So you’ve started reading your Bible and you’re sticking to your plan. You haven’t missed a day and you’re enjoying the experience. You’ve just arrived at the story of Abraham and you’re even finding it exciting! Maybe this is the first time you’ve committed to regular Bible reading and you’re surprised at how well you’re getting on. The word of God has come alive to you, or maybe you have come alive to the word of God!
But inside there is a nagging question: is this it? Is this the extent of my responsibility towards God’s word? Is this what the Bible means by ‘Study to show thyself approved unto God?’ (2 Tim 2:15)
The answer to that question is a straightforward no! Actually, the regular daily reading of the scriptures is what every believer should be doing. When Paul exhorted Timothy to ‘study’ he was not urging him to commit to a ‘3 chapter day’ routine. Paul already knew that Timothy was reading (2 Tim 3:14), rather he was encouraging him to invest himself in the deeper and more detailed, diligent study of scripture. The word means ‘to make effort’, or ‘be earnest,’ but also carries the idea of ‘labour’ or ‘hard work.’
This immediately seems to scare us stiff! There are a number of potential reasons for this, such as an imagined hierarchy as to who should be involved in Bible Study. Somebody once told me that he would never be a preacher so why bother? Someone else said they weren’t male so it wasn’t required. Others just have a mental block, where they consider Scripture to be a more complex subject than anything else, much harder than that Physics textbook, or the Economics assignment, and so they resign themselves to just reading it and leaving others to study it.
This is not what God intended. Bible study is not just for ‘producing sermons,’ nor for ‘someone else.’ When the Holy Spirit moved Paul to choose the word ‘study’ he was doing so for a purpose. The word ‘read’ was also available to him, as was ‘meditate’, ‘consider’ or ‘muse’, but he used ‘study.’ “Timothy, I want you to be diligent like a labourer!” Another translation has; ‘Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved’ (AMP).
But notice the purpose. It was so Timothy could present before God as approved, or tested. The end of Bible study is not Bible study itself! Neither is the aim to prove that you are diligent. Sometimes we become immersed in the process of a thing rather than the outcome. Other times we become obsessed with the repetition of practice rather than the result. Paul states here that the practice (diligence) of the process (study) produces the outcome (approval before God).
So who amongst us can say that they are approved? We should be. Everyone of us! Will you start today?
by Mervyn Hall