We can receive focus for life decisions from the Word of God
The Bible offers much for us, assuming we bother to tap into its treasure-trove of knowledge. One of the Bible’s uses is to provide direction for our lives.
To realize the Bible’s insight as applicable to our lives, however, we need to read it, study it, and discern it. Looking for quick answers usually doesn’t work out so well.
Be wary of these ill-advised shortcuts and follow the one reliable technique:
Random Verse Selection: You’ve likely heard of a person, desperate for answers, who holds up their Bible and demands, “God speak to me.” Then they open the Word of God to a random page and read the first verse they see.
Sometimes they actually receive an applicable verse that offers comfort, confirmation, or instruction. However, the selected verse often provides confusion or a laughable text, given their situation. This is an especially dangerous method when making critical life decisions.
Asking God to direct us to a random passage and faithfully expecting him to do so is not something we should avoid, but we should exercise great care if we do this. And it should never be a regular practice.
Word Studies: Looking up verses in the Bible that contain a certain word or phrase can provide an incredible amount of insight. I do this often and am amazed to see how words connect throughout the Bible, with one verse illuminating another.
Yet, we need to be careful with word studies. When used wrongly or indiscriminately, this in-depth analysis can lead us to bad theology or unwarranted conclusions.
For example, assume we’re doing a word study on marriage. Some scholars place extra emphasis on a word’s first appearance in the Bible, claiming it should guide our understanding of subsequent appearances.
The first mention of a form of the word marriage in the Bible occurs in Genesis 4:19, as in, “Lamech married two women.” The implication equates marriage with polygamy, hardly a worthy conclusion. Be careful of word studies, especially when the goal is to use the results to make a decision.
Proof Texting: An extension of word studies is proof texting. Proof texting involves taking various verses from different sections of the Bible and linking them together to form a conclusion, often a predetermined one. It uses the Bible to justify an agenda.
The problem when doing this is the likelihood of taking verses out of context to prove a point. This may result in applying a verse literally, when the context is figurative or even rhetorical. It could involve looking at the words of an ancient work and forcing them into a modern context they were never meant to address.
Just as with word studies, the concept behind proof texting can produce valuable results. However, if we don’t exercise extreme care, the more likely outcome is manipulating the Bible to say what we want it to say.
An Intentional Study Plan: As an alternative to the three above approaches, the better solution is to follow a regular Bible reading plan. This might involve reading the Bible through in one year. Another option is spending an extended time studying the words in one book of the Bible or the writings of one author, such as Luke, John, or Paul.
As we read and study the Bible, God will speak to us. He will reveal truth. And since we’re following a preconceived plan, we protect ourselves from interjecting our own agenda into what we select to read, which can easily happen when we don’t have a plan and follow our own whims on a haphazard basis.
The Bible can give us valuable direction for making life decisions but only when we read it wisely and don’t try to use it to meet our own agenda.