Dust off the Map — It’s a Good Idea!
By Gabriel Șerban
When I was in the fifth grade, I always enjoyed History class because when the teacher found out that I was an Adventist, I became his favorite student. He was not a believer but he loved to read anything related to history; thus, he was very familiar with the Bible and other explanatory books we use in our church. Even though he was reading all those books from a historical perspective, many times he would forget that he had a class to teach and we would spend time expounding on various Bible topics. So, when I thought the lesson was too hard for me, I would look for something interesting in the Bible—and instead of being asked questions from the lesson, I would start a discussion with the teacher from my Bible reading. First, I thought it was benefitting me only in this way. But then I noticed that always when my classmates would ask me a question, I would try to solve it in a biblical way, remembering passages from the sacred Word. And growing up I found the Bible to be a map unto my path, giving directions in every circumstance in which we find ourselves. It is the only book that shows us:
The Past—where we come from
The Present—where we are; and
The Future—where we are going.
It “is the revelation of the glory of God in Christ. Received, believed, obeyed, it is the great instrumentality in the transformation of character. It is the grand stimulus, the constraining force, that quickens the physical, mental, and spiritual powers and directs the life into right channels.”1
How accurate is this map? Is it reliable even today? These are questions that we always hear and sometimes we tend to ask ourselves the very same questions as well. In most cases when skeptics use the term “reliable,” they mean trustworthy or accurate. They wonder if the Bible is historically accurate, whether we have the correct books in the Bible today, and whether it has been changed by men over time. And then they bring all sorts of excuses not to read it.
I was impressed while reading about the history of the Bible how, before the printing press was invented, the scriptures were copied by hand, very accurately, and in many cases by special scribes who developed intricate methods of counting words and letters to ensure that no errors had been made. And even though they had all kinds of methods to avoid making mistakes, we may say that men are fallible—but what we’re always to remember is that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God.” 2 Timothy 3:16. Of God we read that He never changes (Malachi 3:6). Therefore, if God does not change, neither has His word changed over the years—and even though it was translated in hundreds of languages—the Lord has preserved His word and made sure there was no error in it. Thinking again about my history class, as I grew up, I noticed that each country adjusted the history books to their own likeness, trying to present themselves in the best way possible even though that in reality they were the ones being defeated the most. But the Bible is the same wherever you go. It presents the same story of salvation, pointing out our need of a Savior and the solution for eternal life.
The importance of dusting off the map
- A light on the Eternal Pathway
Because I used to work as a guide in the Carpathian Mountains during the summer breaks, and being familiar with the paths, after we finished the final exam at the missionary school, I was chosen to guide the entire group on a hiking trip. Considering which route would be the best for us, I chose the one that I thought I knew the best. So we began our trip. Usually that trip would take about 6/7 hours. But after walking for a few hours, I realized that we might be lost because nothing looked familiar to my eyes. Even though I wasn’t sure of the path, I refused to check the map—thinking this could not be the wrong way. As we walked further, again the thought that we might be lost bothered me, so I decided to remain behind a few steps in order that no one might notice that I needed to check the map, so as not to make them worry. When I opened the map, I realized that even though I knew that way so well, we were far off the track! Due to a storm, a few signs had disappeared, and trusting my own thoughts, we had gotten lost. But as soon as I checked the map, I was able to fix the problem without the hikers even noticing anything. The same happens in our spiritual life.
“The reason why the youth, and even those of mature years, are so easily led into temptation and sin is that they do not study the word of God and meditate upon it as they should. The lack of firm, decided will power, which is manifest in life and character, results from their neglect of the sacred instruction of God’s word. They do not by earnest effort direct the mind to that which would inspire pure, holy thought and divert it from that which is impure and untrue.”2
Many times, we act the same. Our conscience is telling us that we are wrong, moving forward in a wrong direction—but instead of dusting the divinely appointed map that in many cases is present in our homes in different translations, we quickly advance towards perdition, trusting our own strength and knowledge in finding the right path. And doing so, we depart so far off track and harden our heart by following our own instincts until we become unable to hear the voice of the Spirit of God that is always trying to help us reconfigure the route. David, experienced this, and after he tried without result to find a way out by himself, he finally says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23, 24. The only way to recover our path and remain safe in the everlasting way is by opening the map, finding where we are and placing ourselves on the right path. Jesus’ promise to each of His disciples is that “when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.” John 16:13. The guiding voice is always present and ready to help at any time we open the Bible. If we invest our thoughts in something for one single minute, we might end up thinking about that thing for about 30 minutes or more, if it’s something worthwhile. That’s why it is good to spend time studying the word of God at least an hour every day. And if we start our day meditating upon the word of God, that hour of study will be in our thoughts for the entire day and every decision we take in that day will be in compliance with it. “The mind that is earthly finds no pleasure in contemplating the word of God; but for the mind renewed by the Holy Spirit, divine beauty and celestial light shine from the sacred page. That which to the earthly mind was a desolate wilderness, to the spiritual mind becomes a land of living streams.”3 “Let the youth make the word of God the food of mind and soul. Let the cross of Christ be made the science of all education, the center of all teaching and all study. Let it be brought into the daily experience in practical life. So will the Saviour become to the youth a daily companion and friend. Every thought will be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,”4 and thus we might be sure of safety in our path towards eternity.
2. Light on my daily life
One of the long-awaited privileges among us as young people is the privilege of driving. We look forward to that day when we finally can drive legally. I remember how happy I was when my dad trusted me enough to let me use the car even when he was not riding with me. But because our family car wasn’t that new, one time while driving I noticed some lights showing up on the dashboard. Not having seen those lights before, I got scared and pulled over right away. Not knowing what to do, I remembered my father had showed me that when he bought the car, they gave him a car manual that included the instructions on how to use it. I looked into that and found the lights I was looking for and was relieved when I realized it wasn’t a big deal. Each car that is sold comes with its own manual. And that manual serves the car as long as you use it.
The same is true with man. When God created the human race, He gave them instructions on how to preserve their happiness. Later on, those instructions were written in the Book and we find them in our Bibles.
Many times, we find ourselves in different trials, shaking, not knowing what to do. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Remember that the Bible has solutions for your problems—look for them there! Sometimes we tend to believe that the scriptures are the perfect map for eternity, but cannot answer my needs today—being too old, written for a different century. If I thought this way, however, probably I’d be there even today sitting in the car thinking what to do by refusing to consult the 30-year-old car manual. But as the car manual serves the car user as long as he uses the car, the same it is even with the instructions that God has given us. They serve us as long we are on this earth. All the instructions and solutions for your problems are there. Dig for them. God already knows what you’re looking for, and as soon as you open the Bible in a praying-humble spirit, the Lord will guide you to see the solution you are looking for.
I remember when I was a child, living in the time when the neighbors would visit each other periodically, creating friendships, one of our neighbors visiting my grandmother, asking her how to solve a financial problem. My grandmother brought her the Bible and asked her to read in Malachi 3:10, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house,and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Soon the neighbor start asking, “What is the tithe, what is the storehouse?” And really trying to improve their family financial situation she would bring the tithes to my grandmother so that she could bring it to the storehouse of God. Soon after that, they could see improvement in their family. If you’re dealing with loneliness, remember that Jesus “through childhood, youth, and manhood, He walked alone. Yet it was heaven to be in His presence. He did not fail nor become discouraged.”5And amidst all the difficulties in which you find yourself, remember this. There might be questions like, “What career should I follow?” “What’s God’s will for me?” “I’ve come to a point of success, what shall I do next?” _______ (you fill in the blank) ______? God already knew you were going to ask yourself these and other questions you are thinking and He inspired the prophets and all the Bible authors to write the answers there for you. Go home and open His word. “Taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” Psalm. 34:8.
The word of God is light and truth—a lamp to the feet and a light to the path. It is able to guide every step of the way to the city of God. For this reason, Satan has made desperate efforts to obscure the light, that we may not find and keep the path cast up for the ransomed of the Lord to walk in.
“As the miner digs for the golden treasure in the earth, so earnestly, persistently, must we seek for the treasure of God’s word. In daily study the verse-by-verse method is often most helpful. Let the student take one verse and concentrate his mind on ascertaining the thought that God has put into that verse for him, and then dwell upon the thought until it becomes his own. One passage thus studied until its significance becomes clear is of more value than the perusal of many chapters with no definite purpose in view and no positive instruction gained.”6
“I needed help, and I found it in Jesus. Every want was supplied, the hunger of my soul was satisfied; the Bible is to me the revelation of Christ. I believe in Jesus because He is to me a divine Saviour. I believe the Bible because I have found it to be the voice of God to my soul.”7
1 Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 1, p. 93.
2 Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 319.
4 Ibid., p. 320.
5 Gospel Workers, p. 42.
6 Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 461.
7 Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, p. 321.