written. There is benefit in reading any book of the Bible but the Old Testament historical books, the four gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles are generally written to everyone, whilst the Psalms, prophetic books, and apostolic letters are written specifically to the people of God. They won’t make much sense to non-Christians because the things they address are spiritually discerned, and people without the Spirit of God cannot understand their importance.

Remember the apostle Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished  unto all good works.”

Originally appeared in the Caymanian Times.

  • Chris Pierce is an Anglican minister in Northern Ireland.

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