Have you ever started using something only to discover you didn’t know how to use it as well as you thought you did? A year ago I bought a new electric toothbrush. I didn’t look at the instructions because, you know, it’s an electric toothbrush. What more could there be to knowing how to use it than putting on toothpaste and brushing my teeth?
I soon discovered there was more. Only by reading the instructions did I discover its periodic stutter was not an indication the toothbrush was going bad. Rather, that stutter occurred at 30-second intervals so I can brush each section of my mouth and wind up with the dentist recommended 2 minutes. Nor was the flashing red light an indication the toothbrush needed charging. Instead it was a visual indication I was pushing against my teeth too hard as I brushed.
Had I continued to use the toothbrush without looking at the instructions, I may have eventually figured out all the features, but it sure was easier to look at the book.
If instructions are helpful for something like an electric toothbrush, imagine how useful instructions are for life in general. Many people say there is no such thing as an instruction book for life, but I think there is. I have always been grateful has God given us His Word, the Bible. It is full of words of wisdom, guidance and instruction.
The Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5.6-21) are perhaps the most familiar list of instructions. While many people incorrectly view this as a list of restrictions God has given to prevent us from having fun, I see them as a blessing that allow me to enjoy life more fully. The commandment that warns against coveting, protects me from jealously and a constant state of dissatisfaction. It encourages me to appreciate what I do have and thus experience contentment.
The first commandment, which states that we are to have no other gods before God the Father, helps me keep my priorities in order. When I ensure I am placing God first in my life, I avoid a great deal of stress, worry and anxiety that occurs when I value someone or something more than I should.
Proverbs and Ecclesiastes
Instructions can be found in other places in the Bible. Proverbs is filled with instructions that help us in all kinds of situations we may face in life.
Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless, but sin overthrows the wicked. Proverbs 13.6
An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. Proverbs 18.15
A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish. Proverbs 19.9
Be not envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them, for their hearts devise violence, and their lips talk of trouble. Proverbs 24.1
This bit of wisdom concerning the importance of not going alone in life, but in having friends, family and colleagues who will share the joys and divide the burdens is found in Ecclesiastes.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4.9-12
Jesus: His Parables and Life
In the gospels, Jesus shares plenty of instructions. The parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15.11.32), while only a story, is filled with wisdom. Meditating on each of the parable’s four different characters (younger son, father, servants, older son) reveals prudent and rational strategies for dealing with situations we may find ourselves in.
And of course, Jesus’ life has much to instruct us in. Focusing just on His final hours can teach us much about grace and mercy in the face of opposition and persecution, forgiveness in the face of false accusations, endurance and acceptance in the face of suffering, and hope in the face of seeming hopelessness.
The next time you are uncertain of how to proceed, reading the Bible might be a great first step. The instructions found in this book offer many insights, much wisdom and solid answers.