This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled Extreme Devotion, compiled by the Voice Of the Martyrs. In the following passage, an imprisoned Russian Christian woman shared her insights from her experience with Christian suffering--providing us with fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
Zoya Krakhmalnikova spent six years in a Russian prison for sharing Christ with others. Her time there gave her a unique insight into God's Word and how it applies to the harsh realities of life.
"In prison, every cell door has a hole called the Judas hole. Through it, the guards can control you every five minutes. They watch you closely, inspecting you and instructing you. This helped me to understand, if the Communists are so diligent about keeping an eye on me, would not God and His angels do so with even more diligence?
Zoya could have easily allowed bitterness to rule her heart. But she took the lessons in Scripture and directly applied them to her own life. They were hard lessons. But they served to make her life and the lives of those around her a little brighter.
A moment of consideration: Let us briefly pause as a VOM postscript to the account of Zoya catches our attention:
Going on an extended trip without packing one's things is a seemingly ridiculous proposition. Who would travel unprepared? Yet Christians make a spiritual journey every day without being adequately spiritually prepared for their trek. We need to be prepared with God's Word in our hearts, in order to apply them when needed. Many of us struggle to succeed in spiritual tests because we have not studied God's principles ahead of time. We end up feeling like failures when we could have been victorious like Zoya by applying God's Word to our situation. Your faith in Christ may take you to extreme places. Are you prepared for the journey? Make sure you have plenty of God's Word--you'll need it. The world offers many different deceptions. "In our daily lives, our human reasoning alone isn’t enough to discern truth from error. The best protection against deception is to know God’s revealed truth, the Bible." (Ruth E. Van Reken, Christian Reader, Vol. 35, no. 2.)
Why? How many of us would set out even for a local car drive at night without making sure the car's headlights are working and are lit? In the same way, God's Word shines a light on our daily comings and goings (Psalm 119:105); it helps us safely get to where we need to go.
How many of us try to use a new tool, or agree to take part in a planned/organized event, without reading the instructions or handbook? Yet we go through life, often, shorn of readily available help--because we have not considered consulting the handbook God has provided for our daily lives--the Holy Scriptures. These are collectively our "Handbook for Christian Living". Consider the situations listed below. Do we know, and remember, what God says to help us in our day's journey?
God's Word: Handbook for Christian Living
1. Feeling regretful...sorrowful? Read John 14
2. Have friends and acquaintances failed you? Read Psalm 27
3. Have you sinned? Read Psalm 51; Psalm 119:11
4. Worried? Anxious? Fretful? Read Matthew 6:19-34
5. Are you in trouble? Is danger nearby? Read Psalm 91
(God’s word itself is powerful, but it isn’t dangerous--not unless it isn’t read and isn’t practiced.)
6. Got the blues? Read Psalm 34
7. Does God seem distant? Read Psalm 139
8. Are you discouraged? Read Isaiah 40
9. Are you feeling lonely or fearful? Read Psalm 23
10. Do you feel down and out? Read Romans 8:39
11. Need courage for a given task? Read Joshua 1
12. Does the world seem bigger than God? Read Psalm 90
13. Do you wish for rest and peace? Read Matthew 11:25-30; Isaiah 26:3-4
14. Are you leaving home for work or travel? Read Psalm 121; 107:23-31
15. Are you mired in bitterness or have a critical spirit? Read 1 Corinthians 13
16. Are you thinking of finances, investments, monetary returns? Read Mark 10:17-31
17. Etc...Add your own life experiences, and remind yourself of what "the handbook" says to enable and encourage your faith.
Place yourself in the message from these verses; internalize God's message to you, from them. Without internalizing and applying God's Words, we would be like a Sunday School boy:
In a certain Sunday school, the superintendent of the Junior Department was surprised to find that the offering which was placed outside the door of the department room had not been reaching the treasurer. A little checking revealed that one member of the department had been slipping out of the door and pocketing the offerings.
The same boy just a few months before had won the award for learning the greatest number of Bible verses, including the Ten Commandments. When confronted with his wrongdoing, he saw no relationship between taking the offerings and the Commandments he had memorized. He had not really learned them. (Exodus 20:3-17) [Moody Monthly]
Familiarity with the Bible and applying its contents helps us to refrain from sinning (Psalm 119:11;Psalm 19:12-13).
Consult the handbook before you tackle or process the day's demands. Without searching and remembering Scriptures, and reading the Bible each day, we are spiritually akin to the prodigal son mentioned in Luke 15:11-23--intent on living our own way and only applying our own resources. Have we ever found our own resources failing? God's voice, calling us back to Him and His Word is often very quiet (Isaiah 30:21; 1 Kings 19:9-12 [especially verse 12]). But knowing and remembering God's Words provide us with a needed lens for the world around us. Let God's Word live in you, that His presence might give meaning to what you see (Acts 17:28), and glorify God while finding approval from Christ (John 15:5-11)
God's Words are precious (Psalm 19:7-11; Psalm 12:6; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). An anecdote might illuminate this.
Waldensian Christians (early in the European protestant era) sometimes traveled about as merchants and dealt in jewels and precious stones as a way of obtaining access to the families of nobility. When they had disposed of their rings and trinkets and were asked if they had anything more to sell, they answered:
"Yes, we have jewels still more precious than any you have seen. We will be glad to show you those if you promise not to betray us. We have here a precious stone so brilliant that by its light a man may see God and another which radiates such a fire that it rekindles the love of God in the heart of its possessor."
Then, unwrapping their bundle, they brought out a Bible, the most precious of all precious stones, for by its light a person sees and finds God.
Better would it have been if the Waldensians had memorized the Scriptures and been able to verbally convey the preciousness thereof.
The apostle Paul tells us that God's Word provides encouragement to us and fellow Christians. If we increasingly live lives coherent with the Scriptures, we would encourage others (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11; John 16:33), and such encouragement would even provide us with greater desire to live for Christ.
In all, we internalize and apply God's Word, for by doing so, we glorify Him, know Him more, love Him more, and serve Him better. Two brief accounts elucidate:
Philip Henry, father of the famous commentator Matthew Henry, counselled his children to "take a verse of Psalm 119 every morning to meditate upon, and so go over the psalm twice a year," and "that will bring you in love with all the rest of the Scriptures."
And the testimony of Dr. Alexander:
Dr. James Alexander lay dying.
A friend, reading the Bible to him, misquoted 2 Tim. 1:12 thus: "I know in whom I have believed."
The departing saint exclaimed, "No, no, don't put even a preposition between me and my Lord! I know whom I have believed!"
To memorize God's Word and to apply it, enables us to say with Zoya and with Dr. James Alexander, "We know Whom we have believed!" Zoya did indeed know the Savior. She knew His eyes are on the sparrow. And she applied what she knew. Perhaps we may be so well-equipped for our own faith and human journey through life, letting God's saved and clear Word give meaning to what we see. Amen!