Imagine I told you that there was a book you could read, and every time you read it you could experience more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. Even better, imagine that the book came from the almighty Creator who loves you and gave it to you so that he could continually transform you into the most loving, caring, service-oriented person that you could be.
Don’t you want to go read that book right now? That’s how I feel about the Bible and its impact on my life.
One of the things I love most about the Bible is that no matter how often you go back to it, there’s always something new to discover — a truth to understand more deeply, a characteristic of God that suddenly stands out in a fresh way. It’s like a treasure chest that never runs empty; there’s always another layer of wealth to explore. It’s not the kind of wealth that tarnishes or rots, but is never-ending and changes you for the better.
The reality that so many people around the world today don’t have access to God’s life-giving book fills me with emotion. When we talk about longing for people to know God as one of Wycliffe’s core values, it’s so much more than that temporary longing you get when you find out you’re having your favorite meal for dinner. It’s a passionate, heartbreaking, constant cry to God that everyone will have the same chance to know him that we do. We long for everyone to have the opportunity to experience God and his transforming power in their lives.
In 2013, I attended a New Testament dedication for the Arop-Lokep language community in Papua New Guinea. Seeing their community receive access to printed and audio versions of the New Testament for the first time profoundly touched my heart. Their excitement about getting to hear the Word of God in their language stood in stark contrast to the way I have often approached sitting down for a devotional time with God.
Although I have always had access to the whole Bible, I have often taken it for granted instead of savoring it! I pray I never forget how it felt to see their joy at reading and hearing the New Testament for the first time.
Not everyone will have the chance to experience the moment a language community first receives Scripture like I did. However, we can all have a taste of that experience with the right mindset.
Think about the verses you typically seek for comfort or encouragement when you go through difficult times. Maybe, like me, you appreciate the reminder from Philippians 4:13 that “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (ESV).
Doesn’t that make you long for everyone to have the chance to know God?
If salvation that reconciles us to God, opportunity for a relationship with God and transformation by God were the only benefits of Bible translation, they would be enough. However, the impact of Bible translation goes beyond how God’s Word changes our individual lives. As God transforms us, he gives us the capacity to love him and to love others in ways that extend beyond what we could ever achieve in our own strength.
I often fail to recognize the obstacles to loving God and loving others that exist within my heart. Yet, as I spend time with God through his Word, I find that he changes me bit by bit. It’s a transformation I don’t recognize in the moment, but I can look back over the decades of my life and see it clearly.
It’s not just about God changing me! Instead, God’s transformation of me spills out to impact those around me. After all, as God continues to make me more loving, my changing attitudes and behaviors impact those around me in positive ways. When this happens within groups of people, God can transform entire communities!
That’s why our core values of “longing for people to know God” and “loving God and loving people” fully intertwine. As Wycliffe personnel Doug and Priscilla Higby point out in the video below, “Bible translation involves building relationships and loving people, engaging together in translation and bringing the message to life.”
As Christians, we should be a community of people committed to seeking after God and wanting to experience his transformation in our lives. Only then can our striving for growth in love for God and one another, coupled with God’s influencing hand on our hearts and minds, create a virtuous circle that moves us toward what God desires for all people and all communities.