By Bonnie Sala
Guidelines For Living
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16
What is so special about the Bible? Billions of copies of it have been sold. It’s available in 698 languages and it’s the bestselling book of all time. For 2,000 years, people have claimed to be changed by reading it.
For many years J. B. Phillips had a fairly low view of the Bible. He was a scholar of the classics at Cambridge University. Like so many, Phillips had never taken time to analyze the Bible, or even study it from a literary point of view, but that changed when he undertook what was the first translation of the New Testament in everyday English.
In 1967 he wrote a memoir describing the experience, admitting that he started with a “rather snobbish disdain” for this Book, but that changed: “Although I did my utmost to preserve an emotional detachment, I found again and again that the material under my hands was strangely alive; it spoke to my condition in the most uncanny way. I say “uncanny” for want of a better word, but it was a very strange experience to sense, not occasionally but almost continually, the living quality of those rather strangely assorted books. I found myself,” he said, “provoked, challenged, stimulated, comforted and generally convicted by my previous shallow knowledge of the Scripture.” Is it possible, that a book thousands of years old, written in a different culture, a different world, still “speaks” to people today? This Bible scholar and translator said that he found the Bible was “strangely alive.”
Far away from the halls of academia, another man had an encounter with the New Testament that changed his life. Gaylord Kambarami, the General Secretary of the Bible Society of Zimbabwe, tried to sell a New Testament to a man in Zimbabwe. As Gaylord talked with the man, he could see that the stranger was interested. The stranger, however, was not interested in the content of the New Testament but was eyeing the texture of the paper and the size of the pages. It was just the right size for rolling his cigarettes. In fact, he told Gaylord that he wouldn’t buy the book, but that if he gave it to him, he would use the pages for cigarette paper.
“I understand,” Gaylord replied. “I will make a deal with you. I will give you this book if you promise to read every page before you smoke it.” Pleased with himself that he indeed had the better end of the bargain, the smoker agreed to do so. Gaylord gave him the New Testament and the man walked away.
Years later, Gaylord was attending a convention in Zimbabwe when the speaker on the platform recognized him in the audience. Pointing to him excitedly, the speaker said, “This man doesn’t remember me, but I remember him.” He explained, “About 15 years ago he tried to sell me a New Testament. When I refused to buy it he gave it to me, even though I told him I would use the pages to roll cigarettes.” He continued this strange testimony, saying, “I smoked Matthew. I smoked Mark. Then I smoked Luke. But when I got to John 3, verse 16, I couldn’t smoke any more. My life was changed from that moment!” The man had become a church evangelist, devoting his life to showing others the way of salvation he found in this book, which had just the right size of paper for rolling cigarettes.
Of itself, the Bible says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12).
How about you? What has your experience been with this Book that so many have said has changed their lives?