Is it the “What” or the “How”?
Is it the “What” or the “How”?

Is it the “What” or the “How”?

I love how the Holy Spirit can take one single word from Scripture, breathe upon it and “unfold” it in a way we never before considered.

“The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.”

Psalm 119:130 NASB

One morning last week, Revelation 3:3 (my memory verse for that day) was freshly breathed upon and one little word unfolded itself – the word “how”.

“Remember therefore HOW you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.”

Revelation 3:3 NKJV

It would seem more natural to say “remember what you have received” rather than saying “remember how…” as it is in the KJV and NKJV Bibles. “Remember what…” is how most newer Bible translations render this passage. Among those Bible translations that translate it as “what” is the NASB, but this version also adds an explanation in its margin which says that the literal translation is indeed “how” and not “what.”

Is this one little word important? Yes! – well, at least for this moment and especially for me, because the Holy Spirit wants to put His finger on something in my life!

Jesus is telling the believers in Sardis that they used to have a very peculiar zealousness to receive, hear, and respond to the Word – a zeal that must have dramatically caught Jesus’ attention. Perhaps, they had demonstrated noble-mindedness like the church in Berea which “were more noble-minded…for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11 NASB). Maybe they were like the Thessalonians who took every word Paul and the other apostles had spoken to them and wholeheartedly received it, not as the word of men, but as the very Word of God (which it was and still is!) – a heart attitude of faith that permits God’s spoken Word to “work effectually” in their lives (1 Thess. 2:13).

The Sardis church had not forgotten the “what”, but the “how” – “how” they had received and heard. Perhaps we, too, have no problem remembering “what” we have heard. We may have notebooks filled with Bible study notes. For us also, it may not be the “what,” but the “how.” Perhaps we have lost our childlike awe and wonder for God’s Word. Maybe hunger and thirst for hearing God tenderly speak to us has been replaced with a mechanical sense of the devotion-time “call-to-duty”. Could it be that we have heard so much preaching and teaching that we have somehow built up a kind of “inner immunity” to the real breath of God behind the pastor’s Sunday message or the Wednesday Bible teaching?

Funny how one little word in God’s Word can take on such a freshly sharpened edge. Something to think about, right? Especially when we consider that Jesus told this Sardis church that in spite of having a name that they were alive, they were indeed “dead”! Ouch! Yet, even so, Jesus quickly offers them (and us!) a great and wonderful promise (see Rev 3:5-6) if we can simply repent and remember the “how” – how we received God’s Word in the beginning.

Let’s once again develop tender, child-like, thirsting hearts to hear what the Spirit is speaking to the church! Amen!

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