It is almost summertime in Albany and in our family that means that at least once a week we enjoy cooking something on the BBQ grill. Sometimes it may be hamburgers and hot dogs, while other times it may be BBQ chicken, but our favorite is to grill chicken that has been marinated in a special sauce. In these parts of the country, there is a store-bought marinade called “Spiedie Sauce, ” and it takes normal chicken and transforms it into a mouth-watering bite unless of course, I burn the chicken (no pressure)! The secret is, though, the chicken has to marinate 24-48 hours before cooking it so that the sauce can permeate the meat sufficiently and the taste resonates through each bite. In thinking about knowing God’s Word, the one thought that I often come back to is the picture of the meat soaking in all the wonderful flavor of the Spiedie sauce. What would it look like for us to marinate ourselves in the Scriptures? What things would have to be true in our life for this to happen? What is the desired effect? In short answer, there must be proximity to the Word, there must be purposeful, prayerful exposure to the Word, and there must be patient waiting in the Word. Let’s unpack this a little further in this article.
First of all, there must be proximity to the Word. I have in mind the picture of a nightstand at the hotel. On top is usually a telephone, perhaps a lamp, an alarm clock and a remote control for the television. Inside the drawer is quite often a Gideon Bible. So, everyone who stays in that room is near the Bible, and as a result, will know God’s Word, right? Of course not, unless they open the drawer, take the Bible out, ignore the TV remote and get busy reading! That person will no more be impacted by a Bible in a drawer than the chicken will be marinated sitting next to a full bottle of Spiedie sauce.
So, what is meant, then when I say there must be close proximity to the Word? To be in the vicinity of the Word means that we immerse ourselves in the reading and teaching (and even singing) of Scripture. I like to say that we must look for as many biblical inputs as we can get. To the one’s who say that they are not readers, there is an app for that: either an audio Bible or, my preference, solid, biblical teaching that is readily available on your smart phones. However, we cannot simply give into what is more often laziness than lack of reading ability. The people of God most often got themselves in trouble when they stopped reading and heeding the commands of God. The kings of Judah who led reforms, like Josiah in 2 Chronicles 34, often began their reforms by stumbling over dusty copies of the Law. Later in Ezra and Nehemiah, the reading and explaining of the Law brought tears of remorse and commitments to change. Fast-forward to the New Testament and Paul advises his young pastor/son in the faith to never neglect the public reading of Scripture. There is a powerful spiritual impact that is found in the Word of God, and there is simply no excuse to ignore it, and there is certainly no escape from danger if we pay it no attention. It will be like eating chicken that only sat next to the Spiedie sauce, rather than soaking in it.
Second, there must be purposeful, prayerful exposure to the Word. There are a thousand reasons for why time will pass, and we’ll be no more knowledgeable about God’s Word than we were ten years ago. Maybe we were so busy working three jobs, taking care of children, serving in our church, school or community. Maybe we find ourselves thinking that we have gone to church all our lives, or even for some that we have taken theological class work and perhaps even graduated. However, this side of heaven, we will never get to where we can say we have graduated from the need to learn more about God. So, wherever you are on the learning grid, there must be an intentional, purposeful exposure to Scripture and allow God’s Spirit to teach us further about God and His character.
A purposeful exposure begins with a personal, daily reading of the Bible. It does not have to be a long section, although, for me, I have found it to be very helpful to read longer sections at one sitting. Some find it helpful to follow a daily Bible reading plan, whether that takes you through the whole Bible in a year or perhaps just focuses on a specific book or section of the Bible. The point is that we must purpose in our hearts to be daily in the Scriptures and allow the truth of the Bible to permeate our lives. In addition to personal Bible reading, there must be a commitment to reading the Bible in groups such as small groups, Sunday School classes, or even just a gathering of guys or gals at Starbucks. This gives an opportunity for others to read along with you, to share what God is teaching them and you, and to encourage each other in this important spiritual discipline. These small gatherings then lead to the corporate gathering at church and the singing and teaching of God’s Word. This also gives the opportunity to hear someone who has delved into the text more deeply than we will do on a personal level or even in smaller groups. He will share insights from God’s Word and the Spirit of God will take those insights and work them down to the deepest parts of our souls. There are many ways that God could have passed down His Word to us, but He chose to use people who would take the Scriptures and faithfully preach it generation after generation. In spite of this, many people will drift away from the church and the preaching of the gospel when they need it most. To grow in our knowledge of God, we have to purpose in our hearts that we will come to the feast that is found in God’s Word, from the bite-sized snacks of personal reading to the seven course meal of the preached Word of God, and pray that God’s Spirit will guide us into the truth. There will be many things that seem to keep us from this feast, but we must, by God’s grace, push through to the table.
Finally, there must be patient waiting in God’s Word. We live in a fast-paced world, a microwave society. We hate waiting for anything. However, we cannot microwave spiritual maturity or biblical knowledge; it takes time. When we marinate the chicken, we don’t just pour the sauce over the chicken and throw it on the grill. We put it in a pan and let it soak for 24-48 hours. The reason we do that is that the flavor will not transfer from the marinade to the chicken unless the chicken spends a long enough time in the sauce. In the same way, we are impacted by God’s Word as we place ourselves in its proximity for the purpose of being impacted by it for a long time.
In his very helpful book, An Infinite Journey, Andrew Davis describes and delineates much of what happens in the sanctification of a believer, but what first caught my attention is the apt title. Our walk with God, through purposeful interaction with the Scriptures, is a long journey filled with learning experiences, both formal and informal. We spend time in God’s Word, listening to God’s Word, and teaching God’s Word, and over time, little by little, we are impacted by it in a positive way. The more I have allowed God’s Word to be in close and purposeful proximity to me, the more I can see the connections of the Bible to life. The gospel becomes something that is a beautiful display of God’s power and grace. The commands of Scripture become more a joy and less of a task because I am seeing God more clearly and comprehending more of His love for me. I wish I knew years ago what I know now, but it takes time, and we must patiently persist in the reading and study of God’s Word. We will never regret the time spent with God in the Scriptures. As the chicken properly marinated in the Spiedie sauce tastes fantastic, I invite you to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8) and there is no better way than a growing devotion to the reading and study of God’s Word.
This is the second in a series of articles from Rick on knowing God’s Word, living God’s Word, and living within the community of faith.
His first article is “Know and Live God’s Word in Community with God’s People”. You can read it here.
Rick Hanna serves as Senior Pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Guilderland, NY. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Heather, and is a father to ssevenchildren. He is passionate about international student ministry and adoption and enjoys reading, music, and sports (though as a Philly fan & Purdue alum, it usually means supporting the losing team).