The Ministry of Study
“Ministry” is a multi-faceted word that calls to mind faithful teaching, service to others, and a life of self-sacrifice. But have you ever thought about the “ministry” of studying the Word of God? An astronomical number of passages in the Bible speak of loving God’s word, writing it on our hearts, and meditating on the things of God (cf. Deut. 6; Psalm 1; Psalm 63; Psalm 119; Jeremiah 15:16; 20:9; Matt. 4:4; Col. 3:16-17, etc.). Truly, part of our ministry as Christians ought to involve study.
Study: Its Challenges — Modern culture does not teach us to think deeply and use our imaginations well. As a result, we seem to have lost our forefathers’ tremendous ability to meditate and ponder on the things of God. Perhaps the biggest challenge to effective Bible study today is the busy nature of our lives. As a shepherd, David could spend time thinking, praying, and writing inspired Psalms about God (cf. Psalm 23). Maybe it is significant that David’s greatest sins (cf. 2 Sam. 11) were committed when he was weighed down with the busy burden of being king. As a busy teacher, Jesus always made time to commune with His Father (Mk. 1:35; Luke 6). The prophets often spoke of “eating” the word of God (Jer. 15:16), meaning that Scripture so consumed their thoughts that it became a part of who they were. As a people we need to recapture that sense of wonder and stillness that facilitates great Bible study. He still says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).
Study: Its Purposes — Uncomfortable as this may sound, you cannot really know Jesus better unless you involve yourself in what the Spirit reveals about Him in Scripture. Often we ask, “What Would Jesus Do?” and yet our lack of study may reveal that we really have very little idea of who He is! Philip once asked, “Lord, show us the Father and it is sufficient for us,” to which Jesus replied, “Have I been with you so long, and you have not known Me, Philip?” (John 14:8-9). Fact is, without the ministry of Bible study, we can never know Jesus as we ought. Participating with Christ in all aspects of life was the consuming passion of Paul: “That I may know Him…” (Phil. 3:10ff). The Psalmist declared, “Your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). The primary purpose of Bible study is to know God better and to understand His will for our lives. What a glorious ministry He has given us! What a privilege to be able to ponder the character and nature of our Creator!
Study: Its Benefits — Psalm 1:3 declares that for the man who meditates and delights in the law of the Lord, several benefits will become evident. First, the ministry of study will provide the student of God’s word with stability: “He shall be like a tree.” Others with less substance will be swept away by the storms of life, but not the student — he will be firmly planted. Second, the ministry of study provides God’s servant with nourishment: “Planted by the rivers of water.” When all other sources of hope bring disappointment and exhaustion, the Word of God will nourish the believer as nothing else can (cf. 1 Tim. 4:6). A third benefit of study is fruitfulness: “He brings forth its fruit in season.” When we continually meditate on the things of God, our lives will ultimately bear fruit to God (Gal. 5:22-23). Serious Bible study can transform our personalities and make us more like Christ — now that’s good fruit! Fourth, the ministry of study gives the believer endurance: “Whose leaf also shall not wither.” God’s strength will sustain the individual who seriously contemplates the challenges of life within the framework of God’s plan. Psalm 1:3 says that prosperity is not the property of the rich nor the famous — it is the possession of the student of God’s word! — JB