Bible study time used to be so frustrating for me. It felt like everyone understood the Bible except me. To be honest, I wasn’t a fan of Bible studies created by others. They were fine but they were studies that spoke to the author’s heart, not mine. But on my own, I felt like I was spinning my wheels as I read, prayed, and read some more. I would be so sure I understood the context and meaning of verses only to find out I missed the mark. Again.
Until one day something happened to reveal what I was missing.
My Life-Changing Bible Study
As I sat in my comfy chair with my favorite soda and my beloved black lab at my feet, I prepared to spend time in my Bible. Some days, my desire was simply to learn more about who God is; not what he says he will do for me but who he is. Other days, I opened to a book and began reading just to see where the Holy Spirit lead me.
On this particularly bright and sunny morning, I had a topic on my mind that I wanted to investigate; biblical healing and faith. I had paper, pens, and my favorite Bible handy.
Although I have more than a few Bible translations, my study Bible of choice this particular morning was my NLT Bible. It is plumb-full of scribbled notes revealing my years of spiritual growth from milk to meat (Hebrews 5:12). God willing, this is one of my Bibles that I will pass onto my children when I leave this earth behind. It is my treasure, more valuable to me than gold or silver.
Not The King James Version?!?
Yes, I know my favorite Bible is not the King James version. My KJV and I were still getting to know each other back then. But this Bible, this NLT, was like an old friend who had been with me since the beginning of my journey.
My Ah-Ha Moment
During this study on biblical healing and faith, it felt like I was missing something but couldn’t figure out what. I was good about stopping to re-read verses and pray about them. I looked up words and even rewrote things in my own words looking for clarity. Finally, I had an ah-ha moment and the principle of healing and faith that had been troubling me clicked into place! It made perfect sense and I couldn’t wait to share this revelation with my husband.
Those Who Learn Together Grow Together
I guess I should pause to explain that my husband and I had been attempting to be more intentional in how we spent our time. We had been turning off the TV and spending our evenings reading the Bible, sharing what we were learning, and how God wanted it applied to our lives. If I could record these precious evenings, I would. I would love to pass them on as yet another treasure to our adult children.
Anyway, Mike came home and I shared with him my thoughts and appropriate verses I had been struggling with. I excitedly shared what I believed God was showing me about healing and faith. With a confused look on his handsome face, Mike grabbed his Bible and asked me to repeat a particular verse and my revelation. I thought, “Here it comes! I’m finally going to be able to teach Mike something instead of him always teaching me! Thank you, Jesus!”
But that isn’t what happened.
Pride Goes Before A Fall (Proverbs 16:18)
Opening his King James Bible, Mike began to read. One of the things I admire about this man is that he will not make rash judgments about things of God. Being fully confident he was awed by my wisdom and knowledge, I went about my business knowing there would be no hurrying his response. But I didn’t have to wait very long.
Almost with an apology in his voice, Mike explained where I had missed the mark. It was simple but so profound. But before we get there, I want to share with you what Mike did that I didn’t do.
What Did Mike Do That I Failed To Do?
1. He chose to read from the KJV. Many believe this Bible is a word-for-word translation from the original text. Many other translations seem to pick and choose verses to leave out or their word pick can be confusing. Whether you believe the KJV is the standard or not, you have to admit that leaving words and sentences out of anything will change its meaning.
2. He read my verses as well as a few verses before and after the verses I was studying. I was so focused on reaching an understanding of biblical healing and faith that I lost sight of keeping things in context. Yes, even after years of Bible study, I got lost on the bunny trail and stepped off the narrow path.
3. He compared what my verses said with others on biblical healing and faith. Because the Bible doesn’t contradict itself, if it means such-and-such over here then it means such-and-such over there. It made little sense to me that the apostles had faith yet still couldn’t heal someone. Because I didn’t realize the issue wasn’t just me but my Bible translation, I tried to bend scripture to fit my assumptions.
4. He was patient (yep, a fruit of the spirit we are to cultivate). Whereas I became frustrated in my impatience to discover the truth of healing and faith, he did not. Mike has no problem sitting on a verse for days (weeks, or even months if need be) as he studies. He trusts beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Holy Spirit would reveal his truth in his time.
Without realizing it, my study became more about discovering why I wasn’t healed yet. I very badly wanted to understand and fully receive God’s healing with a verse to stand on. I allowed my study to became about me and what I wanted, not about God’s revealing truth that may or may not bless me.
5. He listened as the Holy Spirit put a check in his spirit. When I proudly announced my chosen verses and interpretation, Mike didn’t blindly trust what I had to say nor was he out to prove me wrong. He too had a desire to learn about God’s healing and how our faith affects our blessing.
Instead, when Mike felt a check in his spirit, he did as we are instructed to do and tested what I was saying. If I had done that before boldly proclaiming my wisdom, I would not have jumped to conclusions about God’s Word.
The Verse That Changed It All
“And Jesus said unto them, because of your unbelief, for verily I say unto you, if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place and it shall remove, and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:20-21)
Turns out my beloved NLT Bible completely left out a key verse “This kind only goes out by prayer and fasting.” Wow!!! That verse was a game changer! There was more to healing and breaking spiritual chains than just believing! Turns out it wasn’t a lack of faith on my part or the part of the apostles. Sometimes an additional measure is needed and that “secret” is prayer and fasting!
At first, I kept blaming my misinterpretation not on myself and my impatience but on my Bible version (there is that pride again!). But thank goodness God doesn’t let us get away with shifting blame. I have had many learning experiences but this one kick-started my spiritual growth like little else before it. It completely changed the way I study but also my belief in faith, prayer, and fasting (you can read more about what I learned in regard to prayer and fasting here or here).
This experience taught me that sometimes looking up words and calling your Bible study done isn’t always enough. There is great value in taking a study deeper by comparing various translations and word choices. It allows you to gain a greater understanding and that is never wrong.
Maybe the greatest lesson I learned from this misinterpretation is that regardless of the amount of time I read, the depth of my study, or the amount of spiritual growth I have gone through, I can still easily deceive myself (and others) if I don’t carefully follow God’s instructions to test all things. Yes, even my Bible needs to be tested.
Are Other Bible Translations Acceptable?
After this experience, Mike and I had a conversation about different Bible translations. We wondered if it was wrong to read anything but the KJV (as many believe). At the beginning of our walk, we both had trouble understanding the nuances of the KJV. I found a Bible I didn’t have to struggle with (my NLT). Mike found an NIV that he read until the pages fell out, which is when he switched to a KJV. It saddened me to discover some Bibles had verses missing and some of the word interpretations were more confusing than the old-timey words of the KJV. But was it wrong in God’s eyes to read a Bible translation other than KJV?
After praying about it, we don’t believe it to be wrong. If there is a Bible translation you are comfortable with and it gets you to actually read God’s Word, go for it. We couldn’t deny that we were still learning about God and growing spiritually using Bible translations other than the King James Bible.
But just as I had to learn, you do too. You have to be aware that your Bible translation of choice might force you to add comparing verse translations to your study time. It is so important that we aren’t deceived that it is worth the added effort. No one is given a creative license with God’s Word regardless of which Bible translation we choose to use.
“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 )