How can they believe?

How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? (Rom. 10:14)

Before becoming a Christian, I really felt that my life didn’t have any meaning. I was searching for myself, my identity; I didn’t know what to do with my life, and most of all, I was afraid. I didn’t have self-confidence, and I almost always felt excluded and rejected. And then, I simply had to grow up. In order to grow up you must know what you want, find a meaning in life. I didn’t find any and was constantly changing my mind about which studies and future profession to pursue.

Just a few months ago, I could not have imagined a God who rules the universe and that my will could be under the control of a higher being. I felt condemned to live without any guidance and believed that after death there’s nothing. I had vaguely been told about God when I was younger, but so vaguely that I did not know Jesus. I concluded that God was too far away and abstract and that he couldn’t exist. I had totally rejected the idea of believing in him. How should one believe in this distant and obscure figure if one has never been in contact with him, and if there’s no proof of his existence? I simply did not understand this idea of faith, and anyway I’d never opened a Bible in my life. For me, it was an intimidating and austere book.

But this has changed. I’ve been studying English at the university in Paris for the past three years, and last year, I took a course titled: “The Bible in English literature”. That year I started going to the local IFES group (Groupes Bibliques Universitaires in France). A friend of mine had told me about it, and explained that the Bible was studied there. I went because I wanted to learn more about this book I knew nothing about, particularly in view of my university course.

It’s one of the best things that ever happened to me. First, because the people I met there are now dear friends, but also because that is where I heard about Jesus for the first time. I felt right at home after only a few weeks, but I did not yet believe in God.

For that to happen, I had to attend a weekend organized by IFES in February 2011. That’s when I truly realized that God was the missing piece in my life. I think that knowing Jesus more and more through the IFES’s Bible studies is what helped me most to step out to God in faith and to finally believe in Him.

Sophie , French student


The Big Picture

The Bible is not a collection of isolated texts. It tells the story of our world with a beginning, a centre (Jesus), and a goal. Grasping the flow of this story provides us with the necessary context for understanding individual Scripture passages. It also helps us see our lives as a part of this story: this is our past, present, and future. The entire Bible is given to us as a lens through which to interpret all of life and society. So we must ask: What helps students get an overview of the biblical narrative? What helps them understand individual texts, themes, and their lives in light of the whole revelation of God?

Let me share with you some approaches:

_Biblical overviews

In February, I joined a student weekend of GBU France on the theme of what it means to be human. Besides Bible expositions and workshops, they included three Biblical overviews in their training. In one such overview, for example, the biblical theology of work was explored. How is work a part of God’s good creation? How was it affected by sin? What does the New Testament have to say about work? Based on a work sheet, the facilitator led the students through phases of group study (looking up and discussing relevant Scripture passages) and plenary interaction. Helping students trace themes through the Bible is one great way of teaching them to think in terms of the big picture!

_Reading through the Bible.

Some students in IFES do this regularly. A student from Martinique shared that for the past three years, she has been reading through the Bible once a year. Others have never done so. How can we encourage them? Reading plans (e.g. the M’Cheyne plan) can help. One German student group initiates a new reading group every year. Those who join meet once a week to discuss what they are reading – a strong motivation to keep going.

_Facilitating Access to All of Scripture.

We all have the tendency to know some parts of the Bible well, but to neglect others. Which biblical books are rarely read in your context? Which books are hard for student groups to study on their own? Teaching or developing good Bible study material on these books could help students develop a fuller picture.

What do you think helps students understand and live in the big picture? Any comments or experiences are welcome!

Sabine Kalthoff