I prayed for faith, and thought that some day faith would come down and strike me like lightning. But faith did not seem to come. One day I read in the tenth chapter of Romans, "Now faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." I had closed my Bible, and prayed for faith. I now opened my Bible, and began to study, and faith has been growing ever since. – Dwight L Moody
I firmly believe the Bible is the unchanging Word of God. But if that's the case, why is it so darn different every time I open it up? Yes, unchanging words – but the Bible is also living and active with a message that impacts me differently as my faith morphs throughout life.
The story of the prodigal son hit me in one way during college: a warning for deviant behavior. So I gritted my teeth and decided to live right for God. When I started to wear down in my 20s and early 30s, that story spoke to me again, but in an entirely different way. This time I identified with the faithful older son (who was understandably ticked off when his renegade little brother returned and his dad threw a big bash):
"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, "Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.'" – Luke 15:28-29
Yup, the older brother is the legalist in the story. He's the one who's worked hard for God and thinks he deserves things as a result. Since I had been "working hard" for God for a long time, I began to feel I deserved some entitlements – and the bitterness of a dutiful, works-based legalism started to creep into me.
When I read the prodigal son story now, I think about other people who are straying and I pray for them, but when I get to the older brother, the sword of the Spirit pierces my heart and says through me, "O Lord Jesus, don't let me go down that bitter road."
Holy Spirit, open my ears so that I can hear the Word of God spoken to me today. I want new faith that comes from hearing Your word in new ways. Like the big brother, You have withheld nothing from me. Set me free in the truth so that I can enter the celebration and fully receive all that You are offering me. Amen.
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