January 2, 2024
According to the National Weather Service, "If your hair stands on end, lightning is about to strike you."1 This physical power flowing through human beings is often disastrous because humans should not be physical conduits for electrical discharges of such magnitudes. However, God does expect humans to live as spiritual conduits of His power. God created humans in His image, and each day, the Holy Spirit transforms believers into brighter reflections of the Son (Romans 8:29). Do you see Christians as recipients and conductors of this amazing power? In search for this personal power, do you ever pray, “God, I would like the power to do the right thing?” Only God can grant the power to accomplish his will in you and through you. Jesus himself said that “apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
The Bible points toward the hope of God’s power flowing to us constructively and then through us into the lives of others. Do you see this power surge as a goal in your devotional time? While we have many motivations for spending time with God, such as delightful worship and gaining wisdom, this transformation is essential to the practice of the spiritual disciplines. When we practice the means of grace, such as prayer and Bible reading, grace will electrify our spiritual lives. Perhaps as you pray, you will remember a Scripture and be filled with awe and joy. Or you might read a truth that causes you to react emotionally and then motivates your next decision. To “focus on what God has done is a God-given means of connecting with the living God himself.”2 Connecting to a lightning bolt will change you. How much more can you be changed forever each time you connect to the Living God through his Living Word (Hebrews 4:12)?
If you are regularly captivated by something about God in your daily Bible reading, this proves your healthy spiritual life. Martin Luther described this common occurrence for himself. He contrasted the boredom and tediousness of reading mere human words with the joy of absorbing Scripture: “I read the Bible diligently. Sometimes, one important statement occupied all my thoughts for a whole day. Such statements appeared especially in the weightier prophets, and (although I could not grasp their meaning) they have stuck in my memory to this day.”3 Sometimes, God’s power through his word will convict you of sin. Sometimes, it will impart wisdom to navigate the day ahead. At other times, you will find a precious promise to pray.
Through it all, whether God corrects you or comforts you, joyful change will occur, as Jonathan Edwards experienced: “I very frequently used to retire into a solitary place, on the banks of Hudson’s river, at some distance from the city, for contemplation on divine things and secret converse with God; and had many sweet hours there.”4 You will not always experience intense emotion or feel God’s power at the moment because transformation can be a slow process punctuated by pivotal moments. Whether God’s power zaps you in a moment or presses on you like the force of water in a river that smooths even hardened rocks, over time, you will observe changes through God’s power at work in you.
If you never experience the power of God flowing to you as you read his word, there is something wrong. How can you improve your Bible intake, meditation, and prayer methods to benefit more? Yes, God is sovereign, and you cannot control your encounter with him or demand that he fill you with a particular emotion or result. Still, moments of magnificent discoveries and intimate encounters should occur.
If you have a friend who has a zeal for fishing, you would not be worried about him if he went a week without catching a fish. But if he admitted to you that he had been fishing for years but had caught nothing, you would recommend that he learn better techniques and perhaps get some mentoring. In the same way, if in the new year, you are pursuing a new commitment to reading God's word, and nothing changes in your life, something is wrong, and you need assistance.
Two Lightning Rods
Here are two tips, among many possible, that you can use to increasingly encounter the power of God in his word. First, you need to come with the expectancy that God will meet you as you seek him through his sovereignly appointed means. Although often unrecognized, active faith picks up God’s word and begins to read it. Logically, you would not read it if you did not expect to fellowship with God through it. So come with expectant joy, and if you struggle to look forward to reading God’s word, ask him to change your heart. You can use the beginning of a verse in a psalm. For instance, you could pray Psalm 119:36: “Incline my heart to your testimonies….” Praying from the Bible like this is extending a spiritual lightning rod you need to reach God’s power.
Second, make sure that you regularly pause after your Bible reading to meditate. Ideally, never stop your Bible reading before a phrase or word leaps off the page and jolts your heart. Then, pray! The Holy Spirit can make you wonderfully expectant and then suddenly fulfilled when you discipline yourself to pause at the end of every chapter you read. Just look back and find something that you can interact with. Then pray, starting from these heavenly words, and lift your heart back up to heaven through them. You honor God’s word by pausing to absorb what he just said, as opposed to continuing in sleepy, addled mental dullness. How easy is it to read chapter after chapter, just so that you can mark off your reading for the day! You must plan well to listen well.
Timing the Lightning Strikes
What if you have limited time? If you do not have time to meditate on all that you intend to read, you should read less and meditate more. You must preplan enough time to respond to God no matter what you must cut out of your life or planned reading. Simply, "bring your full heart focus to bear on some word or thought or feeling that God has just used to move you deeply.”5 What if you have an abundance of time? Perhaps you are in a slower season, like retirement, and have extra time. You could try "praying over every line and every word," like George Whitefield.6 God wants you to meet with him for as long as you can spare. In this, you honor him; he ignites your affections and transforms you through blessed communion!
Whether you are starting the race, in the middle of the race, or coming to the finish, may you be often struck by the power of God through the Word of God for the glory of God and your good! Remember that when God has blessed you with encouragement from his word, he desires for you to bless others, too (Colossians 3:16). Then you will see the circuit work as the power flows through the true “circle of life!” -- Dr. Jay Lowder
Here is another helpful article "Making the Most of Your Bible Reading"
2 D.A. Carson, For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word (Grand Rapids: Crossway Books, 1998), 341.
3 Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan et al., vol. 54, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 14.
4 Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), lvi.
5 John Piper, “Is an Audio Bible Sufficient for Devotions?” Desiring God, 15 Jan, 2021. https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/is-an-audio-bible-sufficient-for-devotions.
6 George Whitefield, Journals of George Whitefield, ed. Arnold A. Dallimore (C. H. Aitken, C. Foster, J. Foster, & W. Wale, Eds., 2011), 51.