Take a Few Minutes to Understand

I had two recent encounters with people in the retail business and both left me with the same lesson.

One is a manager of a farm store that I frequent. He has been pretty short and seemingly disinterested lately when I talk to him and ask him about various product questions. Come to find out, he recently slipped on a boat dock, hit his head on the concrete and he passed out. On top of that, he was underwater and his eleven year old daughter couldn’t move him to safety. He told me, “I don’t know why or how I woke up, but I did.” This led to a discussion about God and His relationship with Jesus, so please pray for this to lead to his coming to Jesus.

Another example was this morning as I was at the cell phone store dealing with a phone issue. We had two bad experiences at previous stores, had been on customer service for a long time last night and this morning, and I finally go to another of the store locations to get help. The young lady who helped me was very quiet as she did her job. Not very personal at all. About 10 minutes into working on a new SIM card, she said, “I’m sorry I’m quiet. My 14 year old dog is at home dying and I can’t get my mind off it.” It led to a good discussion, and I told her our family can certainly understand.

Now, the reason I bring these two examples up is because it would be easy to make a snap judgment about these two people and say they were rude, or didn’t care. We could walk away telling everyone how we received poor customer service. But what is the backstory? What’s going on in their lives? Did we take any time to think or consider what else is going on in their lives that may lead them to behave this way?

It is just another reminder for me, and I hope it helps you. Don’t be so hasty to make a judgment about someone. We certainly don’t like it when others do it about us.

God’s Word Can Make You Wiser

O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts.
(Psalms 119:97-100)

What power did the word of God have upon David? According to these verses, God’s word:

  • Made David wiser than his enemies.
  • Gave him more insight than all his teachers.
  • He was able to understand more than the aged.

I do not believe David was being arrogant and cocky when he said this. You can say these words out of a prideful heart thinking you are the cat’s meow of Christianity. And if we have that attitude, God will have to teach us some very difficult lessons in humility (Phil. 3:15)!

What I believe David is saying is that because of God’s word he was able to deal effectively with his enemies. We all have enemies, whether or not we follow God’s word. But when we listen carefully to the instruction of Scripture, we have an understanding and perspective that is foreign to the people of the world. It will truly stand out and shine.

God’s word did not make David the “smartest man on campus.” He was not more intelligent than his teachers. David wasn’t the man with his hand always up because he knew all the answers. This didn’t mean that David was condescending to his teachers and argued constantly with them because he knew better. You can look to Jesus at 12 years old as an example (see Luke 2). The teachers of the Word in the temple were just amazed at his understanding and answers. That is the power of the Word in a person’s heart. There is such growth and insight that comes from it.

Finally, the word of God made an old man out of David real quick. The Bible and its wisdom will make a young man or woman sound like they are decades older. Why? That’s the power of the Holy Spirit producing His wisdom within you through the word. How often do you see that young man or young woman at church who simply blows you away with their understanding? They may be 10, but they sound like they’re 40!

God’s word is just awesome and powerful, isn’t it?

His Disciples Did Not Understand These Things At First

His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.  (John 12:16)

The disciples did not understand these things…at first.

Jesus said and did a lot of things that the disciples just did not understand. There were also prophecies about the Messiah that these Jewish men were unable to connect to the events surrounding the death, burial and resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Many reasons can be found in the 4 gospels as to why they didn’t fully understand.

Part of it was poor teaching, wrong assumptions and false conclusions on the part of the Jewish leadership (Matthew 16:1-3; Luke 12:54-56). Another part was the mindset of the disciples themselves; they were at times setting their hearts on the things of the world (Matthew 16:23). Jesus, on more than one occasion corrected them for their slowness to believe and their hardness of heart (Mark 7:18; 8:17-18; 16:14; Luke 24:25). I’m so thankful in knowing that even with all of their “issues” Jesus was patient with them as they grew.

With time and events, though, and the working of the Holy Spirit, and the plain teaching from the Word, the disciples finally understood.

Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said (John 2:22).

And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He (Jesus) expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (Luke 24:27).

And He (Jesus) opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures (Luke 24:45).

They didn’t understand at first, but in time with God’s patient guidance, they understood. A dear friend of mine, Charles, who serves as a shepherd, showed me a passage years ago in connection to this concept.

Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you (Philippians 3:15).

We all begin our spiritual journey as immature babes and as babes our reasoning is sometimes way off base. Paul says that if we need growth, God will “reveal” that to us. I don’t believe that means God will give us some new truth that is not already revealed in the word, but with His patient guidance as we walk and grow in Him, He helps to open our eyes to see the truth that was always there in the Word in the first place.

You see, Jesus opened the disciples understanding to see what was already in the Scriptures for centuries. It wasn’t new truth, it was just that the light went on in their souls and they got it and believed. These new “revelations” were life-changing. They just had not seen it there and understood it until time and events had taken place to open their eyes.

It is the same for us today. There are things you can’t or don’t understand now that one day you will see. The same old truth has always been there, but maybe you just weren’t ready for it yet (for whatever reason). Thankfully God in His longsuffering and mercy gives us that wiggle room (as my mother-in-law calls it) to grow as Jesus did for His disciples.

Then You Will Understand

My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints. then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path. (Proverbs 2:1-9)

When I studied under another minister, Steve, he instructed me in a host of topics. He gave me lots of answers and teaching from God’s word. But one of the things he taught me that helped me the most was when he didn’t answer my question. He wanted me to find the answer on my own.

I remember the day that I walked across the hallway into his office and said, “Hey Steve, why did Jesus always seem to tell people not to tell anyone after He did a miracle?” He replied, “I’m not telling you…go study it some more and come back to me.” Frustrated and impatient, I went back to my office and begin digging some more. More reading. More searching. Then the light went on…and I yelled across the hallway, “I think I figured it out!” I went back into his office and discussed it with him, and I could see him beaming. He wanted me to find the answer on my own. Steve wanted to instill confidence in God’s word that truth is there if I am willing to dig for it. He was right.

Then You Will Understand

He was directing me to God’s wisdom, not to his own wisdom. A powerful lesson for me that day, indeed. Have the confidence in God’s wisdom that the answers are there, you just have to dig awhile. That old adage of “Give a man a fish, or teach a man to fish,” is true in this context as well.

Solomon most certainly did have “words” and “commands” for his son, but the goal was to train his son to seek for God’s wisdom. Do you see those words in the above passage like “incline,” “apply,” “cry out,” “lift up your voice,” “seek,” and “search”? What is he teaching his son?

Fathers and grandfathers, meditate upon this today. There are many times we will give answers, wisdom, advice and teaching. Let us also instruct them on how to find the answers for themselves. Don’t cripple your child by always giving him or her the answers.

Something I often say to people when I am teaching them is, “The truth never suffers from investigation.”

Some were persuaded and some disbelieved

Last night, I went with a few other Christians to hear a preacher present a great lesson on “Can We All Understand the Bible Alike?” One of the passages he referenced in his sermon was Acts 28, which is an account of Paul arriving in Rome. Please take time to read the passage below and notice why some did not receive Paul’s message. You can see that it had nothing to do with God’s word or it being impossible to understand.

“But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.

And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: “‘Go to this people, and say, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen” (Acts 28:22-28).

Some were persuaded and some disbelieved

What did Paul do? He expounded, he testified and tried to convince them about what the Scriptures said. The message of Jesus was clearly and reasonably presented to the crowd that day.

Take note that some were convinced, but others disbelieved. They did not agree “among themselves.” There was religious division among them. So, what was the problem? Was Paul’s teaching too hard to understand? No, Paul quoted Isaiah in saying they had “closed” their eyes and that their hearts had grown dull. It had nothing to do with the message. The problem was their eyes, ears and hearts.

Lord, please open our hearts, our ears and our eyes to see Your word just as it is. Please remove any pre-conceived notions, traditions and men’s opinions from our hearts. May we simply listen to Your truth with an honest mind. Amen.

By faith we understand

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible (Hebrews 11:1-3).

Hebrews 11 – The Hall of Fame for Faith chapter as I often heard it described when I was growing up. We see faith both defined and demonstrated in this great chapter as we walk through the history of God’s people.

I’ve often looked at Hebrews 11 to see that action came through faith. When I see “by faith…” there is a verb attached to it. Those who believed in God and saw the unseen were moved to action. Abraham offered up Isaac. Noah built an ark. The Israelites encircled Jericho’s walls.

What I noticed recently in reading the chapter again is that it was not only their behavior that was inspired by their faith. Their beliefs, view of God, emotions, desires and their whole value systems were all formed and founded upon seeing the unseen.

My understanding is shaped by faith.

By faith we understand that the worlds are framed by the word of God (vs. 3). Sarah “considered” Him faithful who promised (vs. 11). Abraham, because of his faith in God’s promises, concluded that if he offered up Isaac, then God would raise him from the dead. Their faith was the basis for their reasoning and conclusions (vs. 17-19).

My desires are shaped by faith.

They “desire” a better, that is, a heavenly country (vs. 16). For most people their desires are shaped by looking at the visible things. For the Christian, our desires should be founded upon looking at the unseen.

My emotions are founded on faith.

Moses’ parents, because of faith, were “not afraid of the king’s command” (vs. 23). We all have emotions, that is normal. God even has emotions. If Moses’ mom and dad were walking by sight, they would most certainly have been afraid. But they walked by faith, and it shaped even their emotions.

My view of God is developed through faith.

Noah was moved with godly fear (reverence) because of his faith (vs. 7). His faith formed a reverence for the Almighty Creator within him.

My entire value system is shaped by faith.

Moses “esteemed” (considered) the reproaches of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. What he valued and counted as important rested squarely on his faith in the unseen…he looked to the reward (vs. 26).

There are many other examples in this chapter so look for them today in your study and meditation.

By faith we understand…

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones (Proverbs 3:5-8).