Sometimes I think we overburden ourselves with the constant need to be doing something new. We assume that new is fresh and anything that is repeated must necessarily be dry. That particularly plagues our Bible reading, which is the application I’m chasing down here.
“Day old bread is stale,” or how does the proverb go? We don’t want to be that guy who plows a path in any Bible study over any topic to his known hobby-horse;—-sovereign election in Romans 9. Or the gentleman who sagely quotes John 3:16 during every testimony service (has he read any other verse?). Or the pastor with only one funeral sermon (someone needs to tell him it's not that good). Growing up in my small country church we often had favorite hymn nights. I sat there as a child willing the song leader to avoid eye contact with Dorothy. Not “Jesus is Coming Again!” She picks “Jesus is Coming Again,” every time and that waltz will be stuck in my head for a week!
Repetition sometimes indicates shallow soil or lazy efforts, but not always. Repetition can be the tool to slowly till hard soil of the soul.
Each of us lives in a web of relationships, our lives weaving a complicated network of responsibilities and opportunities throughout the week. Take the responsibilities of a Christian father, for example. He has the responsibility to love his wife through the Word like Jesus loves his church (Eph. 5:25-26). He has the responsibility bring his children up, daily teaching them Scripture (Deut. 6). He has the responsibility to speak the indwelling Word to one another in his church relationships (Col. 3:16-17). He has the responsibility to boldly proclaim the gospel to unbelievers (Eph. 6:19-20).
My question is, what Word do we speak? One for kids, another for spouses, a third for growth group, right? Why the pressure to have something new for every opportunity? Why must every study be a different book? Why must every opportunity be a different study? Why is only fresh new?
I think sometimes we would be better suited to live in one text rather than keeping our bags constantly packed.
If I’m not making sense (and I’m probably not!) let me try to illustrate it. Right now our church is studying 1 Corinthians 12-14. I’ve encouraged the church and growth groups to give extra attention to 1 Corinthians 13 even to the point of memorizing it. Here’s what a week that lives in 1 Corinthians 13 might look like:
- On Monday night when a husband reads with his wife, what does he read? 1 Corinthians 13.
- On Tuesday at lunch when he meets with his growth group guys, what does he read? 1 Corinthians 13. That night he reads 1 Corinthians 13 with his wife again.
- On Wednesday when he hang out with his believing coworker and he opens up the word to read with one another, what does he read? 1 Corinthians 13.
- At supper when he is with family, what does he read? 1 Corinthians 13.
- On Friday when he has to lead a short devotional, what does he study? 1 Corinthians 13.
- On Sunday night at his growth group, when he gathers to encourage one another in the word, what passage will he turn to?
- Wherever he is with whomever he meets 1 Corinthians 13 is always near by.
Such a week, I think, would heighten sensitivity to the word rather than numb it. Those verses would become a faithful and true friend for the weeks traveled together. This would also take the pressure off the nagging question, what do I study and with whom?
This year our church is reading the whole Bible together. It has been exciting to travel through the Word with the entire church this year. We’ve been through the flatlands of Leviticus (even Nebraska has something to offer!), the majestic peaks Isaiah, and the dreary valleys Jeremiah. We’ve visited New Testament cities like Jerusalem Rome, Capernaum, Corinth, and Ephesus. Our traveling companions have been many and varied.
Perhaps in addition to our world tour we should take time and set up camp in a passage for a while. Spurgeon said, “Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.” I’m taking it a step further. Do not fear dwelling in a passage for while.
In fact, be hospitable and invite many people to visit you there. I do not think familiarity will breed contempt. I think the Word, particularly these verses will become home sweet home.