As we go through the spiritual disciplines, we move from meditation to Study. How often do we fight to fit in our quick devotional, or even spend a few minutes thinking about scripture and what it says to us?
But what about study?
Study is becoming a lost art form. This is happening in our schools, as we learn how to be good test takers or learn how to memorize things so that we can get through our “studies,” but do we really STUDY?
And this moves into different areas of our lives. We may be king or queen of the devotion, or become proficient at skimming texts to get (often what we desire to be) the main “gist” of what we are reading, but where does study fit into our lives?
We call the Bible the “rule and guide of our faith,” but how often do we dig into scripture and chew on it, look at all the different sides and different texts that support or challenge it, so that we can know what God desires for us to learn from it?
Bible study, as we traditionally understand study, has become a thing of the past. I have overseen Bible studies where, more often than not, the majority of people were waiting for me to tell them what the text means. I can’t even number the amount of times that I have asked questions that brought about little or no answers, and sometimes with blank stares.
I say this not to shame anyone who had this be the case when they did a study with me (or anyone else). Many had busy lives. They have work, family, and other obligations that kept them from being able to do more than be there for the study. In a sense those weren’t Bible studies, but often interactive sermons or teaching moments.
Richard Foster makes the following point that should lead us to a desire to learn how to study God’s word.
“We come to the Scripture to be changed, not to amass information… When we study a book of the Bible we are seeking to be controlled by the intent of the author. We are determined to hear what he is saying, not what we want him to say.”Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Disciplines, The Path to Spiritual Growth, Harper Collins Publishers; 1978, 1988, 1998; (New York, NY) p. 69
After mentioning that the best way to study is by taking a personal retreat, he makes the following point…
“I have discovered that the most difficult problem is not finding time but convincing myself that this is important enough to set aside the time (italics added).”Foster, Celebration of Disciplines, The Path to Spiritual Growth, p. 70
Do you desire to know God better? Is it your desire to hear from Him, to have Him impact your life, to be transformed by Him? The real question is, “Is knowing God important enough for you to take the time necessary to ‘know Him?’”
My wife and I got away this weekend, and it was nice to just spend some time away focused on our marriage at the Weekend to Remember Retreat from Family Life. We have desired to do this for a long time, and even built it into the sabbatical grant that didn’t go through.
Because relationships take time, we chose to take time out of our schedules, let people know we would be away so that we wouldn’t be interrupted (much), and focused on our marriage and what the Bible had to say about being married. I would recommend this to anyone who is married, whether things are going well or going south.
Being a follower of Jesus is about being in a relationship with Him.
Being a follower of Jesus is about being in a relationship with Him. And relationships take time. Jesus has done everything so that we can spend time with Him, dying on the cross so that we wouldn’t be separated from Him. And we are told that “he stands at the door and knocks…”
What are you willing to do for your relationship with Him? We don’t expect that many people can plan a 2-3 day retreat this week, but are you willing to pick maybe a short book in the Bible, and commit to studying it (not just reading it)? If so, dig in and reach out to get more insight.
Maybe, as we go through Galatians this week, or James next week, commit yourself to do more than just read the scripture, and more than just meditate on it. Study it. If you don’t have a study Bible, we can recommend many good ones that will help you dig in deeper. Learn why the book was written. Learn what the author was addressing when it was written. Seek to understand what was going on at that time. Read it over and over, and then try to figure out how it might apply to today (and feel free to reach out to Pastor John or myself for more clarity).
Richard Foster’s recommendation is to pick a small book (to start) and make it your study focus for the month and journal what you feel you are learning. This takes time, but isn’t your relationship with God worth it?
A lot to think about and pray about elaine