One hot evening this past summer, I felt an incredible sense of accomplishment the moment I got off my bike in downtown Milwaukee. My husband and I had started earlier that Saturday morning, trekking across country highways and pedaling across bike paths, to make my longest bike trip so far--from our home in Mukwonago to his workplace in downtown Milwaukee. Moving forward through city after city and county after county, we rode. Arriving at our destination, I felt a surge of strength and energy from the cardio-vascular activity, almost as if I had conquered something. To top it off, we had ridden for hours on pretty standard Walmart mountain bikes--not the best selection for on-road cycling--and had that day completed more of a challenge than many of the cyclists who pedaled portions of the same trails with us.
Completing a worthwhile task always has its share of blessings. "Desire accomplished is sweet to the soul," was one of my mother's favorite verses as we worked together in the kitchen canning beans, in the garden picking corn, or in the house preparing for guests. But Heaven, that final destination for believers, will be alive with wonder and gratitude as we embrace the kinds of challenges for which God intends us to vie on this side of eternity.
In a very real way, my first word study and my first trek to Milwaukee parallel, for they illustrate a kind of attainment for which we are to reach in our Christian experience.
Studying the Word “Study”
Responding to my husband’s prompting to more closely investigate God’s Word for myself, I decided my very first question to pursue would be, “What does the Bible say about studying?” To discover this answer, I popped open the lid of my six-year-old laptop and began searching, using my handy Bible software, to discover instances where the word study was used and noting its underlying original language definitions.
I’d taught piano since I was fourteen, had majored in education in Bible college, had been employed as a Christian school teacher for nearly a decade, and had engaged in countless discussions concerning correct study techniques. I’d even read books on increasing memory ability and written papers about how best to study, but never before had I searched out what God had to say concerning this topic! Isn’t that a most typical response? To learn what “experts” say about an issue or to view it from many perspectives except the one inspired by God?
My doctrinal statement, though never written out as a man’s who is presenting his call before a board of pastors at an ordination council, would have indicated that I believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of Scripture. I would say that God has preserved His words and that His Book is my only guide in life. As a Baptist, I would affirm that His Word is my “only rule of faith and practice.” And yet, I could go for years without even considering that the Bible should be my sourcebook not merely for devotional reading but also for personal study in every area of life! As I began to study out this word, I realized how sorely I lacked biblical study habits. But, as time went on, my view of personal devotional time became revolutionized as I was introduced to the depth with which God desires to cut into the pride of our hearts as we experience the sharpened sword of His Word.
A word of caution: While studying the Scripture is certainly commendable and something commanded by God, our time in the Bible ought be continually coupled with an attitude of deep humility and contrition. Proverbs 2 indicates the kind of attitude with which God’s Word is to be approached:
My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;
Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.
A heart cry that desires God’s Word above our own way, that longs for His wisdom, that searches out His truth—these characteristics allow us to discover the fear of God and perceive His knowledge. A will to obey whatever God says will outflow from such a heart cry. Second Peter explains, “Add to your faith virtue, and to virtue, knowledge” (2 Peter 1:5). Thus, learning God’s Word is another layer of the building a believer’s life. The basement is that initial faith and the first floor is made up of the lasting material, virtue—a will to obey it. Certainly, study without application or without proper motivation produces only pride: “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth” (I Cor. 8:1). With a driving motivation, then, to live by God’s every word, understanding that “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,” let us begin our journey and consider how we can better understand the words which God has preserved for us.
Study: An Introduction to the Word Itself