What’s the Word?
Every year God gives me a special word to research, study, understand, and apply. You may have noticed the results of this effort in many of the Notes I’ve written over the years, especially when it comes to translations of ancient Hebrew and Greek words.
Some of the words I’ve spent time with are: trust, faith, encourage/encouragement, truth, lo, love, life, eternal, salvation, redemption, slave, spirit, and obey. Often the meaning of such words and how they are used leads me down an unexpected path.
Going to a dictionary doesn’t help much because it’s primary purpose is to tell us how a word is defined now, not what the Biblical word meant centuries ago. Words we use today evolve over time, often resulting in a very different meaning than what it began with. 1
The goal for us is not to become smarter,
My good friend Darrell Pruitt has done this for quite awhile. 2 His word for 2022 was follow, and through his study, God led him to some significant understanding.
Belonging—I’m part of God’s kingdom, a member of His family. I belong! Proximity—I must make sure I stay close enough to Him to know He is leading me. Obedience—When I sense His direction, it is imperative that I obey. Mystery—Not all my questions will be answered. I must accept the mystery involved in following Him. Trust—He cares for me. He loves me. I can trust Him no matter what happens. 3
Darrell’s 2023 word is explore, and he already sees where his walk with God will take him: Spiritually, to different scripture translations; Intellectually, to learning how to speak Spanish; Relationally, making new friends and building new relationships; Physically, to where he’s never been, to see what he’s never seen.
But to always be drawing closer to God.
Darrell recently shared part of a poem by T.S. Eliot: Old men ought to be explorers…We must be still and still moving into another intensity, for a further union, a deeper communion. 4 That goes to the heart of all this. The goal is not for us to become smarter, but to always be drawing closer to God.
Studying the words of the Bible is a way in which we can seek God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength…and find Him! Through His words, we can better understand who He is, who we are before him, and how to follow Him.
If you’ve never done such a study, I encourage you to do as Solomon once wrote, I devoted myself to search for understanding and to explore by wisdom all that is done under heaven. 5 You will be amazed! By the way, my word for this year is…word. I can’t wait to start.
Chuck Graham is Founder and Executive Director of Ciloa, an international ministry devoted to encouraging others and teaching them how to encourage one another. He is also an author and speaker. Chuck and his wife, Beverly, live in Lawrenceville, Georgia, USA. Learn more about Chuck and Ciloa at www.Ciloa.org.
Footnotes: (1) For example, in today’s English, encourage can mean to comfort, support, and stand with. But it can also mean to urge, push, force along, persuade, demand, pressure, compel, manipulate, and intimidate. (From EON!—Encourage Others Now!, a small group study of encouragement and how to encourage others by Charles B. Graham, 2018.) (2) Darrell Pruitt is a former pastor of Calvary Chapel Church. God has taken his ministry from the church setting to a broader scale, ministering to those he meets each day. (3) Five Aspects of Follow, provided by Darrell Pruitt. (4) From East Coker in The Four Quartets, by Thomas Stearns Eliot, 1943. (5) Ecclesiastes 1:13a, NLT.
Pictures: Banner: Word Search, original by Vergani-Fotographia, Getty Images, iStockphoto. (1) Words Matter, from “How Does A Word Get Into The Dictionary?”, Merriam-Webster.com. (2) Follow, Shutterstock. (3) Ecclesiastes 1:13, artwork created by Walmart.