The Bible is more valuable than any possession you can find on earth.
It’s inspired, it’s profitable, it’s life changing and God can and does use it to bless you in ways that are truly jaw dropping.
But, there are some steps you need to take if you are going to benefit from it.
That I think is James’ concern in James 1:19ff.
He gives us six steps that are necessary for believers to benefit from God’s Word.
1. Be Quick to Listen
To benefit from God’s Word we must be eager to learn from it. If you are a believer, you know you should want to hear what God has to say, but when you initially come to God’s Word you may not have much desire to in fact study it.
Here are some suggestions to help you become quicker to listen when you are not feeling like listening at all:
* Remind yourself of what the Word is. * Realize you do not have to be a slave of your feelings. * Prepare yourself physically and mentally to hear God speak. * Apply the gospel to yourself.
2. Be Slow to speak
Many people fail to grow and mature because when God’s Word is proclaimed, or when they come to God’s Word to read it,they are not so much concerned about what it has to say as they are about what they have to say.
And even as God’s Word corrects them, rebukes them, and convicts them, clearly showing them the steps they need take, they aren’t listening to it but instead spouting off a million different excuses and rationalizations for their behavior.
If you are going to benefit as you come to God’s Word, remember that God is smarter than you, remember that you need God to change you, and allow Him to speak to you through His Word by keeping your own mouth shut.
3. Be Slow to Get Angry
At first that may seem out of context, what does anger have to do with benefiting from God’s Word?
But think about this.
The word for anger has to do with inner anger/resentment. It is not so much freaking out externally, but rather something that is happening inside of you. This is the kind of anger maybe only you and God know about, at least initially.
James is giving us a major insight into why many people don’t change. It is because instead of humbly submitting to God’s Word, people become resentful towards that correction and James says if that happens, you won’t achieve the righteousness of God.
Look, there are a whole lot of times when you read the Word and the Word is going to go against your desires. (Why read the Word if it tells you everything you already think?)
When that happens there are two ways to respond, submit or become resentful.
I see this response so often in preaching and counseling. Many people come for help and they say they want God’s solutions to their problems, but then you start getting specific, showing them God’s plan and God’s commands. But God’s way isn’t their way. And so instead of submitting to God, they get angry, because God’s desires for their lives are the opposite of their desires. And usually, you know what happens then?
They get angry at the one who is sharing the message. How could you say that? How could you tell me that?
If you are going to be changed by God’s Word, you have to fight against getting mad at it!
4. Be Repentant
You are not going to profit from the Word if you are just sitting there listening and not actively waging war against the sin and filth that is in your life.
Before you take the shower of God’s Word, you have got to take off your dirty clothes of sin.
What wickedness does is build up a callous. When you get a callous on your finger, your finger is not as sensitive anymore. And when you get a callous on your heart, your heart becomes desensitized to God’s Word.
Obviously, James is not saying that we need to be perfect in practice before we come to God’s Word, but he is telling that if we are going to be changed by God’s Word, we have to come to God’s Word with a desire to be changed. In other words, repentant.
5. Be Humble
This really sums it all up, James says in verse 21, in what attitude should we receive the word implanted?
Literally without pride.
James is stressing the inner attitude that we must have towards God’s Word if we are going to profit from it. This humility is a self-subduing gentleness. It’s a person who has a mind ready to learn.
He’s quick to listen. He doesn’t think he knows it all, so he wants to be trained and challenged. He comes to God’s Word ready to accept correction, ready to be convicted, ready to be challenged. He’s slow to speak because he wants to make sure he really understands what God is saying. He doesn’t respond to God’s word with anger and wrathfulness. He doesn’t pretend that he knows more than God. No he comes to God’s Word humbly. Teach me Oh God. I may not understand everything you are saying. I may not understand everything you are doing. But I know that you are God and I am just a person of finite understanding. So what I don’t understand I trust. I want to do your will not mine. In a word, the humble person is teachable.
So many people come to a complete stall in their relationship with God, in this maturing process because they are not teachable, they are not coming to God’s word in humility. They become proud. And that pride blinds them to their need.
6. Be Applying
James writes in verse 22, “But prove yourselves doers of the word and not hearers only who delude themselves.”
The word James uses for hearer is the term from which we get our English word audit. When I was in college I loved to audit classes because you can learn without ever having to do any of the work. A person who audits a class is a person who comes and listens but has no real responsibility to do any of the assignments. He just sits and listens. James is talking about people who are hearing the truth. They may even be hearing it from great preachers. But they are just auditing the sermons. They are receiving God’s Word passively. The result? They deceived themselves. They are hearers only.
That’s the way many people are when it comes to God’s Word. They come, they listen, they pay attention, they walk out that door, and by lunch-time they have completely forgotten everything they have heard. So basically their study of the Word was pointless, because they looked in the mirror, they saw some problems and didn’t do anything.
You want to know if you are deceived or not? Don’t ask yourself – am I listening to the Word? Ask yourself – am I working to remember it? And am I seeking to apply it to my life? To bring it down to where it hurts: What specific changes have I made in my life as a result of my study of God’s Word over this past week? If God’s Word isn’t changing you, if you aren’t actively seeking to remember what you hear here on Sunday mornings and what you study in your devotions and then actively attempting to implement those principles into your lives throughout the week, you are just fooling yourself and all your activity is really pointless.
Chuck Swindoll illustrates,
“To make the value of obedience just a practical as possible, let’s play ‘Let’s Pretend.’ Let’s pretend that you work for me. In fact, you are my executive assistant in a company that is growing rapidly. I’m the owner and I’m interested in expanding overseas. To pull this off, I make plans to travel abroad and stay there until a new branch office gets established. I make all the arrangements to take my family and move to Europe for six to eight months. And I leave you in charge of the busy stateside organization. I tell you that I will write you regularly and give you directions and instructions. I leave and you stay. Months pass. A flow of letters are mailed from Europe and received by you at the national headquarters. I spell out all my expectations. Finally, I return. Soon after my arrival, I drive down to the office and I am stunned. Grass and weeds have grown up high. A few windows along the street are broken. I walk into the Receptionist’s room. She is doing her nails, chewing gum and listening to her favorite disco station. I look around and notice the wastebaskets are overflowing. The carpet hasn’t been vacuumed for weeks, and nobody seems concerned that the owner has returned. I asked about your whereabouts and someone in the crowded lounge area points down the hall and yells, “I think he’s down there.”
Disturbed, I move in that direction and bump into you as you are finishing a chess game with our sales manager. I ask you to step into my office, which has been temporarily turned into a television room for watching afternoon soap operas. “What in the world is going on, man?” “What do you mean, Chuck?” “Well, look at this place!
Didn’t you get any of my letters?” “Letters? Oh yes! Sure! I got every one of them. As a matter of fact, Chuck, we have had a letter study every Friday night since you left. We have even divided the personnel into small groups to discuss many of the things you wrote. Some of the things were really interesting. You will be pleased to know that a few of us have actually committed to memory some of your sentences and paragraphs. One or two memorized an entire letter or two – Great stuff in those letters.” “OK. You got my letters. You studied them and meditated on them; discussed and even memorized them. But what did you do about them?” “Do? We didn’t do anything about them.”
You know what James would say to people like that? All that activity, all that going to church, all that opening up your Bible, all that listening, it’s futile, it’s empty, it’s pointless. All you are doing is fooling yourself. Wake up. If you are going to benefit from God’s Word, it’s not enough that you can recite biblical principles and truths, you need to do them!