Digesting God’s Word

Most of us read Scripture for our own specific purposes. We search for knowledge, inspiration, direction, comfort and wisdom. We have a problem, and we want guidance on how to handle it. Or, we’re anxious or sad about something, and we want God’s peace. God does certainly meet those needs through His Word.

What if instead we read the Bible with God’s purposes in mind before seeking our own? What if we let God’s Word change us as God intends rather than going in with a specific purpose to fulfill?

You Are What You Eat

Think of it in terms of the healthy way to approach your diet. When we focus on what will best nourish us, we’re healthier and have more energy than if we only eat what satisfies our cravings and stops or prevents hunger pains. We also ward off many sicknesses and diseases this way too.

Even more significant is that researchers have discovered that nutrients in food change how proteins are produced in almost every gene in our body. In other words, what we eat changes us at our most basic level.

You Are What You Read

This truth carries into what we read as well. What we read does the same for our mental health as what we eat does for the body. Research shows that reading…

  • Can slow the progress of Alzheimer’s.
  • Slows mental decline in general.
  • Can improve your memory.
  • Improves concentration.
  • Lowers stress.
  • May help with depression.
  • Helps you sleep.
  • Gives you better analytical skills.
  • Makes you more empathetic.
  • Causes heightened connectivity in the brain that persists after you stop reading.

What you ingest and then digest mentally programs your thinking. Sure, personality and nurturing play a role along with genetics and upbringing in developing how you think. But much of that can be reprogrammed by what you read.

Digesting God’s Word

Perhaps this truth about reading is why several places in Scripture emphasize actually digesting God’s Word. Here’s one example.

“When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God of Heaven’s armies.” (Jeremiah 15:16)

Additional examples include Ezekiel 2:8-3:4 and Revelation 10:8-11. Notice the impact of digesting God’s Word, of letting it nourish our inner beings, in each of these examples.

Eugene Peterson in Eat This Book expresses the impact that digesting God’s Word can have on a Christian by saying…

“Christian reading is participatory reading, receiving the words in such a way they become interior to our lives, the rhythms and images become practices of prayer, acts of obedience, ways of love.”

When we read and digest God’s Word, it shows in our actions. We can’t help but be changed by what we read when we truly participate in the process. That means it’s more than a daily habit. It’s sustenance for our spirits.

“But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

Sunday Reflections – No Man Is An Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each piece is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor or thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

John Donne wrote the poem “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in 1624, and it inspired a famous book (Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”) which then inspired a song by a well-known rock band (not my kind of music… my brother’s).

The poem also well illustrates Luke’s words in Acts 2:42-47 where he stresses the importance of connection. Once becoming a believer, an individual joined with other believers and “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing the in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer.”

Being united by faith in Christ, the early church focused on connections to strengthen and encourage each other. Connection was crucial to the survival of the church in its infancy.

Connecting with a body of believers still remains crucial in our challenging culture today. Yet the onus lies with the individual to connect and be connectible. But how does one cultivate healthy connectivity?

  1. Connect to God. Without this connection, all other connections are futile. Begin with the basics of consistent Bible study, fellowship and prayer as the individuals in the early church did. Add to that foundation as led by the Holy Spirit.
  2. Be connectable. Make time in your schedule for others. Let the Holy Spirit work in you and give you an attitude that draws instead of pushes others away. Realize you can’t change others, and focus on the one person you can change.
  3. Develop broad shoulders. No one is perfect. People will say and do stupid things. Finding ways to support and encourage through imperfection creates connection. (See post Do You Have Broad Shoulders? for more on this point.)
  4. Be willing to share. While sharing possessions certainly fits here (an example set by those Timothy spoke about in Acts), the point of sharing burdens must also be made (Galatians 6:2). Some burdens are obvious. Others not. Allowing someone to bear your burden may mean being brave enough to share it. Of course, this is a lot easier when healthy connections already exist.
  5. Submit to the process. Connecting exists as an ongoing process. Making good choices to cultivate the process is crucial as each individual does his/her part by connecting to God, being connectable, developing broad shoulders and being willing to share.

Donne’s poem not only so well emphasizes the idea that no person exists to live life as a lonely island, it furthers the point by saying that “each man’s death diminishes me.” In other words, each person brings something unique to the body and has a “plan and a purpose” (Jeremiah 29:11). The body functions most effectively and with greater efficiency with all its parts connected and healthy.