During my subconscious daily tasks of getting ready God laid in my spirit a topic of discussion, Biblical sound bites. While brushing my teeth as well as showering I meditated and analyzed these words to gain a broader perspective. The secular world provides a true definition; Sound bites are short speeches usually used on radio or television as part of a news story. Often during the rebroadcasting, common phrases are taken out of context simply because the entire message was not heard. When a statement is given by a politician, during an interview it is misconstrued when transmitted to the viewers. These snippets are perceived as the truth thus leading to an altered state of mind by constituents and non-constituents alike. Likewise Christians and part time Christians fall victim to biblical sound bites.
Biblically Christians , albeit babes in Christ, new followers or seasoned disciples fall in the same sound bite trap by taking scripture out of context. When sacred passages are twisted, it gives way to opinion and not fact and once we allow this concept to reach our mind we allow it to to become real or actual. It is during water cooler debates that conjured up theories come to life and never have we taken the time to hear (or read) the entire story to get the full perspective. Some theologians call this act ‘script hopping’, which is simply reading a passage and coming up with your own interpretation without reading the entire chapter. I have also heard many good Pastors say the best way to get an understanding of a particular passage is to read at lease two or three verses before and after to formulate a better understanding of God’s word.
Where am I going with this? There are many examples in the bible which illustrate text people use in their day to day journey and simply misquote the meaning. One verse that I believe is most often taken out of context as well as paraphrased is Psalms 37:4 …He will give you the desires of your heart. This passage is often quoted, used as affirmations, as well as the epitome to God answering prayers. However, by simply applying the two verses before and two verses after rule the reader would discover a deeper meaning.
Verse one tells us …do not fret of those who are evil or be envious…
Verse two …like grass they will wither…
Verse three …Trust in the Lord and do good…
Verse four … he will give you the desires of your heart …
Verse five …Commit your way to the Lord trust in him…
Verse six ...He will make your righteous reward shine.
Now, if you take time to read the six verses of Psalms 37 in their entirety one will realize that to get the desires of your heart there are several steps a Christian has to take. In most cases many of us are not applying any of the steps in our relationship with God the Father. We are doing the exact opposite:
1. We fret daily
2. we worry about how the evil ones prosper and you don’t
3. we don’t trust God fully
4. we don’t take delight in God (yet we ask for our desires)
5. we don’t commit our way to God nor trust in him
6. So how can he make your righteous shine when we have not applied any of the five aforementioned steps?
We all know of family, friends, and other Christians who use passages such as this as a catalyst to validate their desires yet becoming upset and often angry with God when he does not grant the prayer. “Lord I want this, I deserve that, why have I not received it yet!” Let us all be clear, David wrote and told us how God gave him his desires however it came with a prerequisite. Remember the true purpose of us even existing has nothing to do with getting the desires of our heart (more money, bigger house, better job, or other material things) but everything to do with serving and worshiping God daily.
Surrendering all to Jesus
All to Jesus I surrender; all to Him I freely give; I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live. These words confirm what Jesus said “if any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his own cross and follow me” Luke 9:23. Judson W. Van DeVenter’s hymn, describes what we as believers must do daily; All to Jesus I surrender; humbly at His feet I bow, Worldly pleasures all forsaken; take me, Jesus, take me now. As students of the gospel, when we text hop and manipulate the verses to confirm to “our” understanding time and again we loose focus or do not identify God’s plan/purpose for us. God’s desire is for us to willingly and freely come to him and worship as this classic hymn renders. By surrendering, praising, giving honor, and glory unto his name makes him happy. In exchange of surrendering our will unto God we often get the desires that loiter around in our vivid imagination called the mind.
An excellent example of submitting oneself for the betterment of God verses self gratification is Solomon (read 1 Kings 3:1-15). During a time when Solomon was building a new temple and marrying Pharaoh’s daughter, he also had to deal with people and their shenanigans. In a dream, God came to Solomon and stated “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Now, if any one us would have experienced this, we would have asked for the desires of our heart; six figure income, cars, money, and longevity. Instead, Solomon first thanked God for his father David, continuing his kindness unto him and bestowing kingship even though Solomon was only a child. He asks God to “give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” The Lord was pleased that Solomon had not asked for long life or wealth for himself, nor asked for the death of his enemies so God blessed him based on what was asked. On the backside of seeking to please God, he gave Solomon things not ask for; “Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor” This paints a great picture of what God can do if we surrender unto him, take time to study the word and continuously praise his Holy name!
I speak for myself and those who can relate. For years I lived upon the verse asking for the desires of my heart. When God didn’t deliver my ‘personal’ wishes I became frustrated, bitter, enraged, and ultimately withdrawing from God. The battle became an all out war attempting to justify why God refuses to respond. In the midst of my struggle, I slowly realized my mind was inadequate to the majestic mind of God and my arms where too short to box. In the middle of my resistance I begin to seek God’s will oppose to mine.
The point I’m attempting to make today for those who are guilty of “text hopping”, and struggling with your relationship with Christ, take time to study the word in detail. Understand that biblical sound bites can be detrimental. By reading and twisting the word to your understanding it can cause you to miss what God truly has for you. Seize the opportunity to read more than just the verse, remember the two before and two after rule as well as study to show you are approved unto God. These practical study tips will align you with God’s will and in due season you will get the desires of your heart!