Why study the Bible? (1)

1 Peter 2:2 NAS

Daily Bible study is essential to your spiritual growth. Professor Howard Hendricks writes: “When our kids were youngsters growing up, we set up a growth chart on the back of a closet door. As they grew, they begged us to measure how tall they’d gotten and record it on the chart. It didn’t matter how small the increments were, they bounced up and down with excitement to see their progress. One time after I measured one of my daughters, she asked me the sort of question you wish kids wouldn’t ask: ‘Daddy, why do big people stop growing?’ How could I explain that big people don’t stop growing – we just grow in a different direction? I don’t know what I told her, but to this day the Lord is still asking me, ‘Hendricks, are you growing old, or are you growing up?'” How about you? How long have you been a Christian? Nine months? Thirty-nine years? The real issue is how much have you grown up? Step up to God’s growth chart and measure your progress. That’s what the apostle Peter meant when he wrote, ‘Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.’ Just as a baby grabs for the bottle, you grab for the Bible. The baby has to have milk to sustain its life physically; and you have to have the Scriptures to sustain your life spiritually. So the first reason for studying the Scriptures is that it’s a means of spiritual growth. It is God’s primary tool to develop you as an individual.”

Soul food: Hosea 11-14; Luke 2:34-40; Ps 21; Prov 14:17-20

Bible study (1)

1 Peter 2:2 NIV

Studying the Bible every day is essential to our spiritual growth, but we can often prioritise other things and reduce our time studying the Bible to a few minutes each day. The Bible should be like food to us. We need to consume it so that we can grow stronger and more mature in our faith. The Bible says, ‘man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD’ (Deuteronomy 8:3 NIV). Peter uses the analogy of babies and milk, saying, ‘crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.’ Babies desire and demand milk on a regular basis. In the same way, we should be desiring God’s Word. But so often we can find ourselves not reading the Bible. Maybe it’s because we don’t understand it, because we have other things we’d rather do, or we’re just too busy. But we need to be determined to feed on God’s Word each day. If we’re struggling, we can start with the basics. Paul said to the Corinthians: ‘I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready’ (1 Corinthians 3:2 NIV). If we’re not ready to get stuck into deep theological Bible studies, let’s start small. We can aim to read the Bible for ten minutes a day, choosing a passage we’re familiar with, and then researching it. We can look online for commentaries, listen to teaching on the topic, and ask the Holy Spirit to show us what it means. Then we can grow in our faith and become more like Jesus.

Hosea 11-14; Luke 2:34-40; Ps 21; Prov 14:17-20

Make it a personal growth experience

Ephesians 4:15 NIV

Before you confront someone over an issue, stop and examine your motives. Is your goal to help or humiliate them? Jesus was in the business of lifting and restoring people, and you should be in that business too. Ask yourself, would you approach things differently if you weren’t so personally involved? Are you confronting this person to make yourself look better? Cutting someone else down in order to lift yourself up is the lowest form of ego gratification. Poet Kahlil Gibran said, “To belittle, you have to be little.” Don’t do it! It’s a sign of insecurity. Remember Nehemiah’s response to those who tried to discourage him from rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls? “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3). Don’t allow your critics to break your stride. Don’t give more credence to the sentiments of a critic than you would to the encouragement of a friend. Before you put somebody else’s life under the microscope, stop and examine your own. Are you grappling with the same issue, or one just as bad? Have you succeeded where you’re accusing somebody else of failing? In other words, have you earned the right to be heard? Paul writes, “Speaking the truth in love we will grow…in every respect.” Could it be that the situation you’re dealing with right now is an opportunity to measure your own maturity and make it a spiritual growth experience?

Soul food: 2 Pet 1-3; John 4:27-38; Ps 87; Prov 24:1-4

Keep trusting God

Philippians 1:6 NKJV

When Mark Matousek told people that a potentially fatal disease had saved his life, they didn’t understand. He wasn’t glad he got sick. But without it, he’d never have discovered and tapped into the strength to confront and overcome some of his core fears. He writes: “Hardship can be the blood in muscles that pushes us forward. Crisis takes us to the brink and forces us to keep moving. When people call it a blessing, they’re describing a paradox. It’s why men often blossom in wartime and women are changed by childbirth – they come alive as never before.” The truth is, God is committed to your spiritual growth: “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ.” And along the way you’ll be tested, sometimes to your limits. One author writes: “Spiritual tests try our faith and commitment. Remember Abraham and Isaac? Nothing makes us prouder than seeing our children succeed, and God had great plans for Isaac. What could possibly go wrong? A lot! We’ve stood in Abraham’s sandals and clung to God’s promises, yet sickness lingers, financial troubles invade, friends betray us, and death calls. Abraham responded with trust and commitment. It wasn’t easy for him…we know the outcome; he didn’t. Yet he was prepared to take his son’s life. God never wanted Isaac’s death…He wants our whole and committed hearts. When trials don’t make sense…He promises to set limits…to walk with us and bring forth good.”

Soul food: 1 Kings 18:16-20:43; Mark 9:38-50; Ps 113; Prov 12:15-17

Go on to maturity

Hebrews 6:1 NLT

We all get the same 168 hours in our week. But if the only time you devote to your spiritual growth is the time you spend in church on Sunday morning, you’ll never move beyond spiritual infancy. Think about it. An infant can’t feed itself; it chooses candy over carrots; it constantly falls down and has to be picked up; it keeps wandering off and getting into trouble; it’s basically self-centered and needs to be disciplined and trained. Are you getting the picture? The new birth is exciting, but it’s supposed to be your launching pad, not your crib. The Bible says, “Let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding.” Note the words “Let us.” That means it’s up to you! At some point you’ve got to say to yourself, “Starting today I’m going to do what it takes to grow up spiritually and discover God’s plan for my life.” One day at the end of World War I, General Louis Lyautey asked his gardener to plant a particular type of tree on his estate. The gardener informed him that the tree, being unusually slow to grow, would take nearly a century to reach maturity. “In that case,” the general replied, “there’s no time to lose. Plant it this afternoon!” Here’s a fail-safe plan for growing into spiritual maturity: “They delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do” (Psalm 1:2-3 NLT).

Soul food: Gal 4-6; Mark 12:13-27; Ps 101; Prov 13:20-23