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  • Writer's pictureBurton W. Cole

How I Learned the Writing Life From the Bible

We know the Bible applies to all aspects of life. We do know that, don’t we? Absolutely. That includes tips for writing. Really. I realized this the other day when I read this passage:

“Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” (II Peter 1:3-7, NIV)

Wait, the Bible is talking about writing here? No, actually it’s not. But look how we can apply those Biblical principles to our writing life:

FAITH: Until you start, that page or screen is blank. No matter how long you stare at it, there’s still nothing there. The Bible says: “Now faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV) James 2:14 adds, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?” Writing is an act of faith—so ACT!

GOODNESS: There’s enough weirdness, depravity and darkness in literature. I’m called to encourage, cheer, teach, and show the fun and joy in God’s goodness. Now take the words of the Apostle Paul and apply it to your calling: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NIV)

KNOWLEDGE: When God calls us, He implants in us desire and grants some ability. But He expects us to learn and develop our skills. The Bible says, “Study to show yourself approved.” (II Timothy 2:15, NIV). Study your craft. Read good writing. Pore over textbooks. Learn new words. Observe life. Listen to the way people talk. Practice, practice, practice writing. But remember, learning lots of things isn’t all that useful without the wisdom to apply it correctly, in God’s way. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5, NIV)

SELF-CONTROL: Having a goal is great. Having a deadline means you’re in. But if you don’t possess the discipline to sit yourself down and write even when you don’t feel like it, that book isn’t getting done. Paul puts it this way: “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.” (I Corinthians 9:25-26, NIV)

PERSEVERANCE: Someday, a critic will read your story and proclaim, “This is garbage.” Maybe it’s already happened to you. People will laugh at you and tell you to quit. Perseverance is staying true to your calling when people and circumstance knock you down. As Paul wrote, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13B-14, NIV)

GODLINESS: My writing has a purpose—to reflect God. Holiness needs to be infused in everything I write, even if what I’m writing is not “religious.” Let’s hear from Paul again: “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:31B, NIV)

MUTUAL AFFECTION: If it hasn’t already, your writing will develop a following. Your fans appreciate what you write and will seek you out on the bookshelves to find out what you have to say. Do you care for them as well? In one of his books, John says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13, NIV) and “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1, NIV) Develop that tenderness toward your readers.

LOVE: God loved me enough to grant me this incredible gift of words. More than that, He saved me from destruction and said I shall spend eternity with Him. Wow! He loves me! I love Him enough to take this gift of writing and make a present of it for Him. That’s why I write. It’s an act of love toward the One of whom John wrote, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV)

Now, remember that passage I quoted at the top of the page? Here’s the next sentence: “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 1:8, NIV) Apply His principles to your writing life, and your words will be effective and productive for the mission He called you to fulfill.

(This post originally appeared July 22, 2020, on the Storyteller Squad.)

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