Have you ever pulled out your phone (especially if it’s a smartphone) to check the time, only to find that you had a notification? When that happens to me, it seems that I usually read the text, e-mail, or other alert, put the phone back in my pocket, and only then realize that I still don’t know what time it is. (These days, I usually wear a watch, but since it happens to be a smartwatch, I will still sometimes get drawn away by the little dot that shows me I have messages.)
Although I have read and heard the following passage on multiple occasions in the past, a devotion1 that I recently read had a graphic that caused the reality of these verses to hit me in a way that they hadn’t, before:
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.
James 1:22-24 NLT
(I suspect that the Holy Spirit may have had something to do with this realization, too.)
The Bible can change our lives for the better. However, like having a phone or a watch that can tell time, just looking at the Bible won’t change us by itself. We must actually read what it says, let the message sink in, and do something with what we learn.
In my morning devotions, this can be a challenge. It is all too easy to skim a devotional thought, read through a Bible passage, and then move on to my prayer list. Some days, if you asked me 30 minutes later what just I read, I would draw a blank. Whether it is the pull of wanting to read other news, or just the distractions of other thoughts in my mind, all too often I reach for just the thing that I need (in order to hear a message from God), but end up with a variety of information other than what I was going for in the first place.
Instead, my challenge is to not look into this “mirror” without seeing myself. Once I appreciate where I stand in relation to a holy God, as well as His definition of righteousness, I can find out what I need to do in life. Maybe God has some direction for me right there, or maybe He is storing up instructions that I’ll need later in the day. Regardless, if I don’t actually absorb the Word and take appropriate action based on what I have learned, I may as well go through life led by the cacophony of an unwise world, or – worse yet – my own selfishness. Instead, if I actually live according to what the Bible teaches me (from that day, and from my past studies), I can make a difference in God’s kingdom. In fact, James 1:25 says that if I don’t ignore what I read in the Bible (or effectively forget what I was looking at), I can find freedom and blessings. And, if this is something that you haven’t mastered yet, you can obtain these privileges as well.
Of course, if we don’t read the Bible (or listen to it – there are some great audio recordings available, when reading doesn’t work out) in the first place, we are pretty much dependent upon others to tell us what it says. Whether you don’t know anything about what Jesus taught (except potentially conflicting stories that you hear from others) or have been following Jesus for a long time, Bible reading is one of the simplest ways to get more information about God, from God.
So, the next time you set out to find the time, but realize that you got distracted and had to check a second time, think about what God has been teaching you. Maybe the clock isn’t the only thing needing a “second look” in our lives.
- Special thanks to Efua, for writing an inspiring article in her Grace Over Pain blog: https://graceoverpain.com/2019/09/09/caution-against-drifting-away/. ↩