This week i was sitting and doing my devos, and about halfway through i started realizing something… i don’t like reading the Bible!! …sometimes.
As i was reading, i started getting that tired, bored, “i’m sick of doing this!” feeling. and then i thought to myself, “Clark, why do you not enjoy reading the living Word of God??? Why doesn’t the fact that these are the words of Christ and His Apostles, inspired by the Holy Spirit, make you excited to read them??? Why aren’t you as excited to read these life giving words as you are the news updates on the San Francisco Giants who have made the playoffs for the first time in 7 years???” (ok you gotta admit, that lost one is pretty exciting. hahah).
But it started bothering me that i was more interested in picking up my “Invitation to Biblical Preaching” textbook over my Bible. I’m a youth pastor in seminary, studying how to improve my study of God’s Word, and yet i’m more interested in reading the instruction manual than using the tool itself.
I even started getting anxious, thinking, “what am i going to do?! Is this going to be my life for the next 3-4 years, and yet i’m already feeling tired after a little over a year!?” times like these are when i faintly doubt my calling from God into ministry.
…and then i started wondering what it was that made it so hard to study this Bible.
It’s not the difficulty of the subject, because i have classes that definitely meet up to the difficulty that sometimes entails studying Scripture, and i still have great motivation for those (maybe, Greek Exegesis, for example???). it’s not the toughness of the Biblical language, because i’ve greatly enjoyed the readings of church fathers, translated into centuries old English (something along the lines of Tertullian, Irenaeus, or the great Augustine?). it’s not even the great amount of background research and history that goes into a good hermeneutical study of Scripture (heck, i was an east asian history major in college!! learning about semitic and 1st C. AD history is probably my favorite part of seminary!!).
then i realized… whenever i pick up another book, or homework assignment, or project, there’s always a feeling of accomplishment that comes once it’s done. after i turn in my papers and get them back, i have a grade to show for how hard i worked. after i finish the 100+ readings i have for one short, hour and 30 minute class period, i have a set of knowledge gained that i can bring to class and even flaunt through intelligent questions during class discussion.
but whenever i pick up the Bible, after i’m done studying the background, diagramming the Greek, and drawing out applications, all i have to show for is a best-effort attempt at understanding the truth, and a nicely packed lesson and application. with all the other readings and school material, projects and papers, books and tests, i have real, tangible results to show my area of growth. but when it comes to studying the Bible, the real area of growth doesn’t come until much later. i’m not affirmed by a grade or “good question, Clark” in class after i study the Bible. No, that kind of affirmation sometimes doesn’t come til much later, sometimes not at all.
if God is gracious any particular day, i’ll be renewed in my mind with truth, and refreshed in the Gospel within that same hour. but most of the time, i have trouble even keeping myself accountable to uphold that lesson over the next day, or even the next couple hours. the reality is, fruit that is produced through the living Word of God, fruit that will last, fruit that will give something to show for, fruit that will show the Spirit’s work in me through His Word, that fruit, usually takes a patient and dedicated commitment to Christ and His Scriptures. and that dedicated commitment to Christ is sometimes painful…
producing fruit in the form of grades and knowledge is easy. it comes in a snap. but producing fruit from the living and active, Word of God, “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit,” that kind of fruit is painful. that kind of fruit exposes my weakness. that kind of fruit exposes my sin and areas i fall short. that kind of fruit takes time and failure. but that kind of fruit exalts Christ and the Cross, and that kind of fruit produces the joyful marks of a sinner saved by grace, called to works of life.
So, i don’t like reading the Bible… sometimes. it’s true. i don’t like the feeling of going through laborious studies, day after day, and feeling like there’s no sense of accomplishment, or worse yet, feeling exposed and pierced to the heart. but that is where i have to be faithful, i have to trust His faithfulness, and trust that His Spirit is working in me to apply this Word and bear fruit and grow, even if it’s hard to pin-point at the moment. i have to know that though there may be nothing to show for now, He is patiently working His grace in me, to shine Christ through me.