“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”- II Timothy 3:14-15
For rabid sports fans (like myself) this month is simply known as “March Madness”. It is time for the NCAA College Basketball tournament and the popular phenomena of filling out a BRACKET. Each year millions of people across our land fill out these brackets to compete against friends, engage in a fun office contest/pool, and even submit it online in hopes of winning some cash. And every year after the first full weekend of games (first two rounds), most everyone’s bracket has exploded with error leaving it relegated to the trashcan or turning it over to make your shopping list.
My bracket falls far short of perfection, in fact it rarely has been touted as even the best in my own household. What makes “March Madness” truly a silly game is how much thought, sweat, and weight one puts into it despite a lack of knowledge. Filling out a bracket is a lot like cramming for a final exam that you have not studied for at all until the night before. The truth is that although I love basketball, I watch very little college hoops, and outside of the most popular programs, I know next to nothing about each team’s record, starting lineup, star players, strengths and weakness, etc.… I mean, how many of you know anything about St. Bonaventure (who just beat UCLA on Tuesday)? At least for me, the silliness is seen in how excited or deflated I become based on my bracket, when the reality is that most of my picks would go down as blind guesses at best.
When it comes to the very real contests we tackle each day in our lives, families, relationships, finances, work schedules, and activities we need to do better than making guesses in hopes of coming out on the winning side. Our faith necessitates that we move beyond knowing little about what the Word of God says about these areas of our lives. For far too many well- meaning faith followers of Christ, there is little knowledge of the Bible, which ends up leaving them hurt, confused, and at a loss when life happens. In the same way that I should not expect to do well or even win when filling out my basketball bracket (due to a lack of knowing or studying the game), I should not expect to have a solid footing or successful results apart from deepening my love and knowledge of God’s Word. As Joshua was taking on a new role as becoming Israel’s leader following Moses and leading them into the Promise Land, the Lord commands him in Joshua 1:8, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
If we ultimately believe that the Bible is no ordinary book, that it is “alive and powerful” (Hebrews 4:12), wouldn’t it behoove us to READ IT DAILY to receive God’s RICHEST DEPOSIT? We need this Word to be opened more than when crisis strikes, when a spouse is pestering us to be more spiritual, on a Saturday night or Sunday morning before the church service. The more you and I open the Good Book, the more we will find wisdom, comfort, truth, and hope for every care we have, every dilemma we face, every relationship we engage, and every reality in this world. The Bible speaks truthfully and perfectly about how to handle our finances, on how to receive direction for decisions, on how to work through a conflict with others, on how to live in purity, on how to turn from sin, on how to please God, and on every matter under the sun. Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to Your Word?”
In this season the best gift you can give yourself is not the perfect basketball bracket or an Easter basket full of goodies, but it is beginning a daily discipline of reading the Word, knowing the Word, and obeying the Word. The winning you are looking for in your life is well within reach, as the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 10:8, “But what does it say? ‘The Word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim.”