Although it shouldn’t surprise us, hearing the word of God regularly can be surprisingly helpful as we navigate life, mid-2021 included. The frustration of another lockdown, separation from loved ones, the monotonous grind of working life, the fracturing of relationships, the sluggishness and mediocrity we feel as we struggle through online work, online school and online church – there is so much in life that can bring us down and take us away from the wonder, awe and majesty of knowing our great God and Saviour.
To my shame, surprise has been my recent experience. But we know from the Bible that God doesn’t shy away from difficulty, he doesn’t run away from mess, he isn’t inconsistent and he doesn’t abandon us even when we clearly, obviously deserve it. No, God is very, very good, and he proves it repeatedly. And I take it that one of the reasons God chose to speak to us primarily through his word in written form, was so that we can learn it, and just like the way we learn the words to a favourite song, we can always have it on our hearts and in our minds and therefore be reminded of the goodness of God. The Scriptures help us to keep our eyes fixed on the promises of God, his faithfulness to those promises, his displays of lovingkindness towards his people, and the Amen that can be found to all of this as we see Jesus, the Christ.
I have been reminded of this afresh as I have been leading two Moore Preliminary Theological Certificate (PTC) ‘Introduction to the Bible’ classes over the last six weeks. Not only am I encouraged by the eagerness of people in the class to drink deeply from the Scriptures, but I was also pushed to repent from my own apathy and the lethargy with which I sometimes approached listening to the voice of God.
The first class started as a friend from church spoke with me about getting a group of men together to look at the big themes of the Bible and sharpen our understanding of God’s promises and how they have been revealed to us. This was a beautiful initiative, and I was surprised at the diversity of people that were keen to learn, and hungry to consume Scripture. Some are using this as training for other ministries – one is wanting to grow in his love and knowledge of God and sits with his English and Mandarin PTC notes to self-translate; a pastor from a Tamil church joins every week to see how he can teach similar things to his community in the future; and a few working professionals have joined to be able to better lead their families in walking obediently under the Lordship of Jesus.
Parallel to this class is a group on Zoom which has been running since the initial Covid lockdown in 2020. This group has changed in dynamic over time, but again what struck me most was the eagerness with which the members run towards Scripture, and the significant visible impact that a relationship with Jesus has had on their confidence, resilience and joy despite difficult circumstances. This group has people from around Australia, as well as parts of India and the UK. They came together because of a Facebook invite last year asking people to hear what God’s word has to say about Covid. That then led to a Bible study series in Amos, then the ‘I am’ statements in John’s Gospel, then Joel, then 1 Corinthians 12-15, then some thematic studies and now to an overview of the Bible using the PTC material. As we have made our way through the studies, and traced the promises of God and patterns of humanity through the history of God’s interaction with his people, it has been truly amazing to see the implications drawn and how they bring so much comfort to our current situation.
I know God is so good in giving me more than I could ask for or even imagine. In teaching these two groups he has refreshed my soul as he has reminded me of just how good he is. As I reflect on my privileged position to be alive at this epoch in history, knowing what I know because of the work of Jesus, I can’t help but relate to the words penned by the apostle Peter:
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things (1 Peter 1:10-12).