A friend and I decided to rewatch all of the movies in the MCU. His fiancée and my wife are both at youth group on Tuesday nights so we thought it was a perfect opportunity to revisit some of our favorite movies. I’m already looking forward to watching Captain America: Winter Soldier, but I’m not as excited for The Incredible Hulk.
I really enjoy watching new movies, but there’s something comfortable about sitting down to watch a movie I’ve seen many times before. If we didn’t enjoy rewatching movies, then how would we ever memorize every line in Return of the Jedi or hold our breath waiting for Gandalf’s return in The Two Towers? Even though I’ve watched a movie before, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the experience of rewatching it.
I’ve really tried my best to apply the same mindset to stories in the Bible. I’ve been going to church my entire life. Even before I attended seminary, I pretty much knew every story in the Bible. So now, when I sit in church on a Sunday morning, I have to remind myself that this sermon is going to be a lot like rewatching The Order of the Phoenix. Even though I’ve probably heard the story or read the passage, there will still be something new to get out of the sermon.
That’s what I love most about God’s word. Hebrews 4 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.” God’s word is alive and active; it isn’t just some static book that sits there. The word of God speaks truth into our lives, penetrates to our very souls and can be the catalyst for life change.
I always told our students that even though the story hasn’t changed we have. I first heard the story of David and Goliath when I was a little kid. Then I’m sure I heard it again the next year, the year after that, probably a few times in junior high, once or twice in high school and I know I’ve definitely taught on that story multiple times. The story doesn’t change; David always kills Goliath and cuts off his head. But how that story speaks into my life is going to change every time.
As a child I would have been impressed by David’s ability to do something even though he was the youngest.
As a junior high student I would have loved how David stood up to a bully.
As an adult I marvel at David’s humility, continuing to honor Saul even though all the people were honoring him.
And the next time I read that story, hear a sermon on it or give a sermon myself, I’m sure that God will have some new truth for me to learn and apply to my life.
I enjoy rewatching movies and with each new viewing I might see some new nuance I missed before. When we either read or hear a Bible story again, though, God could use that experience to completely transform our lives. Most of my greatest transformation didn’t take place when I heard a story or read a passage for the first time, but when I heard it or read it again. Each passage or story plants a seed with that initial encounter and will continue to bear fruit as we continue coming back them time and time again.
What helps you get the most out of hearing a Bible story again and again?