Today I'd like to talk about one of my favorite spiritual disciplines. Oh, yes! I have favorites!
Unfortunately, the very thing that makes this one of my favorites also means that it can be dangerous and easy to misuse.
Now I've got you wondering, don't I?
It's the discipline of study. Oh, I love to study things. If I'm interested in a subject, I find great pleasure in studying it. I love to look things up and run references and amass information. I find it a very satisfying exercise.
And Bible study?? Study of spiritual things? Oh, yes, please. If I can look things up and run references and amass information about God, so much the better. Bring it on.
How easy it is to fall into the trap of attaining knowledge for the sake of knowledge. Or for the sake of feeling good about our knowledge. Or for the sake of trying to prove that we're right, or good, or enlightened, or well-educated.
The spiritual discipline of study does lead to knowledge. As we study the Bible, good books, and the world around us, we do attain new knowledge. We learn more about God. But the purpose of study is not so much to know about God as it is to know God. This difference is critical. There are some profound scholars who know all about God and the Bible but have no faith in God at all!
Understanding that we are not working just to amass information, we do well to approach study seriously. Many of us are helped by enrolling in an organized study, such as Bible Study Fellowship or Community Bible Study. Churches may offer weekly classes. Home-based groups may use published materials from trusted authors. Participation in one or more these kinds of groups may be extremely beneficial.
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes!
At their core, though, the spiritual disciplines are things that each of us must do for ourselves, so simply signing up for a Bible study will not be enough. We do well to concentrate our efforts. For instance, when studying a book of the Bible, it's very helpful simply to read through the book one or many times. If we're studying a short book, we may wish to read the book through every day for a week or a month. We may want to read it in several different versions of the Bible. Then we might read a commentary on the book. We might choose a portion of the book to memorize. All of these methods can be effective ways of practicing the discipline of study.
Even more than the other disciplines, the practice of study requires a humble heart. Students learn from masters when they first admit that the masters know something worth knowing--and then when they approach the learning of that subject with a teachable spirit.
How about you? Have you found a particular approach to study to be especially beneficial?