2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 & Isaiah 55:1-11

Bible Sunday 2015

Every year we go to New Wine, a great big Christian conference/holiday. One of the things about that type of event is that you have the opportunity to get some in depth Bible teaching. One year, there was something about the way the guy doing the Bible teaching held his Bible that really hit me. He’d stand there, holding his Bible like this, like something wonderfully precious, like something he didn’t want to let fall, like something he wanted to devour. His posture reminded me of how a 5 year old looks when she’s discovered something wonderful to her that she wants not to lose but to examine and wonder over.

But it wasn’t the physical book that was inspiring this reaction, it was the content. Here was someone whose very posture communicated his love for the word of God, someone for whom this book clearly contained honey for his lips. When I started thinking about what I was going to say this morning, I remembered this bloke and thought it would be good to share some of the things about the Bible that stir up those reactions in me, and to make an opportunity for us to discover or rediscover a love for God’s words.

I want to talk about three aspects that cause me to wonder and love the Bible, and the God who gave it to us. Sweep, Bits and Characters.


Have you ever seen a tapestry? On one side you have a picture, but on the other side you have a mess. People sometimes say that life is a bit like that. What we can see now is like the backside, and in places we can make out what the picture might be but very often it just looks like a mess. What we will see in heaven is the other side, when we will see the full picture.

But how do we know that this is true? When we’re in the mire, and it’s all going a bit wrong and all we can see is mess.

We know it’s true because in the sweep of the Bible we see parts of the picture in all their glory.

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, just before the bit we heard read this morning, Paul lists a whole load of things that have gone badly for him, and difficulties he has faced, but he insists that despite all that, all the opposition it is important that Timothy keep on preaching the word. Paul is saying look, Timothy, you know about all the messy bits that happened to me, but you also know about the picture, about how God rescued me, so keep on keeping on.

In the Old Testament, we find Joseph’s story. When Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers and thrown into jail on a false rape allegation, we see the messy side of his tapestry. When he is rescued from that jail by the knowledge of dreams that God gives him, and is made a government minister of the Pharaoh, the government minister who has the power to save his family from famine years later, we are shown the picture.

Throughout the sweep of the history of God’s people, starting from the choice of Abraham, through the Exile in Egypt, through God’s rescue of the people from Egypt at passover, and the coming to the promised land we see God keeping promises through the history of the people of Israel.

On several occasions as we read through the history sections of the Old Testament we come to summaries of what God has done, of how God has kept promises and blessed the people.

Whenever I think about the historical sweep of this book, and the consistency of God’s fulfillment of promise and of God’s Kingdom values through that history it makes me excited and encourages my faith.

Now, it can be difficult getting your head round this stuff. Reading through the Bible is a big job, but it’s very worthwhile. Sometimes it can be confusing because it’s not all written as history. Help is at hand though, there’s loads of things out there that can give us an overview so that we can see how it does fit together.


But it’s not just big long stories, there are episodes. There are fragments that stick in our minds and in our hearts and help us get it.

One that I know a lot of people find helpful is from Isaiah 55:

“So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

You might have your own favorites. Verses that mean something special to you, that have helped you in difficult times, verses that have revealed something new about God to you. Verses that have convicted you, that have been like a hammer and anvil, that have reshaped you.

But I find that it’s not just the famous verses. Sometimes you can be reading along and a verse will stop you dead, a verse that you need to stop and think about and let it sink in.  Last time I was here I was preaching on a passage from James about wisdom and the phrase “willing to yield” jumped out at me. It was a real challenge to me and my arrogance.

Every bit of the Bible is there for a purpose and can speak into our lives, if we listen.


The Bible isn’t just about God. It’s about people. All these heroes of our faith, with all their flaws on display. People we can identify with. And because we can identify with their flaws, we can identify with what God does with, despite, and through those flaws.

When we get to heaven we are going to owe a huge debt of gratitude to these guys.

Take Peter. One of the Jesus’ closest friends. The founder of the church. The first one to recognise Jesus as the Christ, the one God had sent to be the King that the Jews had been waiting for for centuries. Peter is one of the cornerstones of the Kingdom, one of the heroes of our faith.

Yet in here, in the Bible, we are also shown his flaws, his betrayal of Jesus, his lack of faith, his lack of self discipline.  How would we feel if God decided to reveal our flaws and sins to several billion people throughout history so that they could know God better? I think that Peter is overjoyed, that’s the true heroism of humility.

The other characters are those that appear in the parables, pen portraits that feel like we are looking in the mirror.

Are you the prodigal son or the elder brother? Or are you the father waiting and watching?

Are you the Good Samaritan, or are you walking by on the other side. Or are you lying in the road battered and beaten?

Our God is a God of relationships, in this book God shows us relationships God has had with people like us. God invites us through these examples to enjoy a relationship with God, because God loves us.

So if I’m right about this lot, about the awesome and majestic sweep of the history of God’s story, about the verses that drip with richness and have the power to change our lives, if this book contains hundreds of characters who witness to the love and transforming power of God, if I’m right about all this, what are you going to do about it?

I’d like to take a moment now for us to think about our Bible reading habits. How often we read the Bible, for how long. Whether we study it. How we feel about our answers.

Some of you know that I do a fair bit of running. Or at least, I used to, over the last couple of years I’ve been doing less because I’ve been injured. That’s mostly sorted now, so I’m building it back up. And that takes time – I can’t go back to the distances and pace I was running before I got injured. I have to take it easy. Friends of mine who have started running from scratch have found things like the couch to 5k programme really helpful because it gives them a way to start exercising that is possible. Some people also join a running club to encourage them and spur them on when they don’t feel like it.
I have a feeling that there are parallels with Bible reading. If you’ve never had a habit of reading and studying a Bible daily, or if we’ve got out of the habit then trying to go straight into an hour a day is likely to end in failure – it’s too big a jump. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make a start. The St Chad’s daily readings on the notice sheet might be one place to do that. Or you might decide to read through one of the gospels. You might download an audio Bible and listen to it on the way to work or while you’re doing the ironing. You might agree to meet with a friend from church every so often and compare notes on what you’ve been reading in the Bible.

To be honest, there is no shortage of opportunities and possibilities and in the end we just have to make a choice. There are two ways we can go.

There’s the vicious spiral. Don’t read our Bibles. Don’t listen to God’s communication with us. Don’t give the Holy Spirit opportunity to comfort us, teach us, grow us. Feel further from God. Want to avoid God, to avoid God’s words. Don’t read our Bibles.

On the other hand, there’s the virtuous spiral. Read our Bibles. Open our hearts to the Spirit and the Word. Arm ourselves with our Spiritual sword. Grow in maturity, faith and love for God. Grow in discipline and desire. Read our Bibles more.

It is my prayer that we will all be inspired and strengthened to choose the second option, that we will know ourselves to be forgiven when we fail, and that we will pick ourselves up, pick up our Bibles and persevere to receive all the good things that God has for us in God’s word.

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