I was being given a hard time the other day because I had started to do some teaching with the words: “One of my favourite verses in scripture says…” I was immediately interrupted with the question, “Kerry, you are always talking about your favourite verses. You must have several hundred favourite verses. Which one is your favourite?”
It took me a only couple of seconds to ponder my response before I said, Philippians 4:4—Rejoice in the Lord; again I will say it: rejoice! While there are literally thousands of scripture verses that speak to my soul, and dozens that would vie for top spot, I think this encouragement from Paul really does resound loudest in my heart.
But the question did get me thinking about what those key verses which we would hold dear in our life say about us. Does our favourite verse call us to fear the Lord or rejoice in the Lord? Does it summon us to a life of earnest endeavour towards spiritual holiness before God or to a spirit of uncontainable praise unto God? Does our favourite verse invite us to be embraced by Christ’s freedom or be made new by his mercy? Does that line scripture which has deepest influence on our lives entreat us to service of to sacrifice or to surrender or to celebration?
There is, of course, no “right” answer. All of scripture, we must remember, ”is God-breathed, and useful for teaching, correction and rebuke.” Moreover, it is the fullness of scripture, not any single verse, which is required to direct and guide us in the fullness of Christian life, joy and faithfulness.
And yet, when we reflect on those scriptures that sound loudest in our hearts, and ponder why they have such meaning or how they particularly shape our sense of God and of our how we understand the Christian life, we may find ourselves recognizing that we need to do some expanding of our repertoire of beloved verses, in order to bring greater balance, challenge or comfort to our souls.
As an experiment, start writing down a list of those passages of scripture that have most shaped your understanding of God, of grace, of the meaning of the cross or of your sense of duty before the Lord. What’s the emphasis? What’s the challenge? Is there sufficient reminder of the Good News of the gospel? Is there more weight of expectation and demand of works than there is a burden of gladness and promise of hope? Is there too much emphasis on future glory and not enough in be a living reminder of God’s compassion? Is there too overbearing a sense of our unworthiness and not sufficient reflection upon God’s loving kindness, or too much emphasis on our having been chosen and called and too little upon the need for repentance and transformation?
Then, keep adding and memorizing more and more verses that shape out the fullness of our gospel hope and our call to living as disciples of the King. May you begin to discover you have dozens and hundreds of favourite scriptures that together shape your faith, your witness and your life.