It was three years ago this month that I participated in the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers’ Conference. I listened to speakers talk about how to write nonfiction, the merits of self-publishing, and how to be a dynamite storyteller. I chatted with experts at the dinner table.
During such an empowering week, it’s always hard to get away for quiet time. But in a corner of the beautiful lodge, I discovered a little desk tucked away. That’s where I retreated early in the mornings to read and pray. Besides my Bible, at that time I was reading Andrew Murray’s The Believer’s New Covenant. It was the middle of the week, early in the morning, when I saw these words—now this isn’t exactly what he said, but this is how it translated to my eyes—“Who do you think you are to think that you can read the Word of God in your own abilities, without asking God to open your understanding and open His Word to you? Who do you think you are?” It was as if the finger of heaven itself pointed down at me.
Now there had definitely been times in my life when I had asked the Lord for understanding about scripture passages, but it was usually when I had already tried with my own sense and couldn’t get anywhere. Always so gentle and gracious, the Lord opened my understanding at various times. But that morning I realized, as I never had before, that my ability to use a lexicon or to cross reference a passage or to follow the flow of an argument or to see the allegory in a story-—none of those things would bring lasting change or power in my life. Only the Spirit of God would do that. He had to be the one to do that. And I was desperately dependent on Him.
This truth was still ringing in my spiritual ears when that very same afternoon I attended a session taught by the inimitable Les Stobbe about Writing Biblically for Maximum Life Impact. And this is where I got the double whammy.
I heard him say—now this isn’t exactly what he said, but this is how it translated to my ears— “Who do you think you are to think that you can write anything that will bring about lasting change in the life of your reader without first begging God for the power of the Holy Spirit in your writing? Who do you think you are?” It was as if the finger of heaven were pointing down at me. Again.
I cowered. Hadn’t I been guilty of relying on my “God-given abilities”?
Not only was my Bible reading changed that day, but that day my writing was changed. In both receiving the written Words of God and in using words to turn people to the Living Word of God, I stand desperately needy before my powerful Savior.
Do I still sometimes forge ahead in my Bible study without prayer? Sadly, yes. Do I still sometimes begin writing without asking God to speak through my words? All too often.
But I am aware, as I never have been before, of the need to seek after Him in everything that I do. In my own strength, both my understanding of His truth and my ability to communicate His truth will be weak and ineffectual.
But oh, in the power of Christ, I can expect great things.