THE LATE HOWARD BELBEN

Psalm 19

‘The Lord of the Lord is perfect, refreshing to the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.’ (Psalm 19:7-8, NIV)

Wouldn’t you agree that there is something about this life that dehydrates rather than refreshes the soul? Yet now and again I’ve had the privilege of meeting someone who has become a living example for me of a person who, in the midst of this bareness, has found refreshment, certainty, wisdom and illumination from God’s word. I’m not talking of a fleeting glance, but a life submerged in the word of God. Stop for a moment and think of such a person.

For me it was the late Howard Belben. Howard was the ex-principal of Cliff College, a Methodist training college, and a member of the same church I was part of when I was about 13. Howard, then in his late 70s, invited me to a regular Bible study that he and his wife held in their home. Most of the other people who attended were in their 50s and 60s and were preachers on the local Methodist circuit. Looking back, it was a pretty strange invitation to make, but one I’m eternally grateful for! In the few years that I spent in his lounge (and they were way too short) he showed me his deep passion for God’s word. He wasn’t the most charismatic of personalities, but his deep, living and in many ways simple (not simplistic) love for, and enjoyment of, the Bible changed me forever. It got under my skin. It challenged me to surrender my ideas, my opinions and my philosophies, however grand or certain, as I allowed God’s word to saturate and illuminate every part of me in an on-going journey of discovery. Many times I can still hear his voice in my head saying ‘But Adam, what does the Bible actually say?’.

I’m still on that journey. What about you? Is God’s word refreshing, certainty-bringing, wisdom-endowing, and heart-illuminating to you? I’m not writing this just to those of us who enjoy reading, but to each of us so that we can humbly and daily live (and often wrestle) in the passages of the Bible. Why? Because this is the place where God often does his quiet work of transformation!

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