When I was a young Christian I knew I should be reading the Bible. I believed it was "the truth," and that I should be obeying what it had to say. I embraced that mind frame early on, by the grace of God, but I didn't know how to activate it, or actually make it make a difference in my life. I know (because you tell me) that many of you struggle with the same issue:
"I believe God's word is true, but now what? How do I take it from just being a book of words to truly changing my life?"
First of all, it's important to note that the Bible is unlike any other book out there. It's not just a book of good stories about men and women who gave their lives to an important cause. Those books are valuable (I read them to my boys every day in school) and help us aspire to being a better person, but they're not like the Bible.
The Bible is alive.
The words we read on the pages of our Bibles are living, active, and the very breath of God. The Bible is actually "activated" even if we don't choose to embrace its benefits in our lives, because the words have the power to change from the inside out, "piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).
What does that mean?
God gets you. He knows you. He understands you. And because He calls Himself the Word (John 1:1), we know that in some miraculous way, the words we're reading aren't just from God, they are God.
Knowing this, we can go to God's word with expectation—expecting to hear from Him, expecting the words on the page to transform our hearts. But so many Christians still struggle to feel anything when they read God's word. It just doesn't seem true to them because they don't experience anything when they read it—especially in the hard times of life.
Before we jump into the hows of activating the word of God in your life, I want to say this: what you feel and what is true may be two different things. Just because I sometimes feel abandoned by God, doesn't mean I am. His word tells me He will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5), so when I find myself feeling abandoned, I have to choose to believe I'm not. Most of the time, when I make that choice, my feelings will soon follow the choice of my heart.
How to Activate the Word of God in Your Life
1. Open it
When my oldest son first started playing the fiddle, he wasn't very good. He was pretty terrible the next day, too, and even a few weeks after his first lesson. He learned to play Twinkle, Twinkly Little Star pretty quickly, but little violins have terrible sound quality, so he still sounded pretty bad.
Now, almost five years later, he's performed Ode to Joy in front of 500 people with his little brother and is gearing up to compete in a local fiddler's convention this summer.
Get in the habit of spending daily time in your Bible, even if it's just to read a Psalm and a Proverb. It may not come easily, but just as my son needed time spent practicing his instrument to improve, we need time in the word of God to begin trusting that it's true.
2. Know it
As you spend more and more time reading your Bible you'll see something amazing start to happen! You'll find yourself thinking about or living in a certain situation when a verse you just read (that applies to what you're going through) will pop in your head! That's God! That's the word being alive and active in you! And it's amazing.
I can't count the number of times I've been comforted by a verse at just the right time. Whether God drops it in my heart, or the heart of a friend, He chooses to use His word to comfort, correct, sustain, and build us right when we need it most.
But if we don't open it, and don't know it, that won't happen.
3. Speak it
When I was younger I battled fear. One of the ways I went to war against this attack of the enemy was to speak God's word out loud, and even though God has given me a significant measure of healing in this area, I still speak Bible verses out loud when I'm afraid.
My favorites are Psalm 4:8 and Psalm 23:4
"In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety" (this one gets spoken when I'm trying to fall asleep), and "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me" (I use this one when I'm walking into a dark house alone and feel threatened).
Sometimes, I even just say Jesus' name out loud, because it's the name above all names (Philippians 2:9-11) and is mighty to save (Zephaniah 3:17).
Speaking a verse or two out loud—whether you're afraid, or confused, or hurt—reminds us of what's true, and has the power to make peace settle in ours hearts.
4. Use it
Ya'll know about my fascination with sticky notes, right? If you come to my house, you'll see them all over. Written on them are Bible verses that focus my attention on Jesus, and help me remember what's true. I have them strategically placed in the house where I need them most. For example, there's one in the bathroom to remind me that my greatest need is Jesus. Why? Because the bathroom is where I tend to go when I want to lock myself away.
I also have my favorite scriptures printed out and framed around our house. I use them as reminders and as prayers. When I walk by my sons' room, I pray Psalm 92:4 because it's hanging in a frame outside their room. These are simple, inexpensive ways to fill our hearts (ours and our family's) with the word of God. I can't necessarily afford those beautiful framed scriptures from my local Christian bookstore, but I can afford a $5 frame from Walmart, and a little ink from my printer.
5. Love it
This one may be the most important of all, because loving God's word starts with loving Him. If we don't have a deep sense of gratitude and love for God, we won't love His word.
How do we "fall in love" with God? For me, it's a simple matter of remembering all He sacrificed for me while I was still stuck in sin (Romans 5:8). I'm so grateful for forgiveness from my sin, so grateful that I'm not who I was, so grateful to have right standing before the Lord, so grateful that I can call on Him, so grateful that He sees me and loves me, so grateful that He protects me and provides for me...so grateful that all I can do is love Him.
Because of that, I want to know Him, know His character and His ways, to the best of my ability. I love His word, the Bible, because it's how I get to know Him better and learn about His great love for me.
The Bible has amazing power to transform our lives when we open it, know it, speak it, use it, and love it. Why wait?