Obstacles to Benefiting from the Word

We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”1

Whether you realize it or not, spiritual forces are constantly trying to influence you through your thoughts. The Devil and his minions aren’t as powerful as God and His angels, but they are just as real and just as active. Why do they try so hard to enter your thoughts? Because if they can influence your thoughts, they can influence your actions.

In the same passage as the verse quoted above, the apostle Paul explains how to stand strong against the Devil’s attacks—by putting on the spiritual armor of God. He then explains that armor by way of analogy, comparing it to the armor worn by the soldiers of his day: “Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”2

Of the six items listed, only one is an offensive weapon—”the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” So what do you suppose would be your spiritual adversary’s first objective?—To disarm you! If he can get you to put down your sword, not only are you no longer a threat to him or his plans, but you become an easier prey. That in itself is reason enough to make your Word time really count. Your spiritual life depends on it!

The Bible also tells us that we are not to be ignorant of the Devil’s schemes.3 To be forewarned is to be forearmed. If you’re aware of the Devil’s most common tactics, you can more easily recognize and counter them when he springs them on you—and he will! Here are four to watch out for:

Lack of concentration

Have you ever finished reading something—a book, an article, a report, or whatever—and realized you could hardly remember any of what you’d just read? You may have skimmed hundreds or thousands of words of text, but nothing registered because you weren’t really concentrating. If it was just a magazine article or novel that you had read, it may not have been any great loss; but if it was God’s Word, you really missed something!

The key to overcoming this trap of the Devil is to pray before you read. Ask God to open your spiritual eyes and to help you be alert. Pray that His truths will sink in and become part of you. Then, as you read, make a concerted effort to resist distractions and to discipline your mind to think about what you’re reading. Some people also find it helpful to read aloud, underline or highlight main points as they read, or copy key verses into a notebook.

Do your part, and you’ll be amazed at how much the Lord will help you get out of the Word you read.


Don’t be surprised if every time you sit down to read the Word for a few moments, your mind is flooded with thoughts of other things you could be doing instead: planning what you’re going to have for dinner or what you’re going to do tomorrow, making a phone call you forgot to make earlier, or taking care of some other unfinished business. Before you know it, you’re so busy doing something else that you forget all about the time you meant to spend with the Lord and His Word. You’ve just been taken in by another of the Devil’s traps—busyness!

Of course, many of those other things you think of are important and they do need to be taken care of—just not during your Word time. Keep a notepad and pen handy so when something comes to mind that you need to take care of later, you can write it down and not have to worry about forgetting it again. That then leaves you free to give your Word time your full attention.

Skepticism and doubt

In this age of science and technology, to many people seeing is believing. Until something can be proven scientifically, to them it isn’t so. But that’s just opposite of the way faith works. With faith, believing is seeing. First, you must accept things by faith, just because God says they are so, then you will understand or “see.” This is precisely the point Saint Augustine (354-430ad) was making when he said, “Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore seek not to understand that you might believe, but believe that you may understand.”

So where do you get faith to begin with? The Bible tells us that faith comes through hearing the Word of God.4 “Hearing” in this sense means not only reading or listening to the Word, but accepting, absorbing, and letting it become part of you. The more you take in the Word, the more your faith will grow.

But some people never find faith because they don’t read the Word in the right frame of mind. Those who take a skeptical approach find fault, not faith. They also don’t realize that the Devil is behind their doubts. This trick of his goes all the way back to the garden of Eden, when Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. In order to get her to disobey God, he had to first get her to doubt God’s Word, so he asked the seemingly innocent question, “Has God indeed said…?”5 Don’t you fall for the same trick!

Ungodly attitudes of the world around you

Have you noticed how the most “enlightened” societies of the most developed countries seem to think they can get along just fine without God? From schoolbooks to the big screen, He is increasingly the object of ridicule and cynicism, and those who take His Word at face value and try to model their lives after it are often portrayed as religious fanatics, or at the least a bit strange. But just because the scoffers are in the majority doesn’t make them right. “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction,” Jesus said, “and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”6 Don’t let others’ unbelief and ungodly attitudes stand in the way of you finding that narrow gate!

Sing them over again to me,
Wonderful words of life.
Let me more of their beauty see,
Wonderful words of life.
Words of life and beauty,
Teach me faith and duty:
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life.
Beautiful words, wonderful words,
Wonderful words of life.
—Philip P. Bliss.
The words of the Bible are words of life! If I get down in spirit or tired, or the Devil tries to discourage me, or my strength fails, I find strength and blessing in the Word of God.
If only others who are troubled and discouraged and feel defeated could realize that in the Bible they will find the help and comfort they need, what a different world this would be, and how many problems would be solved! And if nations would live by its standards, what a difference that would make!
Countless lives have been utterly transformed by the reading of God’s Word—some of them raised to the greatest heights from the lowest depths. Indeed there is life and power in the Word of God!
Some people know this and yet they neglect to read it. Then they wonder why they get down in spirit and lack in Christian graces. Everything else is given time and considered more important, and only just a few ragged ends of an hour—a few minutes—are given to the reading that would have made the day beautiful and the problems so much easier to solve.—V.B.B.
The Bible contains: the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the happiness of believers. Its doctrine is holy, its precepts are binding, its history is true, its decisions immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s comfort, the soldier’s sword, the Christian’s character. Here heaven is opened, the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is the subject and the glory of God its end! It is a mine of wealth and health to the soul and a river of pleasure. It is given to you here in this life and will be opened up at the judgment. It is established forever!
1. Ephesians 6:12
2. Ephesians 6:13-17
3. 2 Corinthians 2:11
4. Romans 10:17
5. Genesis 3:1-6
6. Matthew 7:13-14
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