It’s all in the roots

The 2010 survey said 1/3 of those who describe themselves as “born again Christians” seldom or never read their Bibles.  Perhaps it doesn’t really matter.  Bible teachers and other cranky religious nuts seem to get unnecessarily worked up over Bible disinterest.  Then again, what happens to a tree with weak roots?
Last fall we cut down a silver maple tree in our back yard.  The house is 40 years old but this was the only mature tree on the property.  Losing its shade was bad; losing the miniature but vast forest that popped up each year in nearby beds from dropped seeds, was very, very good.  All that was left after Leon carted off the firewood was an ugly stump and roots nobody could see.

This week professionals arrived with a machine that looked like a steel rhinoceros.  Even though the grinder’s cutters were about 4-5 inches wide, it still took the operator 45 minutes to turn the stump and roots into wood chips and dirt.  With between 6-9 shallow flare roots, a silver maple’s foundation is all brawn.  Roots can buckle sidewalks and break basement walls.  About 40′ high, all the muscle of our tree was stretched out below ground and out of sight. 
What keeps a believer upright?  What keeps him from breaking when the wind blows?  Why can’t she be pushed over?  What deters a believer from settling happily into a hot tub of sin?  What keeps a saint from the kind of despair that ends with a bottle of pills or a bullet?  What dissolves the kind of fear that paralyzes others?  What keeps a someone in a bitter marriage at home instead of prowling?  How can some parents bless God for a child with birth defects while others scream in fury?

Strength.  What we label “inner fortitude” or something similar may take us part way down the road but it will never supply the strength to complete the journey.  Growing up in a healthy home was a big blessing for some of us, but ultimately it’s no match for an all-out assault by a life bent mean and crooked by the Fall.  Having someone to talk to through the worst won’t do it even though most of us are grateful if we’ve got that someone.  By such things we may endure for the moment but they are not our strength.

From Noah to Shem, from Abraham to Moses, from Deborah to David, from Isaiah to Daniel, from Peter to Paul, from Jerome to Augustine, from Jan Huss to Luther, from David Brainerd to D.L. Moody, strength for the people of God has come through the voice of God, God’s revelation.  For us that’s the Bible, the final revelation of God’s redeeming work in Christ.


His Word tells us who God is and through the gospel, that He’s for us.  Depicts the breadth of His power and how He’s limited that of others’.  Describes the future He’s crafted for those He loves.  Prepares us not just for the good, but the bad we can expect in this life.  In the Bible God recruits us to be ambassadors of the gospel to the tragically disgraced race that’s our own.  We read and reread in brutish and glorious terms about God’s rescue operation.  Oh yes, and if we pay attention, in the process we learn the freeing truth that the world revolves around Him–not us.  

Having a Bible isn’t enough.  Some Bible owners remain weak and broken as theirs stays closed.  Transporting one is also pointless; it’s not a lucky charm so taking it to church makes no magic if it remains closed.  Strength doesn’t come from reading it like a textbook you expect to get quizzed on.  Not even by diligently reading a few verses each day so you can cross it off a to-do list.  It comes from the unshakable conviction that “This is the very voice of God and that apart from hearing from Him, I have no life.  Without a steady diet of this, soon life-giving truths will be forgotten or drowned out by a global din which dismisses them.  Without the Bible, over time I will become content with a Sunday religiosity that will be more than happy to replace my once-thriving faith in the work of Christ.”  

But giving God the chance to speak through the open Bible on our laps, hearing Him through an iPod or laptop, creates all kinds of tantalizing possibilities: the prospect of a gospel-saturated faith, of saying “yes” to something you’d rather say “no” to, the unlikelihood that sin is going to have the upper hand, and the ability to be who God made you to be.  Letting God out of His cage every day to roar puts the kind of muscle on our faith that the same effort at the gym does for our bodies.  But matters infinitely more.  

…for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Tim.4:8).