How do YOU Study Your Bible?
As a child, I was taught that writing in a book was forbidden! Books were made for reading, and if you wanted to note something from the reading, you used a notebook and pen – but NEVER wrote in the book! Students (or more accurately their parents) were fined for “marking up a textbook”. There were several valid reasons for this demand, and in compliance with it, books seemed to last longer, and students learned besides.
But to be honest, in the past few decades, I’ve found highlighters, pens for underlining, and flyleaves front and back in my Bible are “tools” for studying! I’m still persuaded that a real book in my hand is more comfortable and beneficial than a computer screen for studying. Of the several bibles in my library (most from former preachers or friends who have bequeathed these treasures to me), only a few have pen marks or highlighted passages. They nonetheless show extensive use in reading and studying, and their notecards or papers remain tucked carefully between the pages! The covers are so worn that tape holds them to the book and glue supports the pages to a broken spine. An old version of Scotch tape repairs the torn pages and hundreds of thumb and finger marks adorn the pages themselves as evidence their former owner frequently journeyed through the book of Books!
It truly grieves me to see bibles owned by brethren left behind in the pews from service to service. Granted, I can “assume” they have another Bible at home, and they use it to study ahead for each discussion. But as they seldom if ever make comments during these studies, and rarely attend the “extra” studies afforded the brethren, one ponders just how diligently they study. Habitually, it is not uncommon for me to pick up those bibles and thumb through them to see their notes and comments. Too often there are no notations at all regarding a fervent study of God’s word. Are they learning? Are they diligently interested?
Just as surely, it encourages me to receive those occasional phone calls asking, “Did you happen to see my Bible in the pew? I got busy talking to someone and left it by mistake. Are you going to be there so I can come and get it?” Sure, and if I need to bring it to you, I can do that! I remember one brother several years ago that mistakenly left his pocket-sized New Testament in the pew. He lived more than a two-hour drive from the meeting house but called and asked if I’d found it. I had, and he insisted I mail it to him immediately! He was an avid student and that was just one of his “study books.”
Most have heard my constant challenge to young people to “devote at least thirty minutes a day to reading the Bible.” I’m not embarrassed to ask them how much they’ve done in a week’s time, but occasionally they honestly admit (with some shame) they missed a day or two. Sadly, many tend to excuse such behavior … after all, we seldom have “tests” on the subject matter, and if we listen carefully in class, we tend to have little problem following the lesson. But what about our participation in the lesson? Doesn’t it simply make sense that we would get more out of the study if we put more into it? The more one knows in preparation for the study, the more he/she can help teach and admonish one another in the study!
It is never “just the teacher’s job” to prepare for Bible study or for that matter, the sermon. Usually, (at least in most cases) preachers announce a few days ahead of time the topic they intend to use for sermons. I know of no place that fails to follow a regular system of Bible study (in other words, studying through a particular book of the Bible.) Even casual listeners should know where the current study begins, and therefore should be able to prepare for that study and discussion. Alas, we see fewer and fewer bringing their Bibles with them, let alone some “tools for studying” like pen and paper for recording notes. No, I’m not insisting this is the only way to study diligently. But I am insisting that the evidence of lacking proper preparation is more abundant than evidence proving diligent preparation! Christians need to be diligent in making their calling and their election sure (2 Peter 1:1 – 11) and this cannot be accomplished with only a casual approach to the study, learning, and obeying of God’s Word!
No less than six times in the New Testament do we read the phrase, “I would not have you ignorant, brethren.” Knowledge of God’s way is essential to our pleasing Him in all we say and do (Colossians 3:17). The only way we learn His way is by reading it, studying it, and obeying it – all with diligence! So how well are you studying His word?