I’ll say a word and you tell me the first thing that comes to mind:
Ahhhh. Vacation. The word itself evokes images of an idyllic place where I’m surrounded by friends and family. I can almost hear the sound of kids’ laughter lilting on the gentle breeze. Wave jumping, sandcastle building, and kite flying top the day’s “To Do” list. Sunset strolls on white sand beaches and freshly caught seafood tempt more than mere tastebuds. And the pictures posted on Facebook and Instagram show the world our skin’s sun-kissed glow.
But behind the scenes, there’s a different reality.
- Hours of unsung planning, packing, and driving.
- Mile after mile of intense “dialogue”:
“Mom! She touched me!”
“Tell her to stop touching me!”
“Are we there yet?”
“How much longer?”
“I have to go to the bathroom!” (Although, I must confess. . . that request usually and frequently comes from the person riding in the front passenger seat!)
- Then there’s the arrival and unpacking.
- And grocery shopping at the store where the shelves are nearly empty because every other vacationer got there before me!
- And what about the insanely long waiting times for every. single. restaurant?
- And the sunscreen application. And re-application. Or not. (Resulting in hot, lobster-colored skin that ironically gets covered in chill bumps.)
- And then there’s the always-lurking fear of shark attacks and brain-eating bacteria. Thank you social media.
- And sand. EVERYWHERE. (I’ll let you use your imagination for this one.)
Are you having fun yet? When I say the word “vacation”, rather than think idyllic scenes, isn’t it more accurate to ruminate on the expended effort? While the word “effort” can easily be associated with vacations, we don’t usually focus on it. Instead, we correlate our getaways with positive memories. Why? Because the outcome outweighs the output.
You see, after all is said and done–the effort expended and the energy exerted and the money spent and the hours tallied–somehow, a sweet bond develops between vacation goers. The ones you laughed with, labored for, and spent time loving on, now share a history together. Experiences have been etched. Memories have been made. And relationships deepen. The outcome has outweighed the output.
Bible Study Output
If I were to continue with our little word association game and ask you to say the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words “Bible study”, what would be your response?
Out of my league?
Too much effort?
Are these phrases accurate? Pretty much. Bible study does take effort. It can be time consuming. It definitely stretches us. Occasionally, it makes us uncomfortable. What we’ve just defined then, is the output. In Psalm 119, we read of a man who understands what it means to put forth effort regarding the Word of God. The psalmist doesn’t take the easy road. He doesn’t simply glance at the words of the Bible or half-heartedly listen to a brief devotional. No–his output of effort is intense. Look at some of the phrases he uses to describe his relationship with the Word:
- I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (v. 11).
- I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways (v. 15).
- My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times (v. 20).
- I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me (v. 30).
- I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame (v. 46).
- At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules (v. 62).
- With my whole heart I keep your precepts (v. 69).
- I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words (v. 147).
- My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise (v. 148).
The apostle Paul agrees. He says in 2 Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourselves to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2:15). In the original language, the directive to “be diligent” actually means. . . are you ready for this. . .”to exert oneself.”
Bible Study Outcome
Output is a must. It’s a given. But what is the outcome and does it outweigh this seemingly exorbitant effort? You be the judge. But here’s another list from the psalmist that might help with your analysis. These are benefits he derived from being in and knowing the Word:
- blessing (v. 1)
- purity (v. 9)
- counsel (v. 24)
- life (v. 25)
- understanding (v. 27)
- strength (v. 28)
- hope (v. 49)
- comfort (v. 50)
- grace (v. 58)
- mercy (v. 77)
- salvation (v. 81)
- wisdom (v. 98)
- guidance (v. 105)
- protection (v. 114)
- consistency (v. 133)
- God’s presence (v. 151)
- redemption (v. 154)
- peace (v. 165)
- deliverance (v. 170)
Whew! Pretty amazing outcome, wouldn’t you agree? And this list isn’t exhaustive! So why do we associate Bible study with negative terms when so many benefits abound? Seems to me a re-branding might be in order, for the outcome far outweighs the output.
Why don’t you and I strive to set the record straight. Let’s put forth a little effort and spend some time in Scripture. Then, let’s tell others about the benefits of Bible study, namely a deepened relationship with the Living God! –LeAnne
Satan knows that the only offensive weapon we have to raise against him is the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. He can’t keep it from being powerful, but if he can tempt us to think little of it, he knows it will never be powerful in us.” –Beth Moore