One of the Most Difficult Questions to Ask When Reading the Bible

(This is a post from the Facebook group, Search For Hidden Treasure. We’re going to be reading through the New Testament together in 2017 and discussing it. As we near January 1, I’m explaining some of the things we’ll be doing. Information for joining us can be found at the bottom of this post. This is a free group: You don’t need to buy anything to join.)


A few days ago, I talked about one of the two questions we’ll ask each of our reading days: What did I learn about God (from today’s reading)? The second question is usually a lot harder to answer:


What did I learn about myself?


Why is this so difficult? Well, often because it’s going to be something we resist. Remember that the Holy Spirit knows you better than anyone else can possibly know you. He hears your thoughts, even before they become words on your tongue. He loves you and wants the absolute best for you. (For more about this, read Psalm 139, which is a great prayer for reading God’s Word, and especially for answering this question.)


I’ve mentioned a few times a verse which I hope we’ll have time to talk about more before January first: “The Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)


God is not only the Great Physician with regard to our bodies, but our souls and spirits as well! He wants to bring our spirits and souls to a fruitful healing and to a healthy place, much as a surgeon and doctor want you to have healthy habits and get rid of anything that’s hurting your body, to the point of having surgery to remove it.


Sometimes, the things God teaches you about yourself in a day’s reading will be simple. Maybe it’s the truth that I need to be gentler with people who criticize me. Perhaps it’s a profound sense of God’s love, quieting my heart when I feel the world has turned against me. Other times, He corrects us, disciplines us — it’s always because He loves us and wants the best for us. There are also times when He teaches and trains us.


Why is this question (what did I learn about myself today) often so difficult to answer? The simple answer is PRIDE. Some have said — and I tend to agree — that pride is the root of all sin. Stop and think for a moment: Can you think of anything you’ve done wrong that wasn’t ultimately the result of pride? So when God tries to show us something about ourselves, we often balk. We don’t want to be corrected. We believe we don’t need to be trained. We don’t even want to hear the nice stuff sometimes, because we think we’re different from everyone else.


James instructs us: “in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” HUMILITY is absolutely necessary if we are to allow God to work in our lives through His Word. We have to be able to accept whatever God is telling us.


Now, something about this question that I want to interject here. Please do not EVER feel that you HAVE TO answer the questions here, in this group. I hope that you’ll at least answer them in your heart and, if you don’t answer here, I hope that you will journal about them or talk about them with someone. But if answering the questions in front of a group of people, especially a group you don’t yet know, makes it difficult for you to honestly answer the question and allow God to work in your life, I’d encourage you to allow yourself privacy.


If, however, you’re able to answer this in the group, I would encourage it. (I almost said, “If you’re comfortable …” but I realized that if we’re going for humility, that may involve stepping out of our comfort zone.) Some reasons why it’s helpful to answer in the group:


1. It promotes humility. Even if it’s something like, “God loves me.” That can take humility because it seems so simple, or even may seem self-centered. Yet, it can be very profound and a difficult concept to accept.


2. Saying it out loud or in writing amongst others helps make it more real and solid and helps us move forward with it.


3. Someone else might learn from your answer. God may be trying to reach them in the same way, but they may be unable to hear it. Having someone else put it in black and white might help them to see it.


I encourage you — actually, this is a rule of being in the group — not to ever make someone else feel badly about what they’ve shared. Encourage each other. Some of you have lived in the faith for a long time, others have not. In fact, humility expects that those who know the most are able and willing to learn from those who know the least, and at other times, humility demands our patience with others: God works in other people on His own time table, not ours. Please think, “How can I encourage this person?”


One more thing about this question. James follows the verse I mentioned above by saying, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” If God shows us something about ourselves and we don’t do anything about it, we’ve wasted a huge opportunity. You will also probably feel unsettled, because you haven’t obeyed the Holy Spirit’s prompting. When God corrects us and we don’t do anything about it, we often feel like it was a negative thing. When we follow through and do something about His correction, it feels positive: We recognize His love for us and we have hope, because now we’re heading in the right direction.


A ship that sets sail for London from New York Harbor has to take the correct route. If they start off just 1 degree off course and never correct it, they’ll miss London by a long shot. If they realize their mistake and correct it, they’ll reach their goal … and the sooner they correct it, the easier it will be.


Oh, by the way, each of you who have joined this group have already shown a capacity for humility. It would be much easier to join a group studying something hard, like the book of Revelation. Wow! I’m studying the book of Revelation! Aren’t I something! (Okay, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever study Revelation or that it’s a prideful thing, but you get what I mean, right?) It takes humility to say, “I’m going to join a group to just read the Bible this year. I’m going back to the basics. I’m going to ask simple questions and see what God does.” Every ounce of humility you exercise is going to pay off. Believe me.


Okay, enough said. Can I encourage you to find some time today to read Psalm 139 and think about how everything in it speaks to this subject of allowing God to teach us about ourselves through His Word? Then, how about sharing your insights in the comments section with the rest of us?


(Here’s where you can find out about how to join us, even if it’s after January 1st.  Want to read the New Testament with me in 2017?)

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