Our Stories or . . . ?
Over the past few weeks I’ve had more than a few conversations with friends about the Christian life. Regardless of where the discussions started, we ended up talking about the place of Scripture in this life we live with Jesus.
One conversation focused on a regular teacher at a church who seemed to feel his stories were more to be valued than Scripture. He used Bible verses to illustrate the points he was making from his own life, rather than the other way around. Another exchange turned on how quick we can be to offer good advice to others without really considering whether what is shared is anything more than personal opinion. It is so easy to speak into the lives of others as if our own journey is normative, rather than thinking that there is something in God’s Word that is normative. Time and again, in a variety of conversations, I could see how simple it is to supplant the place that Scripture could have in our lives with our stories, our “take” on life, our opinions, our ideas. And yet in spite of how easy it is to slip into that, I don’t think that it’s better.
I am not suggesting that we give ourselves to offering chapter and verse references for everything we say and for all the we talk about. I’m thinking about something more foundational, more basic than that. It just seems that we often end up living, functionally, as if the Bible has little really value to how we live.
In writing to a young church leader, Timothy, Paul noted the place that the Bible could have in our lives.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
This text is often used to argue for the inspiration–the “God-breathed-out” nature of Scripture. And that is true; this text does say this. But what catches my attention is not that it is inspired, but the outcome of Scripture’s inspired character.
Paul says that the inspired words we find in the text of the Bible results in a person being “equipped for every good work.” The “equipped” word would have been used for a ship that was fully rigged, had a full complement of crew, and was laden with all the needed stores; it had all it needed to set sail on the voyage ahead. Think “thoroughly furnished and complete.” And this equipping is for every good work.
This means that there is no good thing, no gracious and holy living, no healthy and needed activity, no appropriate and fulfilling relationship we long to give ourselves to that the Scriptures do not furnish us what we need.
Your experience might provide some helpful illustration. Someone’s good advice might be that–good advice. Our stories and the accounts of what we think we see going on in life can provide common ground for doing life together. But what we need for every good work, for every good thing we long for, is a heart to hear what God might say to us through Scripture.