The Work of the Word
DECEMBER 4, 2021
by Cheryl Marshall and Caroline Newheiser
One afternoon when I (Cheryl) was in high school, I was talking on the phone with a Christian friend and complaining (once again) about some circumstances in my life. I was throwing a first-rate pity party when my friend suddenly said, “Cheryl, I’m going to hang up the phone now. Go read 2 Corinthians 4.” I was shocked when she immediately hung up on me, but I went into my bedroom, opened my Bible, and was introduced to a chapter that God would use to teach and change me. Over the next several weeks I devoured 2 Corinthians 4. As I read, studied, and memorized it, my heart was renewed with a Godward joy and purpose. The last three verses of the chapter were especially instructive and encouraging. They reminded me that God was sanctifying me through my trials, and that to endure hardship I had to look beyond my temporary circumstances to the eternal promises that are mine in Christ:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16–18)
Can you remember a time in your life when a passage of Scripture made a significant impact on you? Can you identify smaller, less dramatic ways that God’s word influences and directs you on a daily basis? The way God used 2 Corinthians 4 in my life is just one of the countless stories of how God uses his word to transform his people. Scripture is at work in all who receive it by faith. When we first receive the gospel as revealed in the word, it saves our souls (James 1:21). But once we are saved, the word has an ongoing effect in us. What is Scripture doing in us? How are we being transformed?
First, Scripture increases our knowledge of God. Have you known a friend who speaks about the Lord easily and whose prayers are filled with Scripture? Have you sensed that she walks closely with the Lord? Most likely, her knowledge of God and her love for him have grown out of spending significant time in the word. On the pages of Scripture, she’s seen and heard the Lord. There she’s found him to be merciful, gracious, patient, loving, faithful, and forgiving (Ex. 34:6–7). Likewise, as we read and study the Bible, we will grow in understanding who God is and what he’s like. Do you want to have a vibrant faith? Consistently seek to know the Lord in his word.
Second, Scripture sanctifies us. As God instructs us in his word about who he is, he also instructs us about who we are and who we’re becoming: we’re children of God being conformed to the image of Christ. The apostle Peter explains, “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Pet. 1:15). God applies the truth of Scripture to our lives so that we become more holy in heart and conduct like Jesus. The word teaches us to battle sin: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:11). It also shows us how to obey:
“I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me” (Ps. 119:30). As we saturate our hearts and minds with the truth of God’s word, we will increasingly overcome sin and grow in Christlike obedience.
Third, Scripture makes us wise. God’s word is able to make us wise for salvation (2 Tim. 3:15). It also provides us with instruction, guidance, and discernment for daily living (Prov. 1:2–3). God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours, but as we read and meditate on his word, our thoughts and ways become more like his. We learn to discern truth from error and to make choices according to the commands and principles of Scripture. Day by day, our foolishness is replaced with God’s wisdom, which is pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, merciful, impartial, and sincere (James 3:17).
Fourth, Scripture encourages us. Sometimes it’s the small, mundane things of life that can weigh us down, and at other times significant needs or difficult circumstances may discourage and trouble us deeply. In either case, God’s word provides us with truth about his presence, promises, and character to help us persevere through any hardship. Scripture gives us hope: “I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words” (Ps. 119:147). It comforts us: “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life” (Ps. 119:50). And it makes us spiritually strong: “My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word” (Ps. 119:28). In times of trial, God’s word fortifies our faith and enables us to endure.
Lastly, Scripture brings blessing into our lives. Every good thing we enjoy is a gift from God and a result of his lovingkindness. Even the blessings we receive by ordering our lives according to his word are by his grace: “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you” (Ps. 128:1–2). For example, when we follow Scripture’s teaching about finances, we can enjoy freedom from debt. When we apply biblical principles of forgiveness, we can build loving, peaceful relationships. When we commit ourselves to purity and honesty, we can sleep peacefully and enjoy a clear conscience. When we sow the truth of God’s word into our lives, we reap the beautiful fruit it produces: “This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts” (Ps. 119:56).
Listen to our interview with Cheryl Marshall and Caroline Newheiser here.