When I was deployed to a theater of war with the United States Army, we kept a weapon and ammunition on our person at all times. How ready we kept that weapon depended on the threat level around us. When the threat was low, the weapon was clear and the ammunition would be in our pocket. When the threat was moderate, the ammo would be attached to the weapon, but the chamber was empty of bullets. When the threat was high, the ammo would be locked and loaded and ready to fire at a moment’s notice.
Like it or not, we all exist in a spiritual theater of war. At this very moment, there are demons scheming to drag you down through your thoughts and words. They have plans to guide you into sin, and plans to obstruct the heroic actions and miracles you might perform if you were fully alive in Christ. If you are married, they also have plans to divide you from your spouse, disrupt your family life, and kill your children. They won’t stop until you and your offspring have been consumed by selfishness and sin, or are stuck in ruts of mediocrity that neutralize your eternal potential.
Saint Paul was a man fully alive and awake to the spiritual battle around him. In Ephesians 6, he told us to put on the full armor of God. He named several defensive components, but only one offensive weapon: “take up the SWORD of the Spirit, which is the WORD of God praying…”
Sadly, many men in our culture are walking around unaware of the battle, unaware of the danger that is unfolding in their midst, and unarmed to do anything about it. The Word of God is not in their hearts, ready to fire at a moment’s notice. It is collecting dust in a book on a shelf.
The Power in the Word
The fourth sentence of the 21st paragraph of the Church’s Apostolic Constitution on the Word of God, Dei Verbum, captures four reasons why the Word is so powerful:
“For in the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life.”
Personal Encounter – God is a person who “meets His children.” To read the Bible is to encounter His voice to you individually. It’s a living word (Hebrews 4:12), which means you can apply the Word to your life today. When you read it, you will know when God is speaking to YOU personally.
Paternity – God isn’t just any person, He’s our Father. “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18) The difference between living by the Word and living apart from the Word is the difference between having a Father or not. Tomes have been written on the social ills flowing from Fatherlessness. Only the Father can speak to you, validate you, counsel you, and bolster you in the way you need. Life without His Word is like not hearing from your father at all, like an orphan who doesn’t know where he came from. With God’s Word, you have purpose and direction. Without God, you’ll feel like you’re on your own.
Provision – The Word of God is “food of the soul” that nourishes you like bread does (see Job 23:12, Matthew 4:4). God puts in us a hunger that can only be satisfied by His Word, but we often mask it with noise, mollify it with entertainment, and mute it by starving the soul. Just as we need to eat multiple times a day, we need to receive the Word of God daily. Tragically, if we go long enough without taking in the word of God, we will lose our appetite or make a habit of filling our souls with some cheap substitute.
Power – The Word of God contains “force and power” for us to triumph over sin (see Psalm 119:9-11, 1 Timothy 3:16-17). It sustains us with “support and energy.” It is “the strength of faith for her sons…” I love that! There is power in the Word, and God invites us – no, he COMMANDS us – to take up that power in our own lives (cf. John 14:26, 15:7)! In the end, God’s enemies will pass away, along with much of his creation, but His Word will never pass away. (Matthew 24:35)
So what’s the best way to get going, or to re-commit myself to a steady diet of Scripture? Those who have a masterful grip on the Word of God have accomplished two feats. They have built an interior habit of opening their Bibles in private prayer, and they regularly share the Word outwardly with others, whether in a Bible study, in formal teaching, or just salty speech in their place of work and rest.
In doing so, they fulfill the command Moses gave immediately following the foundational “Shema, O Israel!” instruction:
“Never forget these commands that I am giving you today. Teach them to your children. Repeat them when you are at home and when you are away, when you are resting and when you are working.” ~ Deuteronomy 6:6-7 GNT