I often say unashamedly that the best thing UBF ever did for me was to arouse within me the utmost desire to read and study the Bible every day of my life. This passion for reading and studying and devouring Scripture has not subsided in me since I came to UBF and became a Christian in 1980.
Of course, without a doubt, this is God Himself pursuing me (Jn 4:23b) through UBF and through the influence of UBF people, in particular Samuel Lee. I am sorry if it is painful for some to read this, since Lee has hurt others directly and indirectly. But Lee did inspire me to love the Bible as the very “word of God” (1 Thess 2:13). Why God choose to use Lee to inspire me to love Scripture (Ps 119:97, 103; 1:2), I can only conjecture and speculate.
After 36 years of reading and studying the Bible I have observed in myself and others that it is too easy to do so habitually without expecting to discover anything new and fresh, and without getting much joy or excitement out of it. The Bible no longer challenges us or changes us or renews us (Rom 12:2), because what the Bible says is already set and settled within us, and that in our minds the fault is invariably with others, and not with us. As Oswald Chambers aptly says, “…we develop a sense of self-righteousness, become overly critical, and are limited by the view that our beliefs are complete and settled.”
I thought of this: being excited about the Bible after three decades of Bible study is like still being excited about your spouse after three decades of marriage.
Sadly, too many couples lose the joy of their marriage with the passage of time. Many–perhaps too many–divorce. Perhaps many stick it out without divorcing even if there is no longer much joy and intimacy in their marriage. But some surely still enjoy their marriage after many decades, and may in fact find their spouses still fun and happy to be with, and their marriage more enriching and fulfilling than ever with the passing of years.
But I digress. This article is not about a great marriage, but about genuinely enjoying studying the Bible after many decades of devoted study, as I believe I have done in UBF.
Yet I have to confess that over a decade or two ago–after 10-20 years in UBF–Bible study began to gradually feel more and more like the boring predictable “same old, same old” stuff. At the time I didn’t know why. But now I believe it was because I was studying the same old familiar Bible passages again and again, year after year, without much new insight or self discovery. I was repeatedly studying the same five books of the BIble (Genesis and the four gospels) and a few other very familiar passages in the epistles and the Old Testament week after week, month after month, year after year. I was especially reading and re-reading the same old UBF lectures and manuscripts, without seriously reading from any other sources or books or listening to any other preacher.
This, I believe, was why Bible study felt stale and was no longer refreshing to me. Bible study was no longer fresh and new but unbearably repetitious, highly predictable, infuriatingly uninteresting and seriously boring. Then I became more easily irritated, angry, upset, vindictive and impatient. Some people say that I might still be like that! O Lord, have mercy.
Nonetheless, only by the grace God, God has helped me to find fresh new springs of life through studying the Bible (Ac 3:19). When there is an overflowing abundance of new life through studying Scripture I know that God gives me contentment, confidence, assurance, fulfillment, satisfaction (Ps 23:1), security, stability, faith, peace and joy that cannot be found anywhere else, other than in Him. This abundant life comes, not just from the words in the Bible, but from His living Presence in me and in our local community by His Spirit (Gal 5:16, 18, 25, 22-23).
Did I oversimplify or overstate (or understate) my sentiments regarding my decades of Bible study in UBF?
Do you find new joy and excitement in studying the Bible over time?