Manufacturer’s Instructions

IN THE VEHICLE DOOR there was a handy pocket, with a sign above it which indicated ‘Not for phones’. Daft sign, I thought. I slipped my phone in the pocket, shut the door and smashed my phone. It turned out the vehicle manufacturers who put the sign there knew better than I did.

When you buy a fridge, or a car, or a phone, or flat-pack furniture, or any other consumer item, you’ll receive instructions from the manufacturer which explain how to set it up, how to clean it and maintain it, and what to do if it goes wrong. You can disregard the instructions, and trust that you’ll just figure it out. But the sensible thing is to read and keep the instructions, and refer to them when necessary. That’s the way to get the best use out of the product.

Life can be complicated, and precarious, and (you have to admit) we all find it bewildering and difficult at times. Wouldn’t it be handy if our life came with an instruction manual? Good news, there is one! It’s called the Bible. It’s quite a bit bigger than an average instruction manual—but human life is very much more complicated than a fridge or a phone.

How to Live Your Best Life

Writing to his young friend Timothy, the Apostle Paul said:

From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15–17).

The Bible shows us what life is about, why we are here, why we are the way we are and why the world is the way it is; it tells us about God, and His purpose with the world and us. It shows us how to get the best out of our life, how to avoid its pifalls and how to make the most of its opportunities; how to be content and at peace with ourselves and with others, and above all with God. But it’s much more than that: it’s able to make us ‘wise for salvation’. It shows us that this life is just the start—if we follow our manufacturer’s instructions, we can go on to live for ever when Christ returns to establish his Kingdom. As Paul said in his previous letter to Timothy, ‘godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come’ (1 Timothy 4:8).

A Good Read

Some people enjoy reading manuals — most don’t. The Bible is not just a manual, it is a brilliant book to read.

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. It’s a song of praise to God, which is basically all about the wonder and value of God’s word. Here’s an extract:

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word (Psalm 119:9–16).

The Psalmist says he seeks God’s word with his whole heart, he treasures it; he delights in it, more than anything else; he absorbs it and meditates upon it and is always ready to talk about it. Generations of Bible readers have discovered the truth of this for themselves.

The Meaning of Life

Ecclesiastes is the Bible’s philosophy book. It asks the big questions—what is existence, and what does life mean? Unlike most philosophy texts, it also gives the answer. This is the book’s conclusion:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgement, with every secret thing, whether good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14).

That is how to get the best out of life: to get to know God, to fear Him, to do what He says; and to live in the knowledge that this life is preparation for the life to come.

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