You have likely had someone tell you in the past to “do your best” in the realm of sports, chores, and your work. Maybe these words were spoken as advice to you even as a spouse or a parent. We all know the feeling of approaching a task or a relationship and feeling inadequate for the job. That sinking feeling that even if we did the very best we could do, we still might not do it “right”.
When you consider your Bible study ask yourself the question, “Am I really doing my best?” The question is not, “Do I think that Bible study is important?” The question is not, “Do I believe I should give my best effort in Bible study?” The question is… “Am I REALLY doing the best that I can?”
There are some warning signs that I think we should be aware of. Signs that might tell us that we are not really doing the best that we can. Signs that might tell us that we should start doing better.
Not opening your Bible every single day
If we are not spending time in the word every day, can we really say we are doing our best? Do we eat every day? do we sleep every night? Do we speak to our spouse every day? Do we watch TV each evening? Do we keep up with the news in the world of sports? If you are comfortable going a day without hearing from the Lord, there is a strong possibility that you are not doing your best.
Studying with the conclusions in mind
A book published in 2010 “The Invisible Gorilla” highlights a fascinating study. The short version is that people were told to count the number of times that students passed a basketball back and forth. While the students were passing the ball back and forth a Gorilla appeared beating it’s chest. The majority of the viewers did not even see the Gorilla. They didn’t see the Gorilla because that isn’t what they were looking for. When we study our Bibles looking to prove a point or “defend a position” we are likely to miss a Gorilla or two along the way. True study demands that we approach the text with an open mind, ready to be led wherever it goes, not where we want it to take us.
Placing heavy emphasis on what others believe
I don’t know why we are the way that we are but, we are. Perhaps it is our desire to have validation or maybe it is a shortcut to doing the study for ourselves. Far too often we (including me) are guilty of rushing to a commentary, or to our preacher for explanation. I have a library full of commentaries, they can be very helpful. I have tremendous respect for fellow ministers and I continually seek their counsel. There is certainly nothing wrong with any of that. Where we get into trouble is where we elevate the viewpoints of another for either positive or negative. Example: “Brother _________ believes this so it must be right.” or “_________ believes this so it must be wrong!”. Honest students of scripture will come to terms with the fact that those who they hold in high regard might be mistaken on some things and those whom they hold in low regard might be correct on some things. Who believes something, is not an indicator of truthfulness. Reading from others/seeking counsel is always encouraged. Just don’t allow that to become “the factor” in your study.
I have encountered many who view every single topic as simple, easy to understand with a clear “right” and a clear “wrong”. There is real danger in this. There is danger in this kind of thinking because it goes against what scripture actually teaches.
2 Timothy 2:15- Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
As Paul writes to Timothy concerning things that he must remind the church of and charge them with, he also instructs Timothy to use wisdom in avoiding silly controversies and quarrels. How is Timothy to be able to do all of that? By doing his best. If every topic/passage in scripture was simple then Timothy wouldn’t need to do his best. His best would be overkill.
You and I are not Timothy, but I believe the principle would still apply to God’s people, and certainly for ministers. Bible study that takes into account the immediate and remote context, cultural events that are being addressed, political tension that is present in the text, original meaning of the words that were used in the inspired text, and understanding which covenant is being dealt with within each passage of scripture is hard work. Then we must work to understand what the original audience would have understood that passage to teach before we ever attempt to apply it to our lives. Why should we place so much effort into it? Because true study, demands our best.
Over the coming weeks, we will talk more about the “How To” of Bible study. Until then, let’s keep our “thinking caps” on and work to remove the “warning signs” that may have found their way into our life. Let’s be people of the book.