The above link will be plenty to read in and of itself, but this is my blog so I'll throw in my two cents as well! The statistics you will find on the website are unbelievable.
"In an interview with Assist News Service Rhodes quotes a recent poll, which indicates that 35% of born-again Christians do not read the Bible at all."
This website goes into all sorts of detail about a program they are developing, but if nothing else read the top of the page and watch the video on the right-hand side. The thing that gets me is that, not even just among Americans, but among born-again Christians there is a lack of biblical knowledge. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I should brush up in this area and approaching marriage has made me even more aware of this. But what about the people who are content where they are? What about the people who think it is enough to just believe in God? What about the people that memorize a few verses that give them warm fuzzies and then figure that they are a "good person" is enough. It's just disturbing. How can you claim to pursue Christ-like behavior when you don't have a good idea of how Christ behaved? Being a "good person" is not enough. How can you claim a desire for a deep relationship with God if you are not communicating with him? Go ask any counselor, relationship guru, pastor, someone in a successful relationship, accountant, sports coach, business partner, Christian or not, and they will tell you communication is key in any relationship.
So what about our relationship with God? The two main avenues of communicating with God are prayer and reading the bible. If you are not reading the bible very often, there goes half of your means. Then, if you are not reading the bible how can you get a true idea of how you should pray? Granted, none of us is perfect and the Christian faith involves a lifetime of learning, but there is a difference between complacency or ignorance and actively learning. We are instructed to not stay young in our faith.
Hebrews 5:11-14 (New International Version)
Warning Against Falling Away
11We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
You have open communication and the opportunity for guidance and friendship from the Creator of the Universe.
1. Guidance: You spend endless amounts of time and energy thinking, worrying, researching, agonizing over decisions of what you want out of life and how/where to find yourself, how to be of benefit to those around you, how to live the life you were created to live... We've had a book for years that will, without a doubt, provide all of those answers. Yet people still choose pop culture to solve their problems or they choose their selfish idea of "happiness" over walking with Christ. Living by biblical principles is not an option if we claim the Christian faith. Being a good person by worldly standards does not cut it. Reading a book that inspires you that goes against biblical principles does not cut it, no matter how many warm fuzzies it gives you. Walking with Christ does take a leap of faith because it requires giving up control. It requires abandoning your definition of happiness because you know that, ultimately, God knows better what will bring you true happiness. But if you never take that leap, then you are destined for a life of complacency, misery, and confusion where you continually struggle with happiness and being a good person all on your own terms. I can assure you, this will get exhausting. And if you don't feel that this is happening to you, then I assure you at the very least that you are causing pain to those who love you. Man wasn't made to do things alone or by his own terms. Man was made to live in perfect communion with God and be fully dependent on God's plan for what will ultimately make Him happy. Our true happiness should come directly from striving for God's happiness. That is the true happiness that some people will never experience because they can't remove the cloud of selfishness long enough to truly seek out what God wants.
2. Friendship: When you think of the people that you love surrounding yourself with whether it is your best friend, your spouse, your children, your church family, the "work crew", how do you handle that desire to draw closer to them? You spend more time with them, you learn about them, you feel loved when they want to learn about you, and you look to those people for encouragement and advice. God calls us to a relationship like this with Him but on a greater and even more intimate level. People get stuck thinking that the Christian faith is all about rules and choosing misery over joy, but that is because they do not pursue the benefits of having a true relationship with God. If you think back to all of the friendships you recalled earlier, those would not be enjoyable relationships if all you did was give each other guidelines. You learn about each other and you learn to enjoy each other and respect each other and hold each other accountable. Then all of a sudden when it comes to God, we want to be handed the benefits of a relationship with God, but we do not put forth the effort to maintain that relationship.
The Christian faith does not consist of a one-time decision to give your life to Christ, reading a few verses that make you feel loved by God, and then going about your life pursuing your own selfish desires. It is not about checking in with God when we choose to but ignoring Him when He seems to want us to make a hard decision. It is not about choosing to live by some of the bible but disregarding other parts because they probably don't apply to us or "God must understand that my situation is different". The Christian faith is about pursuing a relationship with Christ and it is about the ultimate goal of pleasing God and being used by Him to do His work. In other words, it is about God, not us. We live in our heads every day. So if we are going to escape our selfish desires and learn to do everything to the glory of God, it is going to take some studying, struggling, and wrestling with God. The result of all of this will most definitely be peace, fulfillment, receiving the desires of our hearts, and the love and grace of God. But to get to that end result, I believe the first step to take is to gain a greater and ongoing knowledge of the bible.
There is something encouraging about all of this though. As frustrating as it is that I easily fall into the trap of forgetting to communicate with God, and as frustrating as it is to see people I love do the same, it is encouraging that the solution is very simple. The solution does not involve 10 steps for success. The solution does not involve a list of do's and don'ts. The solution starts simply with reading the bible. That is it. As this habit grows into a hunger, a desire, and something you get excited about, the relationship with God will grow, your decision-making will become solidly based on biblical principles, and what you thought was a nasty list of Do's and Don'ts becomes the natural way for you to honor God and achieve true happiness knowing you are following God's plan. And God's plan involves 100x more fulfillment, happiness, joy, excitement, adventure, love, etc than any plan you could even imagine...