. . . or both!
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. — Psalm 119:105
Every so often I get the urge to write about Bible study. OK! Alright already. Just about every day I get the urge to write (or talk) about Bible study.
It really doesn’t work out all that badly, because many of the people who talk to me and ask me questions want to get me to write or talk about Bible study. What they want to do is to get to know their Bibles better.
That sounds pretty good to me. Bible study is a good thing. Knowing your Bible is a good thing. But for someone who is a Christian, who really wants to follow Jesus, it’s a very weak good thing. What do I mean by very weak?
Let’s look at church attendance. I’ve noticed over the last few years that nearly everyone I talk with or exchange e-mail with who says they are having serious problems in their spiritual life, turns out not to have a sound connection with a church family. Flip the coin, and I find that practically all of those who tell me they are spiritually healthy has a sound connection with a church family.
Now I can think of exceptions, but there are special reasons for each of those. Someone might be transitioning to a new church family for good reasons, and is still spiritually healthy even though the connection is temporarily weak. On the other hand, someone might be connected to a dysfunctional church family (none of us know any of those, do we?).
Even so, I call “attending church because it’s good to attend church” a very weak good thing. That’s because if you’re attending church because of church, when things get tough at church you’re going to move on. A strong, even powerful good thing is when you attend church in order to build your relationship with God.
I was discussing this with Jody just yesterday. We were commenting again, as we have done many times, how you really can’t truly put another person first if you don’t first put God first. Paradoxical, isn’t it? I can’t really love Jody and put her first in my life unless I have God first. My human heart will make me first, if God isn’t first.
In my work day I know that if I take an hour of my time to put on some project, that hour won’t be available for another project. But there’s this odd thing about putting God first. Instead of reducing your capacity to put someone else first, God increases your capacity. I don’t think you can really understand that until you try it.
So let’s turn back to Bible study. If I study my Bible because I want to know my Bible, I will certainly learn some things about God. That’s the nature of Bible study. But there’s a danger here. It’s easy to put the priority of knowing my Bible study above the priority I put on knowing God. But if I study my Bible because I want to get to know God better, and because that’s a way I get closer to God, then not only will I get to know God better, but I’ll get to know my Bible better.
But notice something else. Putting God first increases your capacity to know and to love other people. If you’re doing something to get closer to God and you find that this is separating you from other people, then think again. God isn’t like a high-maintenance friend. He empowers; he doesn’t drain.
How will this change my Bible study? Instead of merely looking for facts, I will study in order to hear God speak. Facts are good, in their proper priority. But it’s easy to be so busy trying to get to know â€œstuffâ€ that we cannot hear God speak. Make your Bible study a time of prayer, not a time when you talk to God so much as a time when you listen for God to talk to you.
Meet God through the pages of his written word.