Imagine this: You pay lots of money to take your family to see a Broadway play. You sit on the front row, ready for a spectacular show, and it begins, but it is nothing like you imagined: EVERYONE forgets their lines so they just make it up. The stage hands are bumping into the actors in the opening scenes. The main character is singing when he is supposed to be silent. The wrong backdrop is up, it’s dark when it should be light, and no one is wearing the right costumes. It is absolute chaos, an utter failure. Why? Because no one learned, studied, and followed the script.
God’s Word is His scripture, and as we explored earlier this week, He is committed to the script. Studying is digging into the Word, searching the scripture, and getting understanding of what is written so we can know God & DO what God wants the way He wants it done. The Psalmist said, “I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil” (Psa. 119:162). As you study, and God opens up His Word, it’s like finding TREASURE! But, what happens when we DON’T study? Just like in the opening example, in our lives and ministries, things will be all wrong.
A LIFE OF DEFEAT
The Word teaches us, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4; cp. Luke 4:4 & Deut. 8:3). We study the Word so we can LIVE victoriously and please God. His entire time on earth, Jesus followed the written script so from beginning to end, His words, actions, life, and ministry fulfilled the scriptures. Even in times of temptation, He did not fall by standing on the Word and telling the devil over and over, “It is written” (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). His Word NEVER gets old and ALWAYS has an answer for what we’re facing, feeling, or fighting. Think back to your school days: Want to mess up your assignment? Ignore the instructions! Want to fail the test? Refuse to study! The same holds true spiritually.
GETTING IT WRONG
When we study with the right heart and the Holy Ghost, God helps us to rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). The Word IS truth (John 17:17) and it is right (Psa. 33:4); the problems arise when people misunderstand, misinterpret, and misapply parts of it. “Rightly divide” is from a Greek word (S:3718) that literally means “to cut straight” – it’s about correctly explaining and accurately teaching the Word of God. When we are fed knowledge and understanding (Jer. 3:15) and study over time, we’ll be able to rightly divide the Word, breaking it down, using scripture to support scripture. Isaiah 28:10 puts it like this: “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.” If we don’t study, we’ll misrepresent the meaning of a verse, take scripture out of context, and miss God’s point. If we don’t study the book, we’ll get it wrong.
If we get it wrong, in ministering we’ll be ashamed. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” When we don’t study and rightly divide the Word, we’ll eventually fall flat on our faces because we’ll declare God will do something that doesn’t line up with what’s written. We’ll say something God didn’t say, and be left only with OUR Word, rather than HIS Word, and that is not enough. God backs up HIS Word with HIS power (Heb. 1:3), but if we’re saying something else, why would He support it? Why would He make it happen when He didn’t say it? He won’t, and we’ll end up being a workman that is ashamed. The only thing we should say and the only thing that gets God’s results is God’s Word.
In 2 Peter 1, Peter describes how on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-8), they were “eyewitnesses of his majesty” and they heard “this voice which came from heaven… when we were with him in the holy mount” (2 Peter 1:17-18). Talk about an amazing experience! I’m sure they would never forget that moment with Jesus, but Peter tells us something KEY in the very next sentence. He said, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed… Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Pet. 1:19-20). The things they heard, saw, and experienced with Jesus were real, but the MORE SURE word of prophecy, is the SCRIPTURE that God allowed to be written. We have to take heed, pay attention, focus on the scripture!
Sometimes in church, people get “off” or get “deep” and end up disappointed or wrong. They may hear from a spirit that’s not God (1 Tim. 4:1), be caught up in their emotions and logic (Prov. 14:12), or neglect to search the scriptures (John 5:39), but if we study, we can stick with the book and God will come through. What is written supersedes anything we think we see or hear, and the true words spoken by God ALWAYS line up with what is written so we don’t go astray. Reading it in the scripture is more sure than hearing God say it Himself. As we study, we make sure the basis of our faith is what is more sure, what is steadfast, stable, and firm.
Peter specified that “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Pet. 1:20). If we don’t study, we’ll end up relying on our thoughts, opinions, and experiences. Instead of understanding His Word, we’ll be left with “private interpretation” – our own unique, separate view, explanation, and application of scripture. It will be about “I think,” “The way I see it,” and “I feel this means.” When we take the time to diligently study and rightly divide it, we can focus less on what WE think about the passage and what WE want it to say, and more on what GOD meant in His Word.
BELIEVING A LIE
The Bereans are a great example of studying in scripture. When Paul shared the Word with them, the Bible records, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). Paul was certainly called and sent by God, but STILL they searched the scriptures every day to see whether what he taught them was so. They looked in the Word to confirm what someone told them. Because they made studying a daily habit, they dug in and got the understanding themselves, and look at the results: “Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few” (Acts 17:12). As we study, we grow in faith, believing the true Word of God. And if someone is off and tells you something that is not so, when you study and search, you’ll find that there isn’t support in the Word of God, so you can reject that and avoid believing a lie. Some people accept everything that is told to them but especially in the hour we live in, that is dangerous because so many teach contradictory to the Word (2 Tim. 4:3-4). When we study, believe, and love truth, we don’t ever have to believe a lie (2 Thess. 2:10-11). It’s time to STUDY!
We scroll, we text, we watch, we hang, we talk, we play, we post, but do we STUDY God’s word? The consequences of NOT studying are GREAT, but if we make time to study, the blessings are many. When we study, we are able to:
- get understanding (Prov. 4:7) and hide the Word in our heart (Psa. 119:11);
- know truth for ourselves and to share with others (John 17:17; 1 Pet. 3:15); and
- shape our lives so that what we say and do lines up with what God wrote in His book.
Check your priorities; you DO have time to study God’s Word. What is the greatest benefit of studying you’ve experienced? What is the biggest danger of NOT studying? Share in the comments below!