“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”Acts 17:11 ESV
I haven’t always been eager for the Word. If I’m honest, I can point to multiple times in my life I’ve taken the Word for granted. Growing up with a strong foundation in the Bible–in school, in church, in our home–meant that, at times, I relied too heavily on what I already “knew” and did not continue to eagerly pursue growing my relationship with God through His Word. Fortunately, that very same foundation and the Holy Spirit have drawn me back to the Bible time and time again, until I have developed such a Word-based diet that I feel starved without it.
Acts 17, which I encountered most recently in going through BytheWell4God’s “Pointing to Jesus” devotional, recounts Paul and Silas in Thessalonica and Berea. Paul instructed the Jews in both areas, and the responses were quite different. In Thessalonica, some of the Jews, and many Greeks, believed in Christ after Paul’s teaching. However, there were other Jews who, out of jealousy, formed a mob to hunt down Paul. They even accosted his host, Jason, and extorted funds from him. Not a pretty scene. In Berea, there was a different response. Paul taught in the synagogue in the same way, and the Jews believed. Indeed they took in Paul’s teachings with “all eagerness” and searched the Scriptures daily to confirm that what he said was true. What a model for us!
There is an eagerness for Scripture that comes at our first believing. When the light of Christ is first sparked in our hearts and minds, it is no surprise that we open our eyes to take in as much of Him as we can in the Word. But that eagerness can fade as we balance life’s responsibilities or journey through faith without discipleship and mentoring.
What then are the habits that help cultivate and maintain a heart for eagerness for God’s Word?
If you’ve ever been to a book talk or reading, you know there is a special magic that happens when a writer reads her own work and engages in a conversation about the themes and experiences that brought the work together. Scripture is God’s book, so what better way to seek understanding of the Author’s thoughts than to talk about it with Him in prayer! The depth and regularity of that conversation,reveals His heart and fuels our desire to know Him more. One of the most powerful prayers I’ve seen in my own life is one I learned from Pastor Bill Elliff. He encouraged our church to pray Psalm 119:18: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” As I’ve prayed that back to Him, sometimes emphasizing a word in the prayer more than the others, God has answered. (For more, check out one of Pastor Bill’s blog posts on the impossibility of Bible study without prayer.)
I think eagerness is also cultivated with habit. Note here that the Bereans were in the Scriptures daily. In our instant gratification culture, we might be discouraged when we don’t feel excited about an experience in the Word right away. It is important to remember that if it hasn’t been a habit, building that appetite and eagerness (and mental muscle for the work!) might take time. But I’ve seen in my life over and over again that when I’m consistent, I awake each day with the desire to see what God is going to say to me through His Word. (For more on building Bible reading routines that are sustainable and grace filled, check out Habits of Grace by David Mathis.)
The Bereans searched the Scriptures to verify Paul’s message–“examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” This is a good reminder of the relationship between eagerness and application. They did not wander to the Word to check a box for the day; instead, they were on a mission for truth. In the same way, we can maintain a healthy excitement for the Word when we open it with the purpose of finding needed truth for our lives. When we begin to apply His truth to our day to day experience and see how it truly is the best answer for everything we face, then we become eager to go to God first over everything else. Application of the Word deepens our knowledge of Him and His promises. Doing what the Word says puts us in the position to grow in character and in desire for His Truth. (For more on direct application of truth, consider trying an inductive Bible study like Precept.)
Lastly, we can’t neglect the role of community in maintaining eagerness for the Word. The Bereans were going after God together. Of course, our individual relationship with God and His truth is most important, but we’ve been designed for community–for fellowship. When we join in study and living God’s Word with others, whether in our local church, online, in our homes, we grow in the joy of seeing God’s Word as living and active in each other’s lives. Eagerness is contagious! I’m sure there were days some of the Bereans were more excited than others–I imagine that the fire grew from one brother or sister to another. The same can happen for us when we stay connected to the body in our pursuit of Him.
Lord, keep my heart and mind eager to know You and the truth of Your Word. I confess the times I have neglected prayer and missed out on the fullness of what You would say to me. By Your Spirit, lead me in daily prayer and study of the Bible. Strengthen my habits of faith in grace that I might eagerly pursue You over any sense of completing a task. Show me that Your Word is living and active and ready to go to work in even the most mundane parts of my life. Surround me with godly community that I might stir a passion for your Word in others while also being refueled and encouraged in my journey. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.