I both need and am asked for advice on a daily basis—although hopefully not on the same topics! Each of us stand in daily need of God’s wisdom, but so often we try to gain it from faulty sources. That’s why when my brother Steve, who pastors the Coastline Baptist Church in Oceanside, CA, shared some thoughts with me on the best ways to get Bible answers for today’s questions, I asked him to write the guest post below. I know it will be a help to you.
Six Ways to Get Scriptural Advice from Trusted Sources
Guest post by Steve Chappell
I’m faced with questions nearly every week. Some are questions I would never have considered had someone not brought them up to me.
A few weeks ago, a Bible study group at our church asked me to stop by and give some thoughts related to finding Bible answers for today’s questions—particularly about questions that are raised from online influences. (And the irony of writing a blog about blogs is not lost on me.)
Sometimes the issues that are raised are internet sensations, incited by people we don’t really know, often with an unknown agenda and personal axe to grid. Many, it seems, just like to stir things up. We need wisdom to filter what is significant and what is not.
In truth, times are changing rapidly and new issues are being raised constantly. Sometimes our knee-jerk reaction to questions raised online is to search online for answers—from one podcast to YouTube video after another. But as people of faith, we must be in the Word if we are to hold a biblical perspective and the ability to respond in a Christlike way.
The phrasing below is lighthearted, but I think the counsel is sound. How do we gain clear perspective and godly wisdom to answer the many questions that come our way? Here are six suggestions:
1. Go to God before Google: Spend time in prayer. James wrote, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). God the Spirit can literally shine the light of truth on the issues we face. So, prayer is key. Paul wrote, “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18). When we grapple with life’s questions through prayer, it is a great time to draw closer to God as the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of truth,” fulfills His role to “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
2. Go to the Bible before a blog: Jesus told the unbelieving Jews, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). Paul exhorted Timothy, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). I love study Bibles and the various study resources we have available at our fingertips. But I prefer to begin my study by going straight to the Word. Rather than perusing what others have said on a topic or Scripture passage, I want to know what God said on it. You might ask yourself, “What is the classic Scripture passage that addresses this topic?” Read it, and then look for cross references to further your study. (I love my Thompson Chain Reference Bible for the cross references or “chain” of passages on a given topic.)
3. Go to a mentor before the media: The internet, and social media have some things to offer. But they also provide a platform to people who would do better to remain silent. Many of the issues of our time are seized and agitated by these “media ministers” to serve as clickbait to gain followers, influence, and income. I understand that online voices can provide helpful perspective. But if you have a real-life, flesh and blood, mature brother or sister in Christ in your life, I’d start there. Avoid those who enjoy living in the Twilight Zone of unending questions, and glean from people whom you know to have a testimony that exudes godly wisdom and a mature biblical perspective. Paul warned Timothy, “Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do” (1 Timothy 1:4).
4. Go to doctrine before deliberation: By this I mean that it is helpful to start with what we know to be true. I’ll never have all the answers. (I don’t even know all the questions!) But I chose to be held by what I do know to be true rather than to be shaken by something of which I’m unsure. Some people appear to spend more time looking for a loophole that meshes with modern thought than accepting “Thus saith the Lord.” Be wary of Bible study that begins with conclusions and then seeks for a rationale or uses out-of-context Bible passages to build a case.
5. Go to the classics before the contemporaries: Know this: if it is true it is not new, and if it is new it may not be true. The most trusted books and resources in my view come from those who invested a lifetime of studying God’s Word with very little thought to how culture would view their findings. Of course, there are some incredible authors who are living today, but I love to read after either really old guys or those who are in Heaven. Their aim so often was truth with no thought to the morays of our degrading culture. I have several thousand such books in my library.
6. Go to the church house before a chat room: If God has led you to a church with a pastor who seeks to preach and teach God’s Word, give him every opportunity to do just that. No pastor can cover every topic in the span of a week or two. But over the course of time, you’ll be amazed how God can add to your knowledge and faith. One sermon will build on the next, and, if the sermons are Bible sermons, you’ll be built up in the process. This is the goal of Bible preaching. Ephesians 4:11–12 says, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” The word edifying in this passage speaks of being “built up.” A good church is a great help in this process.
There is no end to questions, so this process of learning and discovery is ongoing. May we develop the heart of David who prayed, “Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day” (Psalm 25:5).
Truth is truth. It isn’t relative to the times. And opinion is opinion. If there is no Bible verse or principle to stand on, it is acceptable to call your view what it is—an opinion. Although some feel compelled to have an opinion on everything and to share it with everyone, I’m more than happy to say, “I’m not sure” when I don’t yet understand a situation.
Try to never be louder on a subject than God is. We tend to invest more time on things that God has nearly ignored and less time on clear truths that call for our obedience and growth. When a stand is required, take it in humility and with courage. May we live out what Paul wrote, “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). God’s Word is our only unfailing source of truth, and it is sufficient for us.
Steve Chappell is the senior pastor of Coastline Baptist Church in Oceanside, California. Having a burden to see people saved and churches planted on the West Coast, he and his family moved to northern San Diego County in July of 1998 and began this church in their living room. God has blessed Coastline Baptist, and it is now a thriving, growing church reaching its community for Christ. Steve is the author of several books published through Striving Together Publications including Lessons from the Road (a verse-by-verse study of the gospel of Mark) and his most recent book, coauthored with Jeremy Stalnecker, titled Offensive Faith: Taking Your Faith on the Offense in a World Trying to Keep you on the Defense.