2 Timothy 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the
word of truth.” (NKJV)
Have you done your devotions? How many times have you been asked that question? I believe it is probably asked by someone who was attempting to be helpful. How many times have you asked the same question? I believe most people asking this question are trying to be helpful. Their intent is to help the person be accountable to someone. While that may be the case, often the results are rushed reading of a text with no meditating taking place on behalf of the reader. Notice our text says, “…rightly dividing…” There is a specific way to study the Word of God.
I believe it is necessary for us to carefully define this term, devotions. Have you noticed how many devotional books have been published? Every christian celebrity has one. It seems that everyone has their “go-to” book. It seems everyone loves their Daily Bread. Now, you might be asking by now, Chris, what is the big deal? Here it is: My fear, as a concerned christian and pastor, is that we have a lot of people who go through the motion of “doing” a devotion, to fulfill their spiritual check list. Don’t get me wrong, they might be doing this in the best way they can or the the best way they know how. The problem is, reading a page out of some devotional book with a verse attached to it, was not ever the intended method of reading or studying our Bibles. These devotional books have become a spiritual crutch. It is like saying that we are consistent at riding a bike only to find the person still uses training wheels at 31 years of age. This is not good. I am not suggesting that these books should be all together abandoned. What I am suggesting is that they take their proper place. These devotional books should be an aid or a tool to help us glean the pages of our Bible. I am not against reading plans. I am not against reading through the Bible in a year. However, I am against all of these things if all we are doing is checking off a set of things that have been accomplished for the sake of saying they have been accomplished. Where is the spiritual growth in that?
I challenge you to choose a book of the Bible, such as Ruth, maybe Hebrews or Romans or even 1 or 2 Peter. Take one of these books and become familiar with it. Read them over and over — constantly. How can we truly meditate on something if we do not become familiar with it? I recently challenged our church by telling them ahead of time what the preaching schedule would be for the next month. I asked them to read through the book of Ruth. I even said that it took me 17 minutes to read through it one sitting. Then go back and do it again. Then just read the first chapter. Why? Because I want us to immerse ourselves in this biblical text. Chew on it. Become familiar with it. Grasp as much as we can from what God is teaching through this section of His Word. One sweet lady in our church said, “Pastor, it didn’t take me 17 minutes to read the entire book of Ruth, it took me 18 minutes!” I told her I was glad she read it and hey, I was only one minute off!
Lets get away from our cultures’ obsession with the devotional reading habit and immerse ourselves into a text of scripture. ask a few questions. Circle some words. Study the text. Yes, you heard me, study it. We must get away from our casual attitude towards God’s Word. The devotional picture I get is one of laziness. I am not suggesting people are intentionally lazy. I believe all of the devotional books breed laziness on behalf of christians everywhere. We think, “ok, gotta read this page so I can get my devotions done.” Check. There, we did it for the day, now we don’t have to worry about that again until tomorrow.
One of the problems with this devotional attitude is that we have not taught people how to study God’s Word. We have never taught people how to ask questions. We have never suggested that rather than look at a list of verses, we look at paragraphs at a time. Look for natural breaks in a text. Why would we study scripture like this? Let me give you a few reasons.
- It will help learn to study in context.
- It will help avoid poor interpretation.
- It will encourage the reader to really meditate on a passage over and over until they grasp the truth being taught.
- It will force us to ask questions about the text. Who is the author? Who are they writing to? What is God teaching them? Why? What happened? What does that word mean? See, just these couple of questions help shed a lot of light on a passage.
- It will help us exegete rather than eisegete the text we are reading.
This list is not the end all of Bible study tools or helps. However, I think it is a start toward Bible study rather than a light devotional attitude that leads to Christians who think they are completing the task and not growing as strong as they might think they actually are in reality. We are in a spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of people everywhere. Let’s use the Word of God to gird ourselves up and prepare for what Christ has intended us as the church all along to make disciples who are making disciples. Study the Word.