How many of you are glad to be back at Bible study? I know that I am. I did have a very eventful break, however. My daughter got married, so of course, I have to show you a picture! Here are Lindsay and Tyler. Lindsay is the runner in our family, and I have learned a lot about running from her since I am certainly not a runner even if I can dress the part! Even those of us who aren’t runners or swimmers or tri-athletes know that it takes a whole lot of fuel to keep going in a long race. Although a marathoner generally eats a lot of carbohydrates in advance of the race, it is not enough. Running that far means that the body consumes thousands of calories; thus, the athlete must be refueled as she runs.
Even as a non-runner, I have experienced the need for fueling up daily. A few years back at the end of a work day, I stopped to run some errands, but I was very lightheaded and my body was weak. I wanted to cry and felt bad all over. I decided there was something really wrong with me. Did I have a hidden disease that was showing up? Maybe I was about to have a heart attack! I called my husband and told him how I felt. (Why I thought he could help is a mystery; he is not a doctor!) But, he is much wiser than I am and remembered that I was on a fast that day. I had had nothing but a bit of juice and a lot of water since about 6 p.m. the previous evening. My body was depleted of energy!
We can’t make it very long without eating or we will fall apart physically and even emotionally. The same principle is true spiritually. We must take in a continual diet of spiritual food in order to keep on going over the long haul.
Paul often used the metaphor of a race for the Christian life. Today we’ll look at need to fuel that race with spiritual food.
Turn with me to Matt. 4:1-4:
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After he fasted forty days and forty nights he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Jesus indicated that the word of God is as necessary to the soul as bread is to the body. There is nothing wrong with food; God made it as a good and necessary thing. But if Jesus had eaten bread rather than fast as God had led him to do, he would have placed the temporal over the eternal. We will run on empty if we try to substitute anything else for the true fuel in our lives.
So, the question for each of us is this:
Do we take into our lives and hearts more of the physical, which will someday pass away, or the eternal, which will last forever?
We will run on empty if we do not ingest more of the spiritual than temporal things, which are good things if they don’t take over. What are some temporal things that overwhelm the spiritual in our lives? Jobs, hobbies, exercise, education, achievement, children’s activities, homes, looks, or anything material—all good things but not the best.
Even if we commit, as you have, to be in God’s word, it is easy to check it off like a task, set it aside, and then fill our hearts and minds with the temporal.
I have an elderly relative who is a long-time Christian. She reads a few Bible verses and prays every day, but she fills most of her time watching TV. Every night she watches political talk shows, which upset and worry her over a constant stream of issues. Instead of spending her latter years trusting God with the future and even being a light to the women in her senior residence, she is running on empty because her real focus is the temporal.
But that doesn’t have to be true; there is another choice. We can choose to run on empty by focusing on the temporal rather than the eternal,
How does God’s word provide the fuel that we need in order to run the race well? Let’s look at 2 Tim. 3:16-17:
Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.
This passage expresses so well the necessity of taking in God’s word so that we can live it out. Paul says here that it teaches us; we learn about who God is and what he is like. We learn about ourselves. It reproves us by showing us where we are wrong; it corrects us by teaching us how to fix the problem; and it trains us in living righteously, God’s way of living. The end result is that we are prepared to live out the good works that God has given us to do.
The purpose of taking in the scripture is to fuel our lives to follow God, to run the race he has given us. It is not to just know the Bible, just taking it in like someone who eats but never exercises; if so, we become fat and sick! Bible study is not just about learning; it’s about taking in spiritual fuel so that we have the energy to live it out every day. Bible study is about action.
Let’s look at more specifics as to how that works. Filling up with God’s word gives us spiritual food—
Let’s read John 17:17-19.
Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I set myself apart on their behalf, so that they too may be truly set apart.
The night before Jesus died, he spoke this prayer on behalf of all of those who choose to follow him. He prayed that we would be set apart from the world where he was sending us. And he said that it was the truth of his word that sets us apart. If you have another version of the Bible, it may use the word sanctify or make holy rather than the phrase set apart. The word is used of those things which God sets apart for himself, for his own use. To prepare us for the race, God uses his word to make us more like him, more holy, to become the people he would have us become.
Is part or your race to raise godly children? You become the mother you need to be in order to do that good work by fueling up with scripture. Is part of your race to be a light in your workplace or neighborhood? You need the fuel of God’s word to be the person God can use there.
Look at Heb. 4:12, where we see one way that God’s word sanctifies us or sets us apart for his use:
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart.
We can deceive ourselves, but God’s word stabs our hearts, revealing what is inside.
On Friday a dog was loose in our street. I was afraid he would get run over so I took him in and called the number on the tag. A woman answered and said she was the owner; she lives a street over from us. After I told her I had her dog, she grudgingly said, “Well, I guess I’ll come get him.” Three-and-a-half hours later, she was no longer answering the phone and had still not come by. At that point I took him to her house, but she didn’t answer the door. I tied him to the porch, believing that she was there ignoring me. Sure enough, after I was a half block away, I could see the door open and the dog disappear inside. I was very annoyed with this woman! However, God began to work in me through his word, not that I was reading it at that point, but the truths I knew were like a sword to my heart. When I first called and she actually answered the phone, she said she had had a bad morning; I could hear little kids in the background. Why didn’t I serve her by taking the dog to her in the first place knowing she was stressed? I was too busy, too involved in my own stuff to do it. After all, I had done my part by rescuing the dog from possible death so she should at least come get him! But the truths of God’s word began to stab me. To be a person God can use in my neighborhood, I need to ingest God’s word.
Not only is God’s word our spiritual fuel for becoming a person God can use, it is also fuel
Read Ps. 119:105.
Your word is a lamp to walk by, and a light to illumine my path.
To run God’s race we must know which direction to go. It’s not so much that God will give us one particular passage that tells us, although he may, but it’s that we have fueled our hearts with the word over a long period of time; thus, we know his character and his principles, which point us to his will.
God’s word is also our spiritual fuel—
Look at Eph.6:17:
And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
In the context Paul describes our battle with the enemy, Satan. All of the weapons are defensive except this one, the sword of the Spirit, which he identifies as the word of God. We saw Jesus use the word of God as a sword when he was tempted; he responded with scripture.
When the enemy attacks you by bringing lies into your mind, can you attack him with the word? Maybe he suggests that something is good when God has said it is not. Or he says that you are not valuable when you are. You must be ready to answer with the truth of God’s word if you want him to flee. But if we haven’t taken it into our lives and hearts, we aren’t fueled to run the race; instead, we get stymied by the enemy.
Taking in God’s word regularly must be a priority. It gets us fueled and ready to go in the race!
We are at the beginning of a semester of Bible study. Each of us has committed to be in God’s word for three months. There is nothing more dangerous to Satan than that because the word energizes us for the race. It is a threat to his ability to work in our lives; thus, he doesn’t want you to do your Bible study each day. He doesn’t want you here to be encouraged, supported, and challenged by these other women. He doesn’t want you here to encourage and support them. So he entices you to prioritize the temporal, just as he did Jesus. God has placed you with your particular group of women not just for you, but also for them. We run together fueled by God’s word.
I bought this t-shirt this weekend. It says, “eat, sleep, run!” I loved it because it describes our lives. We fuel up for the race through time in God’s word; we rest for the race when we sleep; and everything else is the race. Everything you do in life is part of your race: your relationships, your job, your free time. Ladies, let’s all fuel up and run the race well!