A friend of mine recently started a a conversation with a question I normally love. It started like this: “Have you ever read…?”
Now, I normally love questions that start with “Have you read…?” Or “Have you seen…?” Or “Have you heard…?” Connections to literature, movies and TV, music, and art always fascinate me. Such creative expressions can be windows into a bigger world and can be a fantastic starting point for a conversation about what really matters. So even if I’ve never listened to the album, never heard of the author, or have no clue what the story is about, I’m in! Tell me about it! Let’s dig into whatever you’re talking about and learn something about what it means to be human and maybe even what it means to follow Jesus.
But this particular version of that question put me on my back foot because it revealed something I wouldn’t readily admit. The question was, “Have you ever read The Princess Bride?” I was embarrassed to admit the truth. Though I can’t seem to contain my enthusiasm for the movie and my family says I’ve used it as material for sermon illustrations a bit too much already, I have not read the book. I feel like, with as often as I quote it or reference it, I should have read it by now, but I haven’t. I know…it’s inconceivable! (And I DO know what that word means!)
That sense of embarrassment and wistfulness reminded me of something I heard recently in my study of God’s Word. I heard a verse that started to compose a picture of knowing God well. I firmly believe that it is the fondest desire of every faithful Christian preacher or teacher that the people who hear their words will know God better. It’s kind of the point.
Yet, statistics show that Biblical literacy is at an all-time low in the history of our country. Spiritual fervor has waned in many corners of our society, and those who do have an interest in God would rather be known as “spiritual” than adherents to any particular organized religion. Morality in our society often seems to be far afield from its foundation on a Biblical worldview, with not much difference between those who claim Christianity as their belief system and those who claim none.
These kinds of trends and statistics can make Christian leaders concerned, frustrated, or even despairing of the efficacy of their work. “Does anybody listen to God anymore? Does anybody care about getting to know Him? What am I doing with my life?” It can be easy to bemoan the fact that everything is NOT, indeed, the way it should be. In many ways, it’s always been this way; in the days of the Judges, a whole generation of God’s people forgot the mighty works of God that their forebears experienced in Egypt and the wilderness (Judges 2:10). We can understand in our heads that it’s all because of sin, but that theological truth doesn’t necessarily remove the sense of disquiet and melancholy from our hearts.
This is where the good news of God’s promises come in. We have His assurance that our work is never in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58) and that He never allows the seeds we sow to be wasted (Isaiah 55:11). One day, on the truly glorious Day of the Lord for which we all long, God will do what we often feel powerless to do. “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. And each person will not teach his fellow citizen, and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them” (Hebrews 8:10-11, CSB).
Did you hear that? We won’t have to be embarrassed when someone asks us a question like “Have you read through the Bible?“ or “When was the last time you went to church?” or “How well do you know God?” We will be so well-acquainted with Him because we will be living in His own house, eating His royal food, in constant communion with Him. We will be so immersed in the goodness of God that to ask such questions would be simply absurd. We will know God. Period.
I’ve recently started to rectify the inconceivable omission in the collection of books I’ve read by working through The Princess Bride. It is just as enjoyable as the movie is, perhaps more so. I’ve learned that there’s more to the story, too. For instance, in the prologue, William Goldman, the author, has created a fictional persona for his writings, and that persona claims that the original book was written by an author named Morgenstern (also fictional!) and read to him by his father. Well, Goldman’s persona relates the account of giving his (fictional) son a copy of his book and hoping that his son will like it. I often find myself longing for the same thing. I want people to know God, certainly. I also want them to like Him… actually, to love Him. So I tell the story, and trust God to do what I can’t. I can only speak to my own experience that when you live the story that God is boldly and lovingly writing for you, you will be on the brink of discovering that…
Adventure is out there!