August and September (depending on which region of the country you live in) mean three things for many Christian women:
Is that true for you?
- getting children of all ages ready to return to school,
- viewing countless previews of all the new (and mostly raunchy) shows coming to television this fall, and ...
- beginning a new Bible study.
Well I've gotten my son off to college and my daughter started on her senior year. I've picked out the one new television show I might give a shot this season. And I'm two weeks into my new Bible study, Beth Moore's David - Seeking a Heart Like His. What about you?
The first two weeks of my Bible study went splendidly. I got my homework done each day over five days and then prepared my lesson for my class on the sixth day and taught on the 7th day. Ran like clockwork. Then my son had his wisdom teeth removed and the Labor Day weekend came along. Funny the little things we'll let stand in our way of getting our daily Bible study done.
So last night I sat down and did days one and two of my five day Bible study...on the 5th day. I was way behind. Quite frankly, I still am. I must cram in three days worthy of my attention into one hurried day and prepare my lesson for tomorrow. Shame on me. Not because I've done anything wrong, but because I'm missing out on the greater blessing...the blessing of really soaking in God's truth for my life.
Today I read in my daily Bible reading that Ezra "prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel." It occurred to me that that is exactly what I set out to do back in mid august when our Bible study began. And yet, I've struggled this week to keep that commitment, that fervor. Never mind though. I'm back in the saddle and determined not only to finish this Bible study (not usually a problem since I'm the teacher), but also to give it the time and attention it deserves, to experience a life-change because of it, and to teach it well each week to the ladies who gather for my two classes.
Many women struggle to keep the commitment they make each August/September as they sign up for and begin a new women's Bible study. I get that. I struggle too. While I always finish, I don't always finish strong. But maybe we could learn a few things from Ezra, this man of God who began strong and saw it through. Here are a few helpful tips I've pulled from my reading in Ezra and a few other places in God's Word recently. Maybe we should consider these biblical points and see if they a make a difference in our commitment to Bible study.
- Bible study has to be a priority. Satan strongly desires for us to stay away from God's Word, to remain ignorant of it, and even to become frustrated with it. He will do all he can to defeat us in this area. If we're going to be successful at all in studying the Bible in a life-changing way we will have to make it a high priority, right behind the similar priorities of seeking God Himself, yielding to Him, and listening for Him. In actuality there is no separating our Bible study from our relationship with God. If we make our relationship with Him the priority in life -- and it should be -- then studying His Word is naturally a priority of our days. But we have to will Bible study to be a priority. We have to make the necessary changes in our daily lives that facilitate that prioritizing. Have you made Bible study a top priority in your life?
- It begins with preparation in the heart. Over and over recently I have read of kings and priests and prophets and men of God who "prepared their heart" to seek God. I thought that was strange. What kind of preparation did they do? I assumed that seeking God would be the first step, but evidently there were other steps taken before the actual seeking took place. What could they possibly be? I found that the words "prepared his heart" were also translated "set his heart." As I meditated on those words I concluded that several things would need to take place for me to really, completely, consistently, and successfully seek the Lord and His truths. I would need to turn away from many diversions that beckon my attention - worries, entertainment, time wasters, sins, etc. - and forcibly and habitually turn to the new object of my devotion - my Bible. In the most practical of terms, that means turning off Good Morning America (or better yet, not turning it on to begin with) and picking up my daily reading Bible instead. It means that after supper I sit down to my Bible study instead of picking up another book or magazine to read. And it means I carve out enough time for that Bible study instead of rushing through it so I can watch whatever's on television. This will take real effort, but that's what "setting our hearts" on something includes. Have you really "set your heart" on studying God's Word consistently? Have you had to set aside anything to do that?
- I'll need help if I'm going to succeed. Most of us can follow the Lord obediently on our own just so long. Then we begin to falter. But if we have a Christian sister encouraging us, walking along with us, and praying for us we're much more likely to hang in there for the long haul. That's why being a part of a church (on a larger scale) and a small group Bible study (on a smaller scale) are so important and crucial to the successful Christian walk. I've been studying and teaching the Bible for over 20 years. But still to this day I find it extremely difficult to start and finish a Bible study on my own. To be quite honest, I'm not sure I've ever completed one that I started by myself -- except for the two I've written. If I've bought a Bible study book and begun reading and completing assignments and even watching video teachings on my own without a supporting group, I've eventually abandoned the study every time. I hate to admit that, but it's true. How about you? Has solo Bible study worked well for you? If not, please join a group for study. It's so worth it. And when you do, take the time and make the effort to make some friends in there and establish a little accountability. You'll be so much more likely to succeed.
I admit my commitment to Bible study waned a bit over the past four or five days. That happens, at least to me. But rather than throw my hands into the air and concede defeat I'm picking up my Bible, my highlighter, my study book, and my pen (oh, and my reading glasses!) and "setting my heart" anew to seek the Lord and His Word. Maybe the holiday weekend didn't throw you off. (I do hope someone out there is more consistent when their daily schedule takes a detour in the road than I am!) Or maybe you're already behind a little in your new Bible study like I am. Whatever the case, let's all commit together to encourage one another to be in the Word of God on a daily basis so we can really live this thing out.
- It's wise to review the return on your investment. I don't know about you, but I love reviewing a bank statement that indicates a large return on my investment. That lets me know that it's been worth leaving that chunk of money alone and not spending it. It reminds me that my return has been worth any sacrifice, any time, any changes of habit. And when you finish a good Bible study it's wise to review your returns as well. Take the time, not just at the end of your 11-week study, but at the end of each week to review what you've learned, what you've gained, how you've grown, how you've changed, how God has blessed. I promise you that you'll find the dividends to be hearty if you've really invested in God's Word. His Word never returns void, but always accomplishes a great work in our lives -- if we yield to it. And when we review those dividends we're more likely to reinvest week after week after week.
Comments? I'd love to know if you're taking a new Bible study class and what it might be. Do tell!