What you will find in this post is the third part of an answer to a question raised by a reader about how to develop a stronger faith and overcome consuming lust. The third essential factor for developing a stronger faith and overcoming lust takes us back to the basics again. Before i mention this third factor, I want to encourage you not to refuse to think seriously about it because in your judgment it is so basic. Remember the exhortation of Vince Lombardi on another front that we mentioned in the last blog: victories are won by paying attention to the basics and failure occurs because we fail to learn and practice the basics with abandonment. So here’s basic factor number three for developing a stronger faith and overcoming lust: to develop and sustain a stronger faith and a more robust fear of God you must consistently and submissively study God’s Word.
Sometime ago I wrote a book called The Twin Pillars of the Christian Life. One of these pillars was the pillar of fervent prayer that we mentioned in the previous post. The other factor that my book addresses is the pillar of Bible Study. These are the pillars of the Christian life on which a vibrant spiritual life must be built. Though very basic, we must understand that here can be no substitute for either these pillars. Mark it down, don’t overlook it: if you want to develop a strong faith that will overcome sinful patterns and a robust fear of God that is necessary for progress in the Christian life, you will never develop and sustain these essential qualities apart from fervent prayer and the faithful study of His Word. Again as mentioned in the former post, the battles of the Christian life are won or lost because people either faithfully practice or don’t practice these two disciplines.
The crucial importance of faithful and submissive Bible study is suggested by numerous verses in which the fear of God is mentioned. I will quote a few of these verses and, as I do, I will emphasize (underline) certain words that will help us to get an answer to the ‘yes, but how’ question.
1. Deut. 4:10 – “Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when the Lord said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My Words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days they live on the earth…” (Deuteronomy 4:10);
2. Deut. 6:1,2 – “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you … so that you and your son, and your grandson might fear the Lord your God…” (Deuteronomy 6:1,2);3. Deut. 8:6 – “Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God to walk in His ways and to fear Him” (Deuteronomy 8:6);4. Deut. 13:4 – “You shall … fear Him, and …listen to His voice…” (Deuteronomy 13:45. Deut. 14:23 “… in order that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always” (Deuteronomy 14:23); 6. Deut. 17:19 – “… and he shall read it (God’s Word) all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God” (Deuteronomy 17:19);7. Deut. 31:12 “…and all
Israel shall hear and fear.” (Deuteronomy 21:21);“Assemble the people … in order that they may hear and learn and fear the Lord your God…” (Deuteronomy 31:12);
8. Psalm 34:11 – “Come you children, listen to me, and I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Psalm 34:11);
From these verses we may draw several conclusions about how to develop and sustain the fear of God in our lives.
Several times we notice in these verses that hearing and listening are associated with developing the fear of God. Romans 10:17 informs us that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” In other words, if we want to have a strong faith we must put ourselves in a place where we will hear God’s Word being faithfully preached. Faith doesn’t float around in the air and mysteriously grab us. God uses His preached Word to strengthen our faith. People who want to develop and sustain a robust fear of God must faithfully,diligently and attentively hear God’s Word being preached. This is one of theprimary instruments God uses in building this quality into our lives.
Still further these verses teach us that people who want to develop a stronger fear of God must make this a priority in their lives and they must do it regularly.
And, they must make sure that the preaching they are listening to is really an expository ministry. It is not some man’s ideas, it is not the theories of psychologists or philosophers or sociologists that promote the fear of God. It is the faithful proclamation of God’s Word. There can be no neglect, nor substitute for this.
The second conclusion we may draw from these verses we just read is set of verses that the fear of God is that developing and sustaining the fear of God will involve the use of the mind. To become God-fearing people we must be students, we must put forth an effort to learn. Being a student obviously involves studying. If you don’t study, you have no right to think of yourself or present yourself as a student. Sitting around watching television or even sitting in a church auditorium or classroom doesn’t necessarily mean you are a student or that you are learning anything.
You may just be sitting there occupying space. You may not be learning or retaining or processing anything that is being said. No one can be considered a learner unless they retain, process and benefit from what is being said. And, again please note that growing in the fear of God is associated with being taught, studying and learning the Word of God.
In our book, The Fear Factor, we define the fear of God in this way (and what we said about the fear of God can also be said about true faith): the fear of God is a reflex attitudinal and emotional reaction to an accurate understanding of who and what God is.
1. The word “reflex”indicates that our attitudes and emotions automatically respond to something. When our hand touches an extremely hot surface, we don’t have to tell our hand, nor make our hand move away from that surface. Because of the nerve endings in our hand, our hand just automatically jerks away from the hot surface.
When I use the word “reflex” in association with the development of the fear of God or a stronger faith, I mean that when a certain thing happens we will naturally, automatically respond with the fear of God and have a stronger faith.
2. The word “reaction” in our definition conveys a similar idea. What we’re saying is that the fear of God (or a stronger faith) is more of a “reaction” than it is an action. It is something that happens rather than something we directly make happen. Only in an indirect way do we make the fear of God and a stronger faith happen. The fear of God happens because something else has happened. And unless that something else happens we will never develop and sustain the fear of God.
The question then is: what is it that causes the fear of God or a stronger faith to develop? What must happen for the fear of God to happen? The rest of our definition answers these questions.
1. The fear of God happens as we gain and maintain an accurate understanding of who and what the God of the Bible is. In other words, it happens as we hear and listen to God and His Word; it happens as we continue to study and learn, as we continue to accurately think about and meditate on God and His Word.
2. This is the method God uses to make our fear of God quotient stronger. You simply can’t expect to have a strong fear of God quotient if you are unwilling to be a perpetual student of God’s Word.
Interestingly, Psalm 19:9 makes this connection between the diligent study of God’s Word and the development of the fear of God unmistakably clear by calling the Bible “the fear of the Lord”. Obviously, the Bible is called “the fear of the Lord” because it is a primary means by which God develops and sustains this quality in our lives.
In his book on the fear of God, John Bunyan writes, “The fear of God flows from … a sound impression that the Word of God makes on our souls; for without an impress of the Word, there is no fear of God. Hence it is said that God gave Israel good laws, statutes and judgments that they might learn them, and in learning them, learn to fear the Lord their God …For as to the extent that a man drinks good doctrine into his soul, so to that extent he fears God; if he drinks in much, he fears Him greatly; if he drinks in but little, He fears Him but little; if he drinks not at all, He fears Him not at all.” (John Bunyan, ibid, p. 424)
So to develop a robust and influential fear of God or a stronger faith you must make the study of God’s Word a regular and diligent discipline in your life.. Scripture makes it clear that faith in God and the fear of God are His gifts to His people (Ephesians 2:8, 9; Galatians 5:22, 23; Jeremiah 32:39, 40). And along with that, Scripture, as noted in the earlier part of this blog, makes it clear that God bestows these gifts on people who fervently and faithfully study His Word.
This, then, is the third factor in answering the questions: how can I develop a strong, robust fear of God? How can I overcome unbelief and doubts? How can I overcome consuming lust? If you are serious about overcoming unbelief and doubts and lust you must make sure that you are fervently practicing the privilege of diligent and submissive Bible study..
John Bunyan was absolutely convinced that a diligent study of God’s Word played a crucial role in the development and maintenance of the fear of God in our souls. He could hardly have made that point more clearly. According to Bunyan, drink much of the Word of God and you will have much of the fear of God, drink little and you will have little, drink not at all and you will have none is his conviction. And, according to the Scripture, he was right! This, again I say, is only one of many factors, but it is a foundational factor
(God willing, we will move on to another extremely important factor in the near future. I have just been dismissed from the hospital after a minor hart problem. So it may be a little while before I actually post the next factor, but Lord willing it will come. )