All of us at some point have had a parent, a teacher, or a coach come to us with the intention of giving us advice or some nugget of wisdom. We can debate whether the advice itself was sound, or what their motivation was in giving it, but the point is that once the advice was given the responsibility shifted to us on what we would do with it. A coach can give a great piece of advice on what we could be doing differently on the field to be more effective, but if we never apply the advice, then even the best wisdom has no lasting impact. Even the most naturally talented athlete will likely end up failing if they never listen to the wisdom of their coaches.
In a similar way, knowledge of the Bible that lacks any real application in our life is like dying of dehydration in the desert with a full bottle of water in hand. Obviously, the Word of God carries far more authority than any human advice we might receive; which should cause us to pursue not only understanding but the application to our lives.
In previous posts we spent some time trying to make sure we had a proper understanding of a Bible verse in its original context. Afterward we looked for the timeless principle that bridges the gap that separates us from the original audience the text was written to. Finally, we are now able to take the principle we discovered, and will now spend some time seeing how it actually applies to us personally in order to know how God is speaking through His Word to directly impact us today.
LOOKING AT OUR VERSE
But before we go any further, lets lay out the verse that we have been walking through to make sure we remember the flow and original context. As always, I am also quoting the verse before it, and the verse after in order to give just a little extra context.
“So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted. “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told. For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans [Babylonians], that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth, to seize dwellings not their own.” – Habakkuk 1:4-6
Once we understood the meaning of the verse, and have discovered the timeless principle, we then attempted to rephrase that principle in our own words. So now, lets look at the principle we came away with in the last post.
“God is sovereign over His entire creation, and does not turn a blind eye to sin but often delays punishment for His own purposes; but we should recognize He can work through means we do not understand and as His people we should trust Him at all times even when we feel confused by how He is accomplishing those purposes.”
APPLYING WHAT WE LEARNED
Now that we are comfortable we understand the meaning of the verse, we need to examine the principles carefully and prayerfully ask the Spirit to give us understanding to guide our application. What I mean by this is that we are to trust that God does speak actively through His Word, into the lives of His people. But, we should not expect God to audibly guide our application, since we believe that God has already spoken to us through His Scriptures. Instead, God is providentially illuminating our understanding and guiding us to apply the truth He has revealed in Scripture.
So, in our own example, one of the first steps should be to prayerfully ask God how we also question His justice, His sovereignty, and ultimately His plan in the world and our lives. When we have identified some ways we are currently not trusting God, it gives us a great opportunity to repent and ask forgiveness for not living in light of the truth God has revealed. Scripture in many ways it like a mirror that God holds up to our life to reveal our blindspots in order to humble us and cause us to run to Him.
As you take the time to try and see the different ways that this verse and principle now applies to your life, I hope you will begin to realize that the application phase itself becomes increasingly personal. What I mean by this is that while the meaning of a text may be rigid and timeless, the application of it in the life of individual believers is more diverse. This is why it is inappropriate to ask yourself, “what does this text mean to me?”, because the meaning is not up for personal interpretation. But now that you know what the text means, it is now appropriate to ask, “how does the principle apply to me?”. Because the principle will remain the same regardless of culture or time in history, but it will apply itself differently for a person living in 21st century America compared to somebody living in 4th century Africa.
HOW IT APPLIES
As somebody living in the United States in the 21st century, it is easy to look around at our culture’s perverse celebration of sexual deviance, and its murderous worship of human autonomy as a “right to choose”, and become extremely discouraged like Habakkuk and question the justice of God. But what we learned was that God is just and hates sin, and will not allow sin to go unpunished. It is important to note though, that we should not necessarily expect God to send in the ‘Babylonians’ to destroy our nation. The means God used to punish sin in our passage was not the principle, the principle was that God is just to punish sin, and as His people we are to remain faithful and simply trust in His plan and purposes. Take that a step further and realize that as Christians, God has promised there will one day be an eternal and final judgement against all sin, but that our own sin is covered by the blood of Christ. So part of the application of this verse, is to recognize that God will one day judge all people for their sin, and we need to take the good news of the gospel to everyone God has placed within our spheres of influence, so that, like us, they may receive forgiveness by the blood of Christ. We may not fully understand His purposes, but we can understand who He is, and what He has commissioned us to do in light of the rest of Scripture.
To bring this application down further and make it a little more personal, this also means that the person from my past who hurt me or sinned against me in some way does not somehow need to be punished by me. Our principle tells us that nobody gets away with any sin, and that all sin will be punished. But elsewhere in Scripture we are told that we are not to take revenge, but to “leave it to the wrath of God”, and in fact we are to love our enemies (Romans 12:19-20). But once again we should pray for those who have hurt us, and in fact we are to ask that God would humble them so that they repent of their sins and look to Christ for forgiveness. So in my own life, I must trust God and His plans, and I must remain faithful to not store up bitterness and hatred in my own heart. The principle should not cause us to celebrate that somebody is going to get what is coming to them, but should cause us to realize all the sins we ourselves have committed against God, and see His grace in forgiving us through Christ.
So in my own life, I must trust God and His plans, and I must remain faithful to not store up bitterness and hatred in my own heart. The principle should not cause me to celebrate that somebody is going to get what is coming to them, but should cause me to realize all the sins I have committed against God, and see His grace in forgiving me through Christ.
It is an exciting thing to be able to read something in Scripture, understand the meaning, and have the Spirit direct and guide how it should change the way we live our lives. Hopefully you have seen why it is important to take the time to understand the meaning of a passage of Scripture before moving to this final step of application. It is dishonoring to God to ignore the meaning of His Word and simply jump to whatever application we want. This is where bad theology stems from, and why careful study is so important to honoring God and His Word. It is very important to see Bible study as an act of worship, because it reveals a heart that deeply desires to hear God for what He has to say, and not necessarily for what we want to hear.
As you move forward using some of these tools so that you can better understand the Bible, I hope that you recognize that careful study of God’s Word is an act of worship that is pleasing to God and brings Him glory.