“For everything that was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures we may have hope” (Romans 15:4 NET).
As we live as Christians we sometimes become discouraged. When we are “down” it can seem difficult to continue going on. But there is something we can “take” for that! Often when we are physically sick we are told to take a pill, to take medication which will help to pick us up again. The solution for when we are spiritually discouraged is God’s word.
Paul throughout the letter to the Romans has been quoting from God’s word given to the Israelites, contained in what we call the Old Testament. These were about the only scriptures available to Christians at the time he wrote this, as the letters and gospels were in the process of being written. Paul reminded the Christians in Rome that these things written in the past were actually written for “our instruction” – these were not just for the Israelites of old but they are for Christians, both in his day and in our day.
I’ve met many Christians who realize the need to study and live the words of Jesus recorded through the various writers in what we call the New Testament. But often, Christians do not think they have a need for what was written in former times to the Israelites. The apostle Paul would disagree! It is by going to the older writings that we can learn what we need to be encouraged to endure and have hope. Not only are the New Testament scriptures vital to us as we follow Jesus, but the Old Testament exists to instruct us as well.
There are so many things we can learn from the Old Testament. We see the love of God, God’s care for his people, and the great power of God. We can find people who have gone through difficult times and that God did not forsake them. We see the need of being faithful to God no matter what we may go through.
As we read through the writings recorded in the past, we also receive encouragement. Through the Psalms we can see how to praise God despite our circumstances, as David and the other writers did. In the Proverbs we can see how practical it is to follow God – most of the proverbs of Solomon are as applicable today as they were 3,000 years ago when they were written. As we read through the Prophets we can see that God had a plan so that all people could follow him in the Messiah. I don’t believe you can read the Old Testament and not come away with both a better knowledge of God as well as the encouragement to live for him.
With the knowledge of who God is and the encouragement to keep on living for him, we are then equipped to endure whatever it is that we come across in our lives. This encouragement gives us hope – the hope that nothing can separate us from the love that God has for us; the hope of having eternal life because of Jesus.
Our need to be reading and studying the Bible is vital if we want to survive as Christians. It is good to know about God and know about Jesus, but how much better it is to actually know God and know Jesus! This is what we receive when we spend time in God’s word.
“Now may the God of endurance and comfort give you unity with one another in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:5-6).
Readings for next week:
4 September – Romans 15
5 September – Romans 16
6 September – 1 Corinthians 1
7 September – 1 Corinthians 2-3
8 September – 1 Corinthians 4-5