If I were a Benedictine monk, my days would be highly structured. When and what I ate would be set. Where and when I slept would be set. What I’d do in the day, what I’d do in the evening... all set by the Benedictine Rule: 73 chapters of instructions written in the 6th century by St Benedict on how to live as a monk in a monastery.
I am not a Benedictine monk, and you are likely not one either. However—Christian or not, consciously or unconsciously—we all have rules for life. Some of the most common rules I hear from my friends and colleagues are:
You might subscribe to some of these. You might find some of them awful. But what would a Christian say? Possibly, “I live by the Bible”—but what does that actually mean?
When we think about “living by the Bible”, we tend to jump straight to reading it by ourselves. Now, personal meditation on God’s word is commended in the Bible, but it talks far more frequently about speaking God’s word to each other than it does about studying God’s word alone.
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17—”All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work”—God-breathed Scripture is not used in personal reflection. It is used for the growth of others. It’s spoken between Christian brothers and sisters to equip us for good works.
Likewise, Ephesians 5 instructs us to speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.1 Thessalonians 5:11 says to “encourage one another and build one another up”. And Hebrews 10:24-25 instructs us to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together”.
Recently some friends and I headed out to a mountain bike park. It was great fun: hills, descents, big banked corners, obstacles. But it wasn’t a typical mountain biking experience because our friend Stephen came along.
Stephen is blind, and he has a tandem mountain bike that is an absolute blast.
Heading down the trails at speed on a tandem is quite different to riding a single bike. You’re a team. And when the trail has lots of challenges and changes then there’s constant talking. You’re always working together to time the pedals, gear changes and weight shifts.
Now you can ride a tandem by yourself. In fact, I have ridden a tandem by myself, to practice. And the training shows. But, two riders, talking to each other—that’s what the bike is really made for. That’s when it really gets exciting.
So it is with the Christian life and living by God’s word.
It’s good to read God’s word on your own. It’s very good to practice on your own, and you will notice the improvement. But the Christian journey really sings when we do it together: speaking God’s word to each other, encouraging each other, being on the same team.
So when and where do you speak God’s word to others? When and where do you hear God’s word spoken to you?
You hear a sermon on Sunday? Great. But when do you share what you learned from God’s word on to another?
You’re in a growth group? Join one if you aren’t. A growth group is all about sharing the word together.
You’re single or living by yourself? What do you do to spend time with others and have the opportunity to share God’s word with them?
Are you parenting kids at home? Does God’s word come up in daily life? Are you passing it on to them? Pray with your kids both when they are sad and when they are rejoicing.
A few months ago we had a friend over for dinner. We’ve only recently gotten to know him, and he lives alone. He gave us a photo he had taken: a landscape photo with a Bible verse below. In that small act he spoke God’s word to us. That photo is now on the wall in our hallway, part of God’s word in our home.
God’s word is beautiful, and it sings when we live it by speaking it to each other.