Spiritu Al Discipline: Study
I want to share some of the things I learned from our class last night.
It was just last night we started a brand new series in our youth Wednesday night class. Last quarter we did a DVD series called “Basic” by Francis Chan. In case you are curious about it, it was good, but seemed like it was very much meant for a young adult/college age small group setting. There was a lot more abstract induction than I think our students had problems fully grasping. This new series is a simple look at 6 different spiritual disciplines. Looking at some books to supplement these lessons, but mostly utilizing a curriculum from Life Bible Study (just so you know the following post isn’t a result of any of my own genius, or lack thereof).
As the title for this post indicates, the first spiritual discipline we discussed was “study” or more specifically, “Bible study”. Now admittedly, when I think of spiritual discipline, study is not something that comes to mind. I’m much more likely to go straight to fasting, prayer, service, things like that. I think whatever level of academia you are at, to study will always be something you have to do to be prepared for something of importance like a mid-term or final exam. That may not be the worst way of looking at it though.
Last night I asked my six most experienced drivers in the youth group to come up to the stage and I split them into two teams (a game described in the curriculum). I then has each team write down as many road signs they could think of in the span of one minute. After the minute was up we compared their lists and the list with more road signs was declared the winner. We then spent some time talking about the importance of road signs, understanding what the road signs mean, and how we will at times ignore road signs. Road signs obviously have a very specific purpose, keeping us safe as we drive. We aren’t born with the knowledge of what road signs mean. Some are more obvious than others like the STOP sign but some are confusing to many and are interpreted in various ways (i.e. “merge” or “speed limit”). Even so, it’s important to study road signs before one drives, memorize their meaning, notice the signs as they come are way and of course actually submitting to them with obedience. Sound anything like the Bible to our Christian walk?
Studying the Bible is something that, granted, is subject to many negative stereotypes. “I don’t understand it.”, “It’s too boring!”, “I don’t have enough time.”, “I don’t want to do that.” These are formidable obstacles to overcome. But it’s not called a “discipline” for nothing. Not that it’s a punishment of any kind; That’s the wrong kind of discipline. It’s more like having a discipline to play an instrument, play basketball, or score well on tests. These disciplines are abilities developed through practice and effort. We understand that very well. But when we claim to be Christians… that’s more important than being on a basketball team, it’s more important than being a first-chair cellist, it’s more important than being a straight A student, it’s more important than being an American! But if that is true, if we really believe that… why don’t we treat it that way? Why don’t we devote more time to studying scripture? Why don’t we devote ourselves to applying scripture?
I asked them to remember the word ROAD if they needed help focusing on how to study God’s Word. “R” stands for read. We aren’t going to get anywhere if we don’t decide to make the time to read the Bible. It helps me tremendously to listen to scripture with my phone, or to read it from the hard copy and shut down the phone for awhile. Way too many distractions can come through that thing.”O” stands for observe. Ever read for a test and after you took it immediately forgot everything you read? Just regurgitated everything? Or maybe even more common, ever read an entire paragraph and was thinking about something else entirely and thought to yourself, “What did I just read?” and had to go back and read it all again? Observing while reading is being fully engaged in what you are reading. Asking questions about words that stand out and considering context to draw out meaning. “A” stands for apply. James 1:22 comes to mind. Understanding the meaning of a given passage is not the same as submitting yourself to it. Obedience is the intended reaction to scripture. “D” stands for depend. That last one is tough. To convince yourself to apply, obey, and submit yourself to scripture takes a level of trust in who God is, what His intentions are for you, and the importance of Him communicating those intentions through His Word. That takes a level of dependence that makes us selfish creatures very uncomfortable.
At the end of class, it was time to quit talking about the spiritual discipline of study and start practicing it; if even for just a short while. We read Psalm 119:9-16 over and over in silence and in prayer. I encourage you to do the same!
9 How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
12 Praise be to you, Lord;
teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.