was among four speakers this past March to take part in the General Conference Ministerial Association annual PREACH seminar for clergy. My assigned topic, “Immersed in the Word,” reminded me how woefully short I fell in regard to the kind of immersion the organizers envisioned. I took it as a challenge.
Three observations arising from the seminar experience:
1. It takes a struggle to put the Bible first. The question that came to me as I settled down with the topic was this one: What are the deterrents in your own life to this kind of immersion? And the first answer to jump out at me was: “b-u-s-y-n-e-s-s”--simply having too much to do in any given slot of time. Something about contemporary society, with all its technology and so-called laborsaving devices, keeps most of us perpetually on the go, never stopping long enough for in-depth immersion in Scripture. I saw this blurb in one of my local papers recently: “I can handle the big stuff, I don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s the medium stuff that’s killing me.” Can you identify? My life contains a whole bundle of medium stuff, eating up time for the most important stuff of all: the Bible.
Running constant competition with the Bible is the sheer volume of reading and other available materials today. We’re literally inundated by an endless flood of books, magazines, papers, tapes, CDs, DVDs, e-mails--the list is endless. Engulfed in this sea of distraction, we’ll need to make a gargantuan effort to put the Bible first. For our own sake, we must!
2. It takes a struggle to fix the text in memory.
After the seminar ended, a theology student in attendance approached me on the subject of memorizing Scripture. How do you do it? he asked. Any techniques you can share?
Unfortunately--except for those with photographic memories--the only answer is hard work. Nor is the situation made any easier by the multiplicity of Bible versions in use today. A blessing, to be sure, but that reality, nevertheless, has robbed us of what used to be a common text. It helped the memory when you heard the identical words of Scripture in talks, in sermons, in the classroom, and at family worship. Those days are gone, and memorization is much more difficult now. Though I use the New International Version as my study Bible, most of my memory work is still from the King James Version--I find it easier. (Right now I’m working on Revelation 21, one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.)
For me, the secret is repetition, repetition, repetition. And the aim is to come to know the particular passage as well as I know the shepherd’s psalm or the Lord’s Prayer. Whatever the method, and whatever the version you choose, it will pay big spiritual dividends in your daily walk and in the days ahead.
At the height of the 1970 “October Crisis” in Canada, British diplomat James Cross was abducted from his home at gunpoint in the upscale Westmount area of Montreal by the Front de Libération du Québec (the FLQ). They held him 60 days.
I was a pastor in Canada at the time, and I remember being impressed by one thing Cross said following his release. During all that dark time, he said, isolated from books and radio and television, it was his knowledge of the Bible that kept him--the passages of Scripture he’d committed to memory.
3. It takes time to go beyond the surface. One reason many people lose interest in the Bible has to do with the effort needed to make sense of it. In an “instant” generation (instant coffee, instant news, instant playback), we want it now! But that’s not how the Bible works. It takes time.
“There is but little benefit derived from a hasty reading of the Scriptures,” said Ellen G. White.1 We need focus. Like miners, she said, we must dig for hidden veins of truth concealed beneath the surface of God’s Word.2
The great preacher Charles H. Spurgeon had it right. We shouldn’t be “always giving out, and never taking in.” That approach, he said, “tendeth to emptiness.” “Dumb dogs,” he said, “cannot bark, but wise dogs are not always barking.”3 Wise dogs take time to sink their teeth in the meat of God’s unchanging word.
1 Steps to Christ, p. 90.
2 Ibid., p. 91.
3 Charles H. Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry, p. 262.
Roy Adams is an associate editor of the Adventist Review.