Read My Word

Author: Charles Whitehead

Read My Word

I was baptised in the Holy Spirit in 1976 and an immediate result was that I began to pray with a new enthusiasm and commitment. As I prayed I became aware that God was speaking to me in a variety of ways - speaking into different areas of my life and making his desires for me known. The first and by far the most powerful message I heard was three simple words - “Read My Word!” New and inexperienced in hearing God’s voice though I was, I could not fail to understand what he was saying to me. As I reflected on these three simple words, I acknowledged that I was not familiar with the Scriptures, the Word of God. Of course I was used to listening to the readings at Mass, so I knew many of the most popular Old Testament and Gospel stories - they were fairly easy to remember. However, I knew little else in the Old Testament and very little from the New Testament letters of Paul, Peter and the others, so I had no idea how the Bible might reveal God to me, or provide me with a road map for my journey through life.

I began to apply my new insights and ways of thinking in my daily life with remarkable results

So I took God’s command to “Read My Word!” very seriously, and for two full years I read little apart from my Bible. I read it in all sorts of ways - chronologically; according to particular themes; following the readings of the Church liturgy; using systems like reading through the Bible in a year, the Word Among Us etc. I highlighted, underlined and annotated texts everywhere, I wrote comments on most pages and so gradually became familiar with the teachings and revelation contained in the Scriptures. Of course real familiarity with God’s Word is the journey of a lifetime, but at least I made a start. So how did this new knowledge affect me? The answer is simple - it was life-changing. Things that had always puzzled me became clear; the basic truths of the Christian message were repeated and clarified; the extent of God’s revelation of himself and his desires for us, his children, became clear. I began to apply my new insights and ways of thinking in my daily life with remarkable results. As I learned to hear the voice of God through his Word, I tried to put what I was hearing into practice.

He spoke to me about his great love for me and revealed his true nature - God is love (1 John 4:8) which he had demonstrated by sending his only Son into the world for you and me (verse 9). I soon found out that I was growing in my love for other people as I learned more and more about the love God had for me and for them - I knew what he meant when he told us we were to love one another. I began to understand the Great Commission and that I was called to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). I also realised that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).

As I continued to read and reflect on the Word I discovered to my great joy that I really was being more and more “thoroughly equipped for every good work”. If I wanted to know God more and more, if I wanted to learn to recognise his voice and to know when he was speaking to me, I needed to know his Word. As the Church tells us, God seeks contact with us in many ways - in human encounters, in the challenges and the suffering we face there is a message from God to us. He speaks even more clearly in his Word and we need to trust him completely, learn to understand him better and better, and accept his will without reservation (YOUCAT 20). I now feel somehow incomplete and impoverished if I do not start my day by reading and reflecting on Scripture “For the Word of God is living and judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). In my daily life God’s Word really is “a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105) and I have come to know that “my word that goes out from my mouth will not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

As I read the Scriptures the Lord often prepares me for something He is going to do, for something I am going to encounter, for an opportunity or a challenge He is going to lay before me

In my experience this is true of the Word of Scripture, of Jesus the Word made flesh, of the personal word spoken in my heart and of the prophetic word which is discerned as coming from the Lord. As I read the Scriptures the Lord often prepares me for something He is going to do, for something I am going to encounter, for an opportunity or a challenge he is going to lay before me. Reading the Scriptures, with the Holy Spirit enlightening and inspiring me, has transformed my life - not only my spiritual life but equally the day to day reality of all the normal things I have to do. I love the Bible and I have many different translations to which I can refer. My favourite remains my first Jerusalem Bible which I bought in 1976 when God said to me “Read My Word!” and I can think of no better way to grow in my relationship with Him than by reading, reflecting on and listening deeply to His Word in my heart. It remains for me a life-changing experience.

© Charles Whitehead

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