So as far as the spiritual disciplines go, “study” gets a bit of a bad rap sometimes. I’m sure that we can all point to plenty of examples of ivory-tower thinking and sophomoric pontificating gone awry. You know the types of conversations I’m talking about: late-night disputes, fueled more by ego than interest, resulting in semi-spoiled friendships and further entrenched opinions. If we’re honest, we’ve all been part of a conversation like that at one point or another.
No? Not even on social media?
The life of the spiritually engaged mind can be infinitely more rich and rewarding than that because study can be an act of love. When asked by the lawyers and scribes, “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘[love] your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27, emphasis mine).
Here’s the deal: Separating a heart love for God from a head love for God is a bit of a false dichotomy. For Jesus, to love God is to do so with your whole person, and that includes your heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37).
In one of our readings for today, Paul urges Timothy to be about the work of “correctly teaching the word of truth” (2Timothy 2:15). It seems clear then that to correctly teach the Word of God, Timothy would’ve devoted himself to its study.
How then, shall we study?
Regularly. Study is a discipline that requires consistent and focused investment. That doesn’t mean that you must jump straight into original languages or complex theological debates (though they are fascinating and can deepen our love and understanding of God). You might want to pick a book of the Bible to give your dedicated attention to for a designated amount of time, paying attention to what you read beyond just initial comprehension.
Intentionally. There are many methods of interpretation and study. Seek to understand the context of what you’ve read. Make notes of your questions or what confuses you, and then commit to reading more about those things. Look to wise teachers and pastors, a study Bible, or trustworthy commentary series to shape your reading and understanding.
Communally. Scripture may be read individually, but it is meant to be lived and understood communally. Beyond the community that engages with our reading plans here, participate in study with your local church as part of a consistent faith community, one that can encourage you in who God is and what His Word says.
Prayerfully. Finally, and because it should cover all that comes before, Scripture should be studied prayerfully. This seems obvious, but when we neglect to bring our readings before the Lord, we risk missing the opportunity to truly know Him in our pursuit of knowing about Him. It’s the relational knowing that makes study an act of worship and a discipline that truly and positively shapes us.
The practice of study is like running. The more you do it, the more enjoyable it becomes and the more beneficial it is to your endurance in life. The practice of study is about knowing God through His Word.
Study trains us to “[fix] our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2, NASB). It deepens our ability to lock in our focus on Jesus, expanding the life of our mind in Christ, as well as our capacity to understand how to better love our neighbors and our God.
Written by Andrew Stoddard