I was at a very low point in my life. Everything was falling apart. I felt trapped, paralysed, looking at an oncoming car on the road of life, about to be road kill. I happened to be at a morning prayer meeting for church workers. While we were praying, the Lord spoke to me. He said: “Your story is not over yet.” I was studying the book of Genesis for my daily Bible reading at that time. I was reminded of Joseph’s story, a life with incredible ups and downs. It was a story with a happy ending. At the end of his life, not only was Joseph blessed, he was a blessing to a whole nation.
Joseph started his life spoilt and pampered but, along the way, his faith grew. Still, life was a tumultuous roller-coaster ride. There were moments in his life that would have broken any man. Yet he continued to trust God, resisted temptation, and blessed people. His story ended in a good place. But apart from the dreams he had received when he was young, there was no way he could have known the ending of his story. Joseph didn’t give up. He continued to turn the pages of his story, allowing God to write it until the incredible ending.
In that very dark time of my life, God told me my story was not yet over. At that moment I had no idea what that meant. I believed God was reminding me of the story of Joseph. That didn’t take away my pain, but encouraged me not to give up. My life was nowhere near the holiness of that biblical giant but I was reminded “God will make a way when there seems to be no way”, though He may not do it immediately.
I note that I didn’t receive any special guidance to study the book of Genesis at the time this happened. It just so happened that Genesis was the book I was reading for my quiet time. But this has happened too many times for it to be coincidental. I will be systematically studying a book of the Bible when the Lord uses something from that book to speak to me. The living Word uses the written word to speak a personal word to me.
There are those who understand the importance of regular Bible reading, but often this spiritual discipline feels dry when one encounters only the content of the text. It fills the head but does not touch the heart. There are those who prefer that the Lord speak to them in direct, timely prophetic words, but this approach alone often denies them the needed formation that comes from studying the whole counsel of God.
I have learnt that the two ways of studying the Word need not be mutually exclusive. Of course we should always be open to any direct personal promptings from the Lord, but we should also approach the regular systematic study of God’s Word with receptive minds and hearts. In the Emmaus road passage, Jesus opened their minds (Luke 24:45) and burned their hearts (Luke 24:32).
As we progress in this New Year let us commit ourselves afresh to the study of the Word. We need it in order to grow in faith (1 Peter 2:2). And some of you may hear, as I did, that your story is not over yet.