A clear verse describing the influence of God’s word is: “So shall My word be that goes forth from mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isa 55:11).
Indeed, God’s word shall not return void.
It has its power and its influence, and those who experienced its power in their live could transfer such power to others. St. Paul describes all this, saying, “The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb 4:12).
Somebody perhaps wonders why he reads but not influenced!
Certainly the fault is with such a person, not with God’s word which is sharper than any two-edged sword. It cuts the flesh but not the stone. Therefore God says in (Ez 36:26): “I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” What kind then is your heart which receives God’s word? Is it flesh or stone? The Virgin of the Song heard the Lord’s voice saying, “Open for me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one; for my head is covered with dew, my locks with the drops of the night,” yet she did not open and gave herself excuses!
It is true that God’s word is living and powerful, but it works more in those who open and who wish. However, even if it does not work in you today, it may do afterwards, for it never returns void.
It will remain in your subconscious and when your heart is ready and the time is suitable the word will come out of your mind and stick to your heart and do its work. When you rejected it at first, that was temporary, perhaps because of some tepidity, but afterwards you come to yourself as the Virgin in the Song did: “My beloved put his hand by the latch of the door, and my heart yearned for him… my heart leaped up…” (Song 5: 4, 6)
Not every seed sowed gives fruit immediately. Some seeds yield fruit after years or months.
If you store God’s words in your heart and mind, they will give their fruit in due time, especially if you meditate in them day and night and protect them from any inner or outer hindrances. Perhaps the water did not reach the seed at one, but it still has life and it will grow. Therefore the Scripture says the beautiful words, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.(Eccl 11:1)
Therefore, in the ministry do not lose hope if you do not find immediate fruit.
Be patient and wait for the Lord, for not all souls are similar or quick responding, nor all circumstances are suitable. Some are readily influenced, and some do need explanation to be convinced and need follow up and solutions for whatever hardships.
Some people receive the word to increase knowledge, not to gain life.
They receive it into their mind not their spirit, to add to their knowledge, not to cleanse their heart. This is the difference between a scholar and a worshipper: A scholar reads and studies the Scripture, explain, and interpret it as the scribes and Pharisees did while sitting in Moses’ seat (Mt 23: 2), teaching but not working. Word in his heart so as not to sin against Him as David the Prophet says (Ps 119: 11).
The work of the Scripture within a person.
If one responds and lets God’s word words in him, the results will be as follows:
1- The divine word will keep the mind from distraction and occupy it with the divine matters. It leads the mind to a safe harbor, and helps concentration and spiritual influence when read with awe.
2- It provides us with understanding, enlightment, and knowledge, as the Psalmist says: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my patch,” “The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” (Ps 119: 105; 19:8) That is when the candles are lit during reading the Gospel. It also gives understanding: “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” (Ps 19) He says further, “ I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts.” (Ps 119: 99,100) By understanding a person learns the ways of the Lord, learns how to walk, and acquires the gift of discerning and wisdom, taking from the saints of the Bible and example to follow. (Heb 13: 7)
3- Reading the Scripture guides us to the sound doctrine, provided that we read it with understanding and discernment and under guidance. Also memorizing one or more verses for each doctrine will protect us from heresies and wrong teaching. This was the way of the great church fathers and heroes of faith by which they resisted heresies.
4- Reading the Scripture guides the reader to the life of repentance and spiritual growth. In the light of His commandments a person can attain to examining himself properly and discovering his weaknesses and sins, A person may also know that he is required not only to repent but also to lead a life of holiness and perfection, for the apostle says, “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” (1 Pet 1: 15,16; Lev 11: 44) And He Lord says, “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Mt 5:48) The Scripture expounds in detail the life of repentance, holiness, and perfection, giving examples for each. On the contrary the Lord says, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures.” (Mt 22:29)
5- Reading the Scripture gives the mind a kind of bashfulness if tempted by sin, for how can the mind that has been sanctified by the words of God and by the spiritual atmosphere during reading be defiled by a sinful thought after that?!
6- In the wars of the devil a person can resist sin with a commandment as St. Evagrius says in his book about “wars of thoughts”. And if your time is wasted in chatting remember the words, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking,” “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Prov 10: 19; Ps 141)
If you are fought will anger, remember the words:
“Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God,” “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go.” (Jas 1: 19, 20; Prov 22: 24)
Again, if you are fought with the lustful look, remember the words, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?” (Mt 5:28; Job 31: 1)
If one has the verses of the Bible in mind and heart, one can recall them and resist any wars of the enemy. The mere remembrance of the commandment makes a person abashed and reluctant to sin, for when one sins he is actually forgetting God’s commands.
7- The words of the Scripture gives comfort in troubles and power in weakness. David the Prophet used to say to the Lord, “I hope in Your word,” “I trust in your word.” (Ps 119) And when he was exposed to the attacks of the enemies, he said, “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive… Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers… Our help is in the name of the Lord.” (Ps 123)
The Scripture includes much about hope.
Whoever reads and memorizes its words will find comfort and peace of heart as the apostle says, “Rejoicing in hope” (Rom 12:12) Many also are God’s promises in His Scripture: (Mr 28: 20; 10: 30, 31; Acts 18: 10)
8- The Scripture contains everything, for everybody, in every case. You can find whatever suits you. In the Book of Psalms, you will find all types of prayers and emotions; in the proverbs, all kinds of advices. Each Book carries a message.
You can benefit from the Scripture in many ways:
1- For prayer : Besides praying before and after reading, you will find a material that teach you how to pray and how to speak to God, as in the Psalms, in some prayers of the holy men like Daniel the Prophet, Ezra, Nehemiah, Jonah, the Virgin… etc.
2- For meditation: One can take a certain incident or miracle or parable or verse to meditate in with your mind and heart.
3- For spiritual exercises: One can choose the exercises that suit one’s level and spiritual needs for growing in the life of virtue.
4- For repentance: You can find words that raise within you a strong motive to repent, or to reconcile with your brother for instance (Mr 25: 23, 24). When you read verses on vows, as in (Eccl 5: 4, 5), you will feel obliged to pay the vows you did not pay in due time.
5- You can memorize many verses.
Exercises for memorizing the Scripture:
1- Memorize parts of the main chapters of the Scripture, as those in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-8); the chapter of love ( 1Cor 13); the beautiful advices (Rom 12); the Lord’s long prayer before going to Gethsemane (Jn 17); some speeches of Christ to His disciples (Jn 14 – 17).
2- Memorize verses in alphabetic order, such as verses starting with letters of your names, of some saints, or of some virtues, or with words like: “church, priesthood… etc.”
3- Memorize verses containing certain words, parts of the body… etc.
4- Memorize verses on certain subjects, such as verses on rejoicing, comfort, meet ness… etc. or verses refuting some views, encouraging a person in despair, advising a sinner, or giving thanks.
5- Train yourself to use verses during talking with others. Let the language of the Scripture be always present on your mouth, in whatever you say. In this way you will not utter wrong things, and you will be an example. Remember a verse in every situation, and in dealing with any problem.
6- You can record your chosen verses in a notebook, such as verses affecting you or guiding you to a work plan. Then memorize such verses. I want to hold competitions in memorizing, or to publish books that may help you memorize verses on various topics.
The Scripture in your house:
The Lord said, “These words… shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children … when you sit in your house, … walk by the way, … lie down, … rise up … you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deut 6)
How far then do you comply with these commandments?
1- Are these verses hung on the walls of your house that you and your wife and children may memorize?
2- Do you teach your children the Scripture or leave this to the Sunday Schools?
3- Do you use the language of the Scripture at home, according to the commandment?
4- Do you read the Scripture everyday while sitting with your household?
5- Do you train your children to memorize verses and make competitions in this? I ask you before God asks you…