What comes to mind when you think “Bible study”? Does the phrase conjure up feelings of joy at the chance to spend time in God’s Word? Do you feel dread about this time that could be spent elsewhere?
My own feelings towards Bible study were always mixed at best. Especially for those of us who grew up going to church, sacrificing those early Sunday mornings probably felt like more than enough. But like all things in life, you hit those inevitable plateaus. There was a point I reached where it became obvious that if I wanted to develop in my faith, I would have to put in greater effort. If you’re approaching a similar crossroad (pun intended), maybe it’s time to consider how Bible study might benefit you in growing your faith!
I began rethinking my attitude towards Bible study when I realized I couldn’t answer some embarrassingly basic questions. Who wrote the Bible? How many years of history does it cover? Besides the stories of the most popular Biblical figures, how much of the Bible did I really know? Did I know Scripture beyond the most famous Bible verses (like John 3:16)? How can I know for sure if I’m truly walking on the narrow road to salvation (Matthew 7:13-14) or not? It was quite humbling to realize that, for someone who claimed to be a child of God, I sure didn’t know much about the Heavenly Father.
“Sure,” you may be thinking, “the Bible is important, but doesn’t God care about our intentions more than actions? Can’t He see our hearts?” Consider this, dear reader: how would your earthly parents feel if you grew up into adulthood never once curious about their lives and their histories? Wouldn’t that be hurtful? How much more do we owe it to our Heavenly Father to get to know Him through His own words? Should we just rely on our own opinions or the commentaries of others to do the heavy lifting of growing our faith? It was only through spending time in His Word that I began to truly consider how I was carrying out my life of faith, deeply reflecting on whether or not I was living up to His standards instead of my own.
Through Bible study, I even learned that some of the best Bible stories are the ones that aren’t as well known. Do you know about the story of King Balak and the Moabites who tried to destroy God’s people? Here’s a teaser: it involves a sorcerer and a talking donkey. Ye olde Billy Shakespeare never wrote anything that cool, and I only learned about it through fellowship with other believers who also wanted to sincerely grow in their faith! By enrolling in Bible study, I was able to push myself beyond the casual approach that I was accustomed to, instead reading with an eye towards learning and retaining the Word. It was so different and much more meaningful than the Wednesday night youth fellowships that I thought were sufficient for growing my faith.
One of the many benefits of Bible study is that it also gave me a reason to take up Bible journaling. Reading, reflection and journaling helped me chart the progression of my own faith, and it was so cool to have a tangible reminder of how my faith has been developing through the Word! (A bit of fair warning: possible side effects include obsessive color-coding.)
Another benefit I found in Bible study is that it fed my spirit on a regular basis. According to science, the human body can go up to three days without water, and up to two weeks without food. John 4:14 tells us that God’s Word is spiritual water that will quench our thirst forever, and John 6:51 speaks of a living bread that sustains the spirit. So if our physical bodies can’t function indefinitely without food and water…why do we insist on malnourishing our spirit? Isn’t our spiritual health that much more important to sustain?
You’ll often find that Scripture uses food as a metaphor. God even warns us against spiritual complacency in this way: in Hebrews 5:12-14 we are instructed to become mature believers who move beyond the milk of infants (elementary Bible knowledge) and feed off of solid food (mature understanding of His Word). How underdeveloped would our physical bodies be if we depended on milk as our only source of nutrition? That would be like a bodybuilder trying to develop his muscles by only lifting 10-pound weights…probably not gonna get very far, is he?
If nothing else, let’s at least consider our ultimate hope as believers: heaven and eternal life. 1 John 2:17 tells us that the desires of this world will pass away, but those who do God’s will live forever. How can we have true faith in the promise of eternal life if we don’t know what God’s will is and how to keep it? In Matthew 13:10-11, Jesus tells us that the knowledge of the secrets of Heaven is hidden in parables. I came to the painful realization that if I didn’t understand the meaning of the parables, there was no logical way that I could claim to be on the path to eternal life. So many Christians live their faith in a similar manner; we follow the traditions of our churches, or what our families taught us, but never come close enough to understanding the deeper things of God. If the parables were recorded in Scripture for us, surely we must know their meaning!
But don’t let this intimidate you! Everyone starts somewhere, and Bible study for beginners is absolutely a great place to begin. As believers who wish to grow in our faith and truly know our Heavenly Father, let’s reflect on Psalm 119:105 and remember why God’s Word is so vital to our walk of faith.