"I don't want to study!"
I've lost count of how many times I've heard those words, and how many times I said them. There are times when all of us would rather not expend the metal effort to take in more information. Sometimes we feel too tired or maybe the material does not excite us, but whatever the reason, we don't feel like learning any more.
Most of us can relate to feeling little or no motivation to study, but there is a deeper challenge when it comes to living our faith that threatens to leave us unprepared for the work of ministry and the challenges of life that we will experience. That challenge is not the lack of motivation, but the lack of desire. When we move beyond "I don't feel like it" to "I don't want to" the situation is much more serious, and when the subject is our faith journey the impact can be devastating. That may sound dramatic, but when it comes to living and sharing the Christian life, the results of our choices have eternal significance.
The Apostle Paul told his younger protege, Timothy, "Study to show yourself approved." (2 Timothy 2:15) There is a real need for Christians to invest time and themselves in the work of study for the sake of their faith journey and their impact with the Gospel. It is true,that many modern translations of this verse replace the word "study" with "discipline yourself" but a necessary part of that discipline is renewing the mind and spirit through study.
Too many times as a pastor, I hear people say, "Just tell me what to believe (or do)." The implication is that they would rather blindly follow someone else's direction than do the hard work themselves, yet that is exactly what they need. More than a simple answer or a personal direction from the pastor, the real knowledge lies in allowing the Spirit to use their studious efforts mingled with divine revelation. Pastoral insight may be a part of that process, but there is so much more. I once has a door hanger that read, "I trust in the Lord, but I still have to study." The quote is cute, but full of truth for all of us.
Our faith is surely more than academic, but it still requires our study. No sermon or teaching will replace time spent reading the Word of God, engaging the reflections of the community of faith over several millennia, and gaining the insights of the knowledge and wisdom of others. John Wesley, the founder of the Wesleyan denominations (including my own, the United Methodist Church) exemplified a model that engaged Scripture, tradition, experience and reason. We need to incorporate all four, and we need to do the work, not wait for someone else to do it for us.
We want to offer God our very best and that includes the mind and intelligence we were blessed with. Our study need not be laborious, but it must not be avoided.
In the coming days, I will be sharing some suggestions to help encourage and empower your study. For now, however, it is enough to encourage us all to take Paul's advice and study so that we can show ourselves to be those approved.
Be blessed in this day and in your study. May God's divine revelation multiply your efforts.