Turning Unfamiliarity Into Opportunity


“So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
–Romans 10:17

Not too long ago a friend of mine posted on social media airing his disappointment with how “Biblically illiterate” our nation has become. He could not understand how people didn’t know the basic stories of the Bible. Stories like Noah’s Ark or Jonah and the Whale were some examples. He was even more amazed that some of this unfamiliarity with God’s Word came from church-going individuals.

It got me thinking about what we can do to help those who lack the basic understanding of who God is and what He has done for us.

Unfamiliarity with God’s Word

“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 competent, equipped for every good work.”
 –II Timothy 3:16-7

The technology age has drawn people away from communication through the written word. People do not write anymore, they type. People no longer turn a page, they swipe left. Unless you are an avid reader who must have the physical book in your hand, then it must have been years since you picked up a book, much less a Bible.

With the popularity of the smartphone and tablet, there is an expression that goes around, “There’s an App for that.” And certainly, there are a multiple of applications for the Bible. The best part of having the Bible in an application form is, you are not stuck with a version, as with a printed Bible.

I think one of the biggest turnoffs to those who have a desire to read the Bible is the language in which it is written. However, there are versions that replace the traditional King James Version language you may have grown up with.

Versions like the New Living Translation (NLT), New International Version (NIV), and English Standard Version (ESV) have simplified terminology but hold onto the original meaning. The version I use on this blog is the ESV. In today’s Bible apps, you can easily switch between versions and find the one that you are most comfortable reading.

The Next Step: Digging Deeper

After selecting a version, most applications also have Bible studies, from the simple to the advanced, that you can begin to read. The stories my friend was alluding to; Noah can be found in Genesis, as well as stories of creation, Abraham, and Moses; Jonah has his own book. His story is amazing and a favorite of children, as well as adults.

The basic idea is to read. You can read cover to cover, you can skip around, there are no rules to it. There are stories that for everyone; Biblical truths that withstand the test of time. The same God who was with the men and women of Bible times is with you today.

The only difference is that we have the added benefit of the Holy Spirit, the part of God that indwells in us. The Holy Spirit gives us a deeper understanding of what we are reading, of God himself, and of His Work.

Unfamiliarity with God’s Work

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” –John 14:12

When people have an unfamiliarity with God’s Word, then they will most likely have an unfamiliarity with God’s Work. If you don’t know what the Bible says, then how can you expect to use the power that is given to you.

Think of it this way; If you don’t read the owner’s manual, then how will you ever know the full capability of the device.

Reading God’s Word teaches us about God and the immeasurable love he has for us. As we read the true stories of Joseph, David, Peter, and Paul we can see how God worked in each of them and how His power was displayed in their lives.

God is with us, and He loves each of us. The same love He gave Abraham, Ruth, and Solomon, He extends to us today. The more we learn about it, the more we will see it working around us. The more we see His love in action, the more we will witness the wonders His love brings.

Then we will begin to appreciate things a more; a sunrise or sunset, the birds flying and chirping about, the voice of a child, and the colors of each season, they all become more vibrant.

How We Become Familiar

“That they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.”
–Acts 17:27

It all begins with having a personal relationship with Christ. This means that, just like a friend, you get to know them. David knew the Lord. Moses, and Abraham really knew the Lord. The disciples really, really knew the Lord, they walked with him; face to face.

The closer these men became to the Lord, the stronger they became in Him. The more they witnessed His work, the more they wanted to know about Him.

An Example:

The best example of this concept would be the relationship you have with your spouse. There was a time you did not know them, then you were introduced, or perhaps you met by chance. You became intrigued by them. So, you began to see them more, talk with them more, learn more about them. (The key word here is ‘more.’)

Each experience and each fact you learned to draw you closer to them. Then you fell in love, got married, and now you live your life together.

It is the same with God. Someone introduces you to Him, you get to know about Him, you share experiences with Him, you fall in love with Him, and you share your life together with Him.

You would think that it would get old; That there is going to eventually be a moment when you know everything about a person, but I am proof that this is not the case.

I have surpassed 20 years of marriage, and there is not a week that goes by that I do not learn something new (or a change of sorts) about Carolyn.

There is also always something new to learn about God.

One of the beauties of reading God’s Word is that you can read a passage one day, then come back to that same passage a month, or a year, down the line, and you will get something completely different out of it.

It’s like a peanut butter cup, one day you will taste the chocolate, then the next time you eat it, you find yourself enjoying the peanut butter more. (okay… maybe not quite like that.) The point is that experiencing God never gets old.

The Opportunity We Have

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” -Romans 10:14-15a

To help a new Christian, or even a long-timer, in their journey into God’s Word, you can draw on personal experience to help them relate to different people in the Bible.

If they have a loss, introduce them to Job.

If they feel persecuted, show them stories of Paul and Peter.

If they feel unloved, shine the spotlight on Jesus himself.

There is someone for everyone.

The stories most of us grew up with sit on the shelf collecting dust because we treat them as stories. Well, the events in the Bible are not stories; they are history. These events actually happened. To real people.

Real people with real lives; men, women, teenagers, husbands, wives, employers, and employees. Each with their own life event that you and I can relate to. All we need to do is read about it.

We should never look at scriptural unfamiliarity as a negative. We must turn it into a ministry opportunity. It was amazing to me to see the old Bible histories come to life as I grew older.

The histories I read as a kid are now applicable. To be able to use them now to give illustrations to those who have never heard, or have forgotten, is pretty awesome.

So, read about them, learn from them, and live with them; then teach what you’ve learned to others.

“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 competent, equipped for every good work.”
 –II Timothy 3:16-7

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