By Kathryn M. Graves
My husband, Bo, picked a tiny screw up from the floor and tried to fit it into the hole on the bicycle shaft. “Are you sure this goes in here?” he asked.
I blew my bangs off my forehead and rubbed my eyes. Glancing at my watch, I groaned.
“It’s almost one o’clock and we’re not even halfway finished.”
Bo sighed as he dropped the screw into a pile of unused parts. “We have to get this bike finished before we go to bed. You know how early the boys get up on Christmas morning. We can’t give them the parts and say Santa’s elves didn’t know how to put it together.”
I fished around in the pile of opened plastic bags and metal parts until I found the instruction sheet. “Well, we certainly don’t know how. Maybe we should read these,” I said as I unfolded the paper.
Thirty minutes later, a glittering red bicycle stood in front of the Christmas tree. A great sense of accomplishment filled my weary body. One more to put together, then we could crash into bed for a few hours of sleep before the pre-dawn rush to the tree.
As I remembered that long-ago Christmas Eve and the shouts of pleasure from our two boys the following morning, I realized failure to read the instructions cost us several hours of sleep and caused a great deal of unnecessary stress, much like when I fail to read God’s instructions in His word. I’m sure we were not the only parents up late trying to figure out how to put something together without reading the instructions first. Likewise, I’m not the only Christian who ever failed to read God’s word before trying to live my life.
The first were the Israelites. They had the Ten Commandments, but they still tried to do things their own way. God would remind them of their need to turn back to him. They’d repent and try again, but sometimes the consequences of disobedience were harsh.
In the thirteenth chapter of First Chronicles, we read about David’s decision to move the ark to Jerusalem. He didn’t make sure it was carried the correct way, resulting in the death of one man. David waited a while before he tried to move it again. This time he followed the instructions and it turned into a happy celebration:
“Then David said, ‘No one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, because the LORD has chosen them to carry the ark of the LORD . . .’” I Chronicles 15:2
In the New Testament, all the churches Paul wrote letters to had problems stemming from failure to follow God’s directions. Consequently, in each letter, Paul wrote instructions for them to follow. His words are meant for us, too, because as Galatians 1:11-12 says,
“ . . . the gospel preached by me . . . came by a revelation from Jesus Christ.”
How cool is it that we have all of God’s written instructions in the Bible? We don’t have to wait for somebody to read it to us or wait for a letter from a mentor. We have it all at our fingertips, just like Bo and I had the instruction sheet with us the whole time. We may think we don’t have time to read the Bible, but if we did, we wouldn’t have so many mistakes to correct. Sometimes we’re just lazy. We’d rather get a good night’s sleep. In the end we experience sleepless nights spent in worry.
When all else failed, Bo and I read the instructions. There weren’t any serious consequences for us with the bicycle, but there can be in our lives when we fail to read God’s instructions. That’s why I now spend the first part of every morning studying my Bible for the directions God gives.
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Kathryn M. Graves and her husband live in Kansas where he is a pastor. She has a B.A. in Psychology and has written several pre-sermon sketches, articles for the Kansas/Nebraska Baptist Digest, and a story in the book When God Steps In: True Stories of Transformation by God’s Grace. Kathryn loves cats, teaching Bible studies, flower gardening, and vacations at the lake.
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