The more I read the bible the more I realize how little I really know. We see and hear so much that is ascribed to the bible in America—if we want to. On the one hand it is a great blessing to have so many options for hearing about the things of God. We can turn on any number of Christian TV stations, listen to multitudes of Christian radio programs and read thousands upon thousands of Christian books. We can go online and browse tons of websites dedicated to Christian themes, stream an unlimited amount of audio sermons and we can walk into any of the thousands of churches in our country and hear multiple people in each building teach on the things of God (in my metropolitan area alone there are nearly two thousand churches). But at the end of the day, I am finding there is simply no substitute for personal, prayerful and direct study of God’s word—with the Holy Spirit as my Guide.
My stepfather has said on numerous occasions that when he was a boy all he ever got for his birthday and Christmas were things like a wooden toy truck and an orange. And do you know what? He greatly enjoyed and appreciated those things in the midst of not having much else. Those experiences helped give him the perspective he has. He’s not spoiled. He understands the value of a thing. And, he shakes his head in bewilderment at all the excess of everything kids get now and how little it seems to mean to them. Kids today, for the most part, are spoiled. I had a relative tell me once that he wanted his kids to have even more money and stuff than he has when they grow up (and he already has more than 99% of the people on the planet have). What is the result of having an excess of stuff? A lot of folks think the more the better—and so it is with all of our many spiritual resources. Can they be a blessing? Absolutely! Can they spoil us and cause us to lose some of our appreciation for the simpler things like having a bible and a quiet place to study it? Yes.
Here’s the real rub: If we are not careful, our excess of opportunities and resources can start to get in the way. We begin to listen to people talk about God instead of listening to God. We watch other people live the Christian life instead of living it ourselves. We read books about God instead of reading the one book He wrote. We go to something we call church instead of being the church. We ask our pastor instead of asking God. We fellowship with people, but we rarely fellowship with God. We look up to man instead of looking up to God. We tell everyone about the last book we read instead of telling them about what we read in the bible. We tell folks about our pastor or favorite preacher instead of telling them about God. We invite people to a church building instead of inviting them to our home. We turn our kids over to children and youth workers instead of training them in the things of the Lord ourselves.
We are surrounded by bibles and preachers and teachers and churches and books and tapes and CDs and TV programs and radio shows and symbols and signage and everything you can think of that would appear to be Christian. In essence, we are spiritually spoiled. We are surrounded by stuff and we think that somehow being surrounded by stuff means we are good Christians walking with God. The excess makes us take for granted the pure, unadulterated Word of God. There is a great lack of hunger for personal bible study. We’re tempted to say, “Look at all the Christian stuff I’m surrounded by in my house, my car, my office and my church. Look at all the programs and meetings I attend. Look at all the books I read. Look at all the teaching tapes I listen to. Look at all the Christian friends I have. Look at how long I’ve been in this fellowship!” Yes, but in the midst of all that, do we really know for ourselves what God says? Do we really know Him? There is no substitute.