A long time ago, I remember hearing a pastor say, “You should expect to gain something from your time in God’s word.” I think what he meant was that we should try to never open the Bible in a way that is unintentional or without purpose. We ought to try not to be flippant or irresponsible with our time in it. We should never seek to weaponize scripture or use it as it wasn’t intended to be used. Instead, we are to work hard to position ourselves in a way that will allow us to be most effected by what we are going to come in contact with through it.
We would do well to take a lesson from the mountain hunters of the world here. In big game hunting, there’s a phrase that gets kicked around from time to time. It’s the phrase, “Heavy Packs.” It means you have gone into the backcountry with only your gear, and you come out with your gear and a pack heavy with fresh meat from a successful kill.
When is comes to reading God’s word, we should work to come away with a pack full of its blessings.
Position is Key
When I said we should position ourselves in a way that will allow us to be most effected by it, it should have resonated with you if you are a hunter. Sometimes, positioning ourselves well in the wild can mean the difference between going home successful or empty-handed. Positioning ourselves to be effected by the scripture means that we work to submit ourselves to its authority. We should remind ourselves that it is God’s word, written long ago to people that are now gone, but that it still holds the deepest significance and power in our lives. Also, we should preach to ourselves to trust it. Knowing God’s word and trusting God’s word are two mightily different things. Understanding this things helps us put God’s word rightly in our mind and heart as we work through it’s teaching.
Respecting the Nature of Things
When we approach handling God’s word, be it through reading it alone or sharing it with others, we come with no more to offer than we have already. Our packs may be full of sin, guilt, or shame. They may be full of anxiety, anger, or unforgiveness. The tools we carry may be little more than the ability to read or write, and some experience from other encounters with the scripture. This of course is wildly insufficient for gleaning the majesty of the word of God.
The backcountry hunter may barely have what he needs to weather the elements in the vastness of the mountains. Therefore, he knows to respect his limits and the potentially dangerous nature of it. We are often poorly equipped to be able to work through the majestic nature of God’s word, therefore we would do well to respect our limits and the holy nature of the word also.
In Spite of Our Limits
Nevertheless, God calls us to go. I’ll never forget my first encounter with the Rocky Mountains of the American West. The enormous peaks and ranges that seemed to never end stirred my spirit. But along with the breath-taking stalked fear. It was a fear of losing my way, and it wanted to take down the wonder that had filled me.
Christians should have a healthy fear of the God who saved them and a reverence for the word he has given us. He knows that we have limitations that cause us to not understand parts of his word. This is part of why we need, and have, the Holy Spirit. Even though you may not know how to write a devotional, it doesn’t mean you can’t experience God’s word in an exhilarating and fulfilling way. We are not excused from the responsibility of, nor the blessing, of hiking to the most extraordinary places of the Bible simply because we are overwhelmed by our limitations.
Hunters also use the phrase, “Now the work starts.” Once the animal falls, it’s our duty and our joy as ethical hunters to process the animal for it’s most effective use. In the field, the animal is quartered and everyone in the hunting party gets to haul a segment of the kill back to camp. Once the meat is home, the processing begins.
At a conference where I recently spoke, I began my time by telling the group that my prayer was that they would leave each session with heavy packs. What I meant was I hoped that they would take the large segments of God’s word we would be unpacking, and break them into portions that they could use themselves and distribute that truth when they returned home.
As a general rule, this is how I approach my own personal study time. I like to read full portion of text, typically a paragraph or sometimes a full chapter, and then go back and break it into smaller and smaller parts outlining as I go. Then from my outlining, I am able to begin drawing questions and applications. These are the things I try to apply to my day as soon as I can. I also try to use them as talking points if the opportunity arises with people around me.
Remembering Why We Do It
Jesus said, “Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” The Apostle Paul uses illustrations of the truth of God as food in multiple locations throughout his letters to the church.
As hunters, we go in pursuit of protein for ourselves and our families. As Christians, we should pour our effort over being transformed by the word of God just as we pour ourselves out for the sake of the hunt; even if we are ill-equipped. Why? It is our spiritual food. We require it.
There are few things more mind-numbing than doing a lot of work to prepare for a hunt only to go without any expectation of being successful. We know that hunting never provides the promise of a kill. Why would we ever approach something as promise-filled as God’s word and expect to never be changed?
Good hunting, and heavy packs!