A young man packing his suitcase for a journey said to a friend: “I’ve nearly finished packing. All that’s left is putting in a guidebook, a lamp, a microscope, a volume of fine poetry, a few biographies, a package of old letters, a songbook, a sword, a hammer and a few tools.”
“But you can’t get all that in your suitcase,” replied his friend.
The young man smiled and said: “Yes, I can. It’s right here.” He placed his Bible in the suitcase and zipped it shut.
This story speaks volumes about what the young man valued and why he placed so much stock in God’s Word. He saw Scripture as all-encompassing in guiding him in every circumstance that might arise on his journey.
A series of TV commercials for a credit card asks the question, “What’s in your wallet?” Let’s go a step further and ask not merely what’s in your wallet, or your suitcase, but what is packed away in your heart? Allow me to be blunt: How we personally unpack the relevance of the opening story here and pack our hearts moving forward is crucial towards heeding Jesus Christ’s invitation of “Follow Me.”
The young man with the suitcase was truly onto something, and his actions mirror what Jesus said in proclaiming, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63 John 6:63It is the spirit that vivifies; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.
American King James Version×). Much of Jesus’ audience that day, upset at other difficult things He said, abandoned Him (verses 60, 66). As they left, He turned to His 12 closest disciples and asked a question that demanded a choice: “Do you also want to go away?” (verse 67).
Peter spoke up: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (verse 68). Peter was echoing the sentiments of the young man packing his suitcase: It’s all right here, having everything needed for what lies ahead.
Perhaps it’s time to repack!
Now regarding ourselves, we may be sincere in making room for God’s holy Word in our life, but let’s be real for a moment and admit that the prevalent culture is incredibly demanding and consumes much of our personal lives.
Technology and social media offer a world of boundless information at our fingertips, tickling our curiosity. There are more people knocking on the doors of our minds and peering through the windows of our lives in one day than our forebears could ever have imagined.
It’s doing something to us! We exist in the most connected yet dis connected society ever achieved by human design. Perhaps it’s time for us to repack, correctly this time, being mindful of who is on the journey with us—our Maker and the One we ascribe as our Master!
Now why is it so vital to keep Holy Scripture in the forefront of our desire? Consider the request-laden words of Christ regarding those who would pursue His invitation of “Follow Me” in His prayer to God the Father in John 17:15-17 John 17:15-17 15 I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil.
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
17 Sanctify them through your truth: your word is truth.
American King James Version×: “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (emphasis added throughout).
Jesus noted that while His followers would remain here below in the 24/7 setting of this world, they would be set apart by fortifying themselves with the words of God in Scripture.
In making the ongoing choice of one 24/7 world over another that seemingly fills up our time and attention, let’s consider the example of Jesus Himself, who continually existed in His Heavenly Father’s 24/7 world.
In responding to challenges He would say, “It is written …” or “Have you never read in the Scriptures … ?” He knew well the words of Job 23:12 Job 23:12Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.
American King James Version×: “I have not departed from the com-mandments of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.”
His focus on what sustains real life, which enabled Him to withstand temptations in the wilderness, is expressed in His quoting of Deuteronomy 8:3 Deuteronomy 8:3And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.
American King James Version×in Matthew 4:4 Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
American King James Version×: “But He answered and said, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”’”
In the true test of survival, He was connected to a differ-ent 24/7 world. After all, bread feeds the body, but one’s fundamental existence is sustained by “words that … are life” (John 6:63 John 6:63It is the spirit that vivifies; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.
American King James Version×). We can eat our fill of bread but still be starving in the most important sense.
Putting first things first
Now, please, I’m not asking you to sell your car or throw out your smartphone, but I am encouraging you to consider your priorities and put first things first. Jesus plainly told those who already believed in Him that to be His true disciples, heeding His invitation of “Follow Me,” they had to “abide” in His word (John 8:31 John 8:31Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed;
American King James Version×).
The word “abide” here is translated from the Greek word meno, which means to “stay, remain, dwell deeply.” It’s not enough to have a Bible packed away in some proverbial suitcase or real one. You must regularly open it and allow God to mold you through its words. You can have the best of intentions, but let’s be real—a closed Bible might as well be a lost Bible. You might as well not have gone through the effort to pack it!
What is Jesus telling us in John 8:31 John 8:31Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed;
American King James Version×? Discipleship begins with belief!
Where does such belief or faith spring from? God’s own Word tells us in Romans 10:17 Romans 10:17So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
American King James Version×, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Yet let’s go deeper. This isn’t simply addressing our auditory system, but “the words that I speak to you” are designed to pierce the inward recesses of our heart, the factory of our motivations, leading us to turn to God in obedience and reliance.
Hebrews 4:12 Hebrews 4:12For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
American King James Version×says God’s Word is “living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” When we choose in faith to “abide” in the Scriptures, God speaks to us through them, molding and probing our entire being inside and out in deep care for us.
Listening well, developing trust
Okay, you’re ready to pack or repack, but let’s stop a moment and consider a nagging reality before proceeding.
How often have you noticed that what you read and what you end up doing are at times disconnected? Much of our study and reading is like the boy who read aloud in school. The teacher asked him to tell what he was reading. The young boy replied, “I don’t know—I wasn’t listening”!
Reading the Word of God was always intended to be directly listening to God. When we not only “hear” but “listen” to God’s Word, we begin to “abide” in the framework of His will rather than ours, and this seamlessly segues into the next aspect of properly responding to “the words that I speak to you.”
The moment you accept the words of God, such belief turns to trust—so much so that you make no decision without first considering His words. It’s like the young man placing his Bible in his suitcase knowing it possessed everything that would be required for success on his travels.
Again, leading the way in this was Jesus, the ultimate sojourner, who fully trusted the Word of God that He read, internalized, believed and cried out as His last words in a loud and knowing statement: “Into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46 Luke 23:46And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
American King James Version×; see Psalms 31:5 Psalms 31:5Into your hand I commit my spirit: you have redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.
American King James Version×). God’s Word was packed in tight and reached for in this moment of great need, giving assurance that He had successfully “finished” the journey set before Him to be our Savior (see John 19:30 John 19:30When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
American King James Version×).
Perhaps the words of our Heavenly Father and Christ are speaking to you right now through this column. My intent is quite simple: To help you consider that what we value the most we’ll make space for and do. How much do we treasure the invitation to a new way of being human, a new way of being a man and woman, the call to a new spiritual community called the Body of Christ with a sense of purpose that moves far beyond the next distracting text message or Twitter feed?
Such a privilege is ours!
Have you ever considered that you have the divinely granted privilege to directly hear from God’s throne room? Consider that you are granted “the wisdom that is from above” (James 3:17 James 3:17But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
American King James Version×) from the living Word of God, Jesus Christ (1 John 1:1-3 1 John 1:1-3 1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked on, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; 2 (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show to you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested to us;) 3 That which we have seen and heard declare we to you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×), who gave us the spoken words of God (John 6:63 John 6:63It is the spirit that vivifies; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.
American King James Version×; 12:50; Hebrews 1:1-3 Hebrews 1:1-3 1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 Has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:
American King James Version×), now set before us as the written Word of God in our own tongue.
Yes, written at the expense of our Savior’s life and the lives of brave men like Bible translator William Tyndale, who was strangled and burnt at the stake for giving the English people the “wisdom of God” in their own tongue. His last words at the stake were “Lord! Open the King of England’s eyes.”
Hopefully, this column has opened your eyes to the value of being sure you pack more than a Bible in a suitcase, but pack it away in your heart to prepare for the bumps, curves, dips and mountaintop experiences that will come along the way on the greatest journey offered to humanity to follow Jesus Christ into the ultimate Kingdom experience.
As we do, let’s remember that there’s a difference between walking with Christ and allowing Him to walk inside us, which is our Heavenly Father’s desire from the beginning. What value is our Father’s plan of development for us from the living Word to the spoken word to the written Word if the final step is never taken to pack it away in our hearts?
This ultimate step is perhaps given voice best in Psalms 119:10-11 Psalms 119:10-11 10 With my whole heart have I sought you: O let me not wander from your commandments.
11 Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
American King James Version×: “With my whole heart I have sought you; oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”
What is the psalmist saying here? That God’s words are to become so “hidden” or so deeply embedded that nothing—whether man, Satan or homegrown worry—can ultimately tamper with God’s loving purpose for you. Are you ready to pack or repack starting right now? Now is the time, not tomorrow, to open your heart, open your Bible, and internalize, as Christ said, “the words that I speak to you”!