One of the most important habits I have developed is the habit of reading through the Bible from cover to cover once a year. It is God’s Word which helps me deal with fear, worry, discouragement, despair, hopelessness and disillusionment.
As I have read through the Bible twenty-two times with pen in hand to take notes on key verses, I have learned that the cause of many problems is unbelief.
The cure for this sickness is faith that comes by hearing and applying the word of God. Jesus gives us the prescription for faith in John 14:1 where he says, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me.”
The American Institute of Stress reports that 75% to 90% of all visits for health care is a result of stress – related disorders. From my years of experience, I know as I feel stress rise up within me I must go to God’s Word and take the scriptural pill that relates to the stress disorder I am experiencing. For example, in Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus tells you and me that by studying the birds and the lilies we will learn that God faithfully provides and we don’t need to live lives dominated by stress.
The Bible makes it clear that I must be a doer of the Word and not a hearer only (James 1:22). This means its not good enough for me to just have a habit of reading the Bible. I must apply what I read by doing what it tells me. For example, when I am facing an impossible situation I must first stop and then pray Phil 4:13 that says, “I can do all things through. Christ who strengthens me.” Then I must continue to move forth by faith.
It is reading and applying God’s Word which enables you and I to be overcomers. For example, as we read Psalms 121, we will see how help doesn’t come from the mountains, whether it’s people, circumstance or other things. Real help comes from our Living, Loving God, who is never asleep on the job. As we daily read and apply the scriptures they will get down deep inside us and change our lives.
At the time he was in his thirties, Phil Thatcher had spent over half his life either in reform school or prison. It looked like Phil was going to be a career criminal until that day another prisoner tossed a worn-out Bible in Phil’s cell. Out of curiosity, Phil started reading that Bible. As time passed, the Holy Spirit worked in Phil’s life until he surrendered himself to Jesus Christ. It was then that Phil found a peace in his life that passed all understanding. The Living Lord had healed Phil to the extent that when the Parole Board freed him from prison, Phil spent the rest of his life telling everyone he met about the miracle God had worked in his life.
As we get in the habit of reading and applying the scriptures we see in Matt. 14:24-33, Jesus coming in the midst of the storm of life. Filled with fear the disciples were so out of tune to the presence of Jesus that they thought He was a ghost when He came to them in the storm walking on the water.
It’s difficult to not let fear have the last word when you read the scriptures, if you are determined to just live for yourself and do your own thing. I know it’s hard to come face to face with attitudes and actions, those habits of the heart, that need to be changed. Along with David I find myself crying out, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10).
Sometimes it can get downright depressing to have that divine spot light of God’s Word or the conviction of the Holy Spirit shine deep within us until we see who we really are. It is so much easier to just keep going through life being blessed and having a good time than it is to let God convict us of what habits need changing.
Facing those areas in our life that are keeping us from experiencing the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19) can be downright depressing. Psalm 51:17 goes on to say, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
A conversion is what is necessary if we are truly going to deal with bad habits that we feel enslaved to. True freedom involves a change of heart. The good news and hope that exists for change lies in Jesus promise to set the captives free. “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
Jesus when asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” responded in Luke 10:27, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself.” In order to do this, we must have our heart fixed on God and desire an intimacy with Him above all else.
Alister McGrath in his book, Glimpsing the Face of God, stated: “God has created us to relate to Him and, if we do not do so, we lose sight of our true goal and joy. We are designed to need God, as a computer is designed to run on electricity. God Himself would thus be the ultimate food and fuel of authentic human existence. God does not offer us salvation and joy as if these could somehow be detached from His loving caring presence. Without God, we are unfulfilled, precisely because we have been created with a God-shaped gap, within us, which cries out to be filled with the luxurious presence of our Creator. God has thus fashioned us in such a way that we may begin to gain at least a glimpse of His nature and being from the world around us.”
As we absorb these wonders of creation, and desire the habits of the heart to be centered in God, let us not lose sight of the fact that the key to intimacy with the Holy Triune God lies in Jesus Christ. As John 3:16 declares, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. That whosever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
This everlasting life is everlasting intimacy with the eternal God. Jesus, whose death and resurrection provide the antidote for sin, the great destroyer of this intimacy with God, declared in John 14:6, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
It is because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ you and I can experience life both now and for all eternity. By developing the habit of reading God’s word daily we can see we are not destined for hell but instead, as children of God who have committed our lives to Christ, we can be certain we are going to be with Him forever in heaven. It is the promises found in the Bible and the Holy Spirit working in our lives that gives us that certainty.
The word Bible can be spelled out as Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. It is in the Bible that we learn how to live, both now and for all eternity.
Our living Lord wants to show us how we can live victoriously as we develop the habit of reading the Bible every day. This takes place once we are convinced as Paul was of God’s love. “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).
The love that God has for you which is revealed throughout the Bible provides the very foundation of faith. The question is will you receive this love He has for you? Satan is constantly trying to offer cheap substitutes for this eternal love that God provides. When one becomes sick and tired of such and desires God’s love, then the enemy tries to make them feel they are not worthy of such. In order to combat Satan’s lies and feeling of condemnation we must know and use the tools that the Word of God provides.
Let’s study the tools Jonah used to get out of the bottom of the whale’s belly he found himself in. One of the tools Jonah used was the tool of prayer. He declared, “In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry” (Jonah 2:2).
It would have been so easy for Jonah to have given up as he sat in the belly of that fish. He didn’t give up, he gave his problem to God and said, “I will look again toward your holy temple” (verse 4). Jonah chose in spite of the circumstances to use the tool of faith and look to God even as he declared, “The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head” (verse 5). In my case it is often the seaweed of fear, worry, doubt and even unbelief. But that wasn’t all. “To the roots of the mountain I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever” (verse 6).
It is in the Word of God that we receive the tools we need for being overcomers. Each and every day, we learn that the one thing about being at rock bottom is that the only place you can go from there is up. “But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple” (remainder of verse 6 and verse 7). As I read the Bible and see how Jonah spoke these words while he was still in the whale’s belly, I am also encouraged to use the tool of faith and trust the Lord in spite of the circumstances.
From the bottom of the whale’s belly, I am reminded that, “those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (verse 8). I frequently find myself saying Lord; I want that grace I read about in the Bible, so I hereby turn loose of those worthless idols. Jonah proclaimed, “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good, salvation comes from the Lord” (verse 9). With that declaration, “the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land (verse 10).
In the midst of bad habits that have thrown us into the belly of hopelessness we must daily read the Bible and believe God for deliverance. We must believe that God is faithful and true to His Word. The tools from the Word of God got Jonah back on track. God was then able to use him to call the people of Nineveh to repentance. Now as we trust God from the bottom of whatever “whale’s belly” we might find ourselves in, and use the tools he has given us, we can rest assured He will deliver us, as we believe that “salvation comes from the Lord.”
This salvation that comes from the Lord gives us the strength through the power of the Holy Spirit to apply the Word of God and plead the cause of the poor and homeless. We are told in Proverbs 31:8 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Then in Psalms 82:3, 4 it says “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
It is the knowledge of God’s love revealed in the Scriptures that triggers within me a love and compassion for others as explained in 1 John 4:19-21. “We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
When I daily read the Scriptures, I discover I can let God’s love flow in me and through me into a hurting world. As I move by faith doing this, I become a living instrument proclaiming the love of Christ in word and deed. It is then I discover a purpose for living that gives me additional strength to persevere in spite of the circumstances.
First John 4:7-10 tells us, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us; He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Now with the eyes of faith opened through daily reading the scriptures, we are challenged to let “God be for us, who can be against us. He that spared not his own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, year rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or sword? As it is written, for they sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-39).
We must let God’s Word come alive within us as we feel the pressures coming from every direction. Even the big bills, along with a host of other needs, won’t seem that overwhelming when we dwell upon the fact that “if God be for us who can be against us?” He didn’t even spare sending His only begotten Son to provide redemption and freedom from sin, death and the devil. Now why should we doubt he will provide everything else we need?
When I find myself in the darkness and hopelessness of hard times it seems Satan is right there to remind me that I wouldn’t be in this situation if it wasn’t for my bad habits. I can at that moment either wallow in self-pity or take God at His Word when He says, “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who makes intersession for us” (v. 34).
The unemployment rate may go up as economic conditions get worse and we may feel like the disciples who were caught in the storm. Yet in the midst of the storms of life, Jesus is there assuring us that He has everything under control. Healing is the result of being awakened daily to God’s presence by praying and taking the Biblical medicine by reading the scripture and observing His works of creation. As we do this we will hear His still small voice and remain in fellowship with other believers. For Jesus has promised, “Surely I am with you always to the end of the ages” (Matt. 28:20).
Remember the secret for remaining spiritually healthy involves going to God’s medicine cabinet daily and reading the Bible and applying it to the needs in our personal lives. As Joshua 1:8, 9 says, “Always remember what is written in the Book of the Teachings. Study it day and night to be sure to obey everything that is written there. If you do this, you will be wise and successful in everything.”
Tomorrow instead of being sick with worry, start out your day reading the Bible. Then the promises found there like the one found in Isaiah 41:10 where it says “Don’t worry, because I am with you. Don’t be afraid because I am your God. I will make you strong and will help you; I will support you with my right hand that saves you.”
At this moment determine in your heart and mind that you are not going to give up. Instead draw your strength and healing from God’s word as you hold firmly to the hope that you have in Jesus Christ. Accept the fact that He will make you strong and will help you in each and every situation as it is promised in the Bible.
Yours in Christ,