Proficiency Test

Proficiency Test

For the last two years, we have been holding prayer meetings on Facebook Live during the week. We originally began them at the outset of the pandemic, when we could not get together at all for awhile, as a way to keep everyone somewhat connected and encouraged. We persisted in broadcasting Monday-Friday for the next year; as things began to open back up last Spring, including the resumption of our own Sunday and Wednesday evening services, we scaled them back to only Tuesday and Thursday evenings. But the reason we continue to produce what was originally only an ad hoc program is that so many people told us they found value in it and asked us to maintain it. If you have not done so, I would encourage you to check it out on those days at 7 pm.

The elders typically rotate through those twice-weekly sessions on a schedule (except for when I occasionally fill in for one of them). And those of you who regularly watch know that each one of them has their own particular style that they bring to their night: Don Taylor often greets people by name and welcomes them to watching; Ken Coleman usually talks about the events of the day or week; Robert Ward always signs off with a blessing and often includes a Bible passage.

Bobby Rader famously closes with a couple of questions of Bible trivia, but he always opens with a devotional thought or story. This week, he mentioned that the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office has proficiency tests for their weapons coming soon. He used that to make an excellent point, drawing from Paul’s writings in Philippians 3, about ignoring distractions and focusing single-mindedly on the target.

But listening to him prompted some thoughts of my own in a slightly different direction. As Christians, we are told more than once we have a spiritual weapon that we wield: Scripture. Paul urges us to be equipped to battle those dark, cosmic forces opposed to us: Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph 6:14-17) Employing similar imagery, the Hebrews writer reminds us that the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb 4:12)

If God’s Word is our weapon, then how do we become proficient in using it? We typically think of hitting a target as a matter of accuracy. But to do so consistently actually requires both accuracy and precision, which are slightly different things. Accuracy is how close you are to the target; precision is how close your attempts are to each other. So you can be accurate and imprecise, if you are near the center but in completely different locations, and you can be precise but inaccurate, if you miss in the same spot repeatedly. But to hit the bullseye every time, you need both.

In other words, consistent, repeatable, and correct actions are required. In handling Scripture, that means that we need to study it deeply and regularly. We likely all know that the Bible encourages us toward that often. I just want to give you one less familiar example that I find particularly instructive from Deuteronomy 17:

When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose… And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel. (Deut 17:14-15a, 18-20)

When it came time for Israel to have a king, he was to have his own copy of the law. He was to read it regularly, so that he might learn to fear God and keep the law; that would keep him humble and faithful. If Israel’s kings were to have their own personal copies of the Law to guide them, shouldn’t we have—and read—our own personal copies of God’s word?

That is the sort of regular practice that is required for us to demonstrate proficiency with our spiritual weapon. Would we pass a test?

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