Diamonds await you in the Bible

Published 10:38 pm Thursday, January 10, 2019

By Thurman Hayes

Mark Galli is one of the editors of Christianity Today magazine. One time, the church he was pastoring in Sacramento was sponsoring some refugees from Laos. These people had little knowledge of the Bible or Christianity, but the church had loved them, and they were open to getting together for a Bible study.

Mark decided to walk them through key parts of the Gospel of Mark, in order to introduce them to Jesus. One day, they were studying the passage where Jesus calms the storm on the Sea of Galilee. This was the time when a storm came up so suddenly and ferociously that the boat was about to be swamped. Jesus was asleep, until his disciples shook Him awake and frantically informed Him that they were all about to perish.

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But Jesus didn’t panic. He simply got up and spoke a command to the wind and the waves, “Peace. Be still!” And suddenly there was perfect calm on the Sea of Galilee.

Pastor Galli shared this story with the Laotians, and then talked about how we all have storms in our lives, and that Jesus can calm those storms. At this, the refugees looked at him with a blank, puzzled look on their faces. Mark then asked, “So what are some storms you have experienced?” Again, this was met with awkward silence. Finally, one of them said, “Does this really mean that Jesus actually spoke to the storm and calmed the wind and waves?”

Mark said, “Yes, but let’s not get too focused on the details of the miracle. Let’s talk about how Jesus can calm the storms in our lives.” More awkward silence.

Finally, another Laotian person spoke up. He said, “If Jesus could calm the storm, he must be a powerful man!” At this point, the group came alive. They began chatting excitedly to one another in their language, clearly impacted by what they were learning.

Pastor Galli says, “Except for me, the room was full of wonder. I suddenly realized that they grasped the story better than I did.”

That’s convicting, isn’t it? It should remind us of a few things to guard against when we read the Bible.

First, if you have been reading the Bible for years, don’t assume that you have it figured out. God is bigger than the boxes we’d sometimes like to put Him in. Be open to mining new treasures. And dig. Dig deep. If you rake, all you get is leaves. But if you dig, you may find diamonds.

Second, don’t leap to the conclusions you would like to draw. Let the Bible direct and guide you to what God is saying, instead of you seeking to guide and direct God to what you would like to hear.

Third, be aware of your cultural bias. Be aware that you are a 21st-century American. Don’t try to bend the text to make it fit our context. Instead, seek to determine the authorial intent. That means we first seek to understand what meaning the author intended for the original audience. Why is this important? Because it means what it meant. We don’t have the right to make it mean what we want it to mean.

Finally, read with a prayerful, open heart. Diamonds await you.


Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr. is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.