As noted in my first return to my old “laws,” I’ll be periodically be posting items drawn from a little writing project I’ve been working at on the side. Here’s the second sample:
Bible study is a discipline, not a ritual event.
Two of the hardest things about serious Bible study are getting started and then sustaining the effort. While a word like “sustaining” naturally speaks of regularity and continuity, I’m not talking about treating Bible study like your morning “devotional” routine. I’m not suggesting you make it part of a routine at all. If routine helps, then have a go at it. Being faithful at something doesn’t mean always doing it the same way or at the same time. All too often spending time studying Scripture deteriorates into an item on a checklist to be dutifully checked off. “I’m devoted now.”
Since Bible study is more than Bible reading, by definition it involves thinking. Thinking is work. It’s not for sissies. If you’re not at least a bit mentally spent (or stimulated) after doing what you presume is thinking, you aren’t really thinking. Sometimes our days don’t afford the time for the kind of sustained effort that goes into serious Bible study. Don’t let that bother you. Rather than fret over missing the study session you put on your checklist, my advice is to periodically devote the small increments of time that you do have to just thinking about what you’ve studied before. Sometimes it’s better to evaluate what you’ve taken in rather than take in more.
The point is this: It’s more spiritually productive to develop clarity on some point of the text, or figure out a way to frame a question for future study, than to just mark time with an open book (even if it’s the Bible) just for the sake of maintaining a daily ritual. Ultimately, Bible study is about developing aptitude in the Scriptures, the source material for knowing God, not score-keeping.
The life of the mind can be cultivated just about anywhere. You always bring your mind with you. Whatever you’ve been studying lately can be brought back and worked over again. Your brain has stored the fruits of your study. Precise recall isn’t a pre-requisite, either. Retrieve some thought and probe it for weakness, or thank God for its clarity. You’ll be surprised at how just thinking from time to time somehow helps you process a given issue or problem in altogether fresh ways.