Word pictures help us grasp spiritual terms

Published 7:30 am Sunday, August 28, 2022

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” they say. That means my cell phone contains at least two sets of encyclopedias. I take pictures everywhere I go.

As a writer, I choose words that will paint a picture for a reader. Metaphors and similes, not to mention adjectives, can describe complex subjects. You can picture the definition with words.

For instance, here’s a word picture from one of Charles Swindoll’s books. If you have a steel ball, solid steel, the size of this earth or 25,000 miles in circumference, and every one million years a little sparrow would be released to land on that ball to sharpen his beak and fly away only to come back another million years later and begin again, by the time he would have worn that ball down to the size of a BB, eternity would have just begun.

Two authors I enjoy reading explain faith and doubts in a unique way with words. “I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse,” writes best-selling author Philip Yancey. “Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving,” American theologian Frederick Buechner has written.

I’ve often heard the theological term justification means “just-as-if-I’d” never sinned. Evangelist Dwight L. Moody once described, “Grace isn’t a little prayer you chant before receiving a meal. It’s a way to live. (God’s) law tells me how crooked I am. Grace comes along and straightens me out.”

What does it mean to be saved? “Salvation is always ‘good news,’” Reverend Billy Graham once said, “It is news of God’s love and forgiveness.”

I remember hearing Bible teacher Ian Thomas explain how to live the Christian life. His illustration gives a vivid description of what the Scripture means about Christ living in us.

As a glove is made in the likeness of a hand to contain the hand, so mankind was created in the image of God. There’s an emptiness within each of us that can only be filled by a personal relationship with God Himself. We cannot live the Christian life in our own strength and abilities, just as the glove can do nothing without the strength of the hand.

Suppose you told a glove to pick up a book. It’s got a thumb and fingers, the shape and form of a hand; but no matter what you tell it to do it’s unable to pick up a book. But, as soon as you put your hand into that glove, the glove becomes as strong as your hand. Everything possible with my hand is possible for that glove.

Ian Thomas has written, “You are the glove, Christ is the hand!” The apostle Paul put it this way, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

And John Piper said about the importance of prayer, “A prayer-less Christian is like a bus driver trying alone to push his bus out of a rut, because he doesn’t know Clark Kent is on board.”

I hope these pictures of theological concepts provide food for thought this week!

— Jan White has compiled a collection of her columns in her book, “Everyday Faith for Daily Life.”