In our prior feature lesson, we stressed the need of understanding what inspiration is and emphasized that we must believe the Bible to be inspired of God. Today we will consider eight qualities that a person must have if he is going to be a good student of God's word. Most of these qualities relate to the attitude and desire of the individual. If a person has the right attitude and desire, then he can understand the Bible properly and be a good student of the Scriptures. That is not to say that the process is easy, but it is within the reach of anyone who pursues it passionately. As we ponder these points, ask yourself: Do I have these qualities or am I lacking in one or more ways? Am I a good Bible student or just dabbling in the word sporadically (as if it were a casual interest)?
1. A GOOD BIBLE STUDENT BELIEVES THE BIBLE CAN BE UNDERSTOOD.
Sadly, many folks sit down with their Bibles with their mind already made up that they simply can't understand it. And, if they continue thinking like that, then they're right--they won't be able to comprehend the Scriptures. They need to escape this negative type of thinking and be confident that they can understand God's word, and they will if they are dedicated and put forth the necessary effort.
How can I be so sure that the Bible really can be understood? Well, as we mentioned in our last feature lesson, would God have given us a book that we can't understand? Of course not! Isn't God smart enough to give us a book that we can study, understand, and obey? Yes! Listen to Ephesians 3:3,4 - "How that by revelation [God] made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)." Paul wrote so that when Christians read they would understand! Certainly if those in the first century could understand, then so can we today.
Unfortunately, some just aren't willing to put forth the effort it takes to really comprehend the Scriptures. Is everything in the Bible easy to understand? The answer is no (II Pet. 3:16). But some will use that as an excuse to not study God's word at all. A good Bible student believes that the Bible can be understood.
2. A GOOD BIBLE STUDENT IS SPIRITUALLY MINDED.
The Bible is not a textbook that one just mechanically studies to learn facts. The Bible is a book that presents God's will for our existence. It is a spiritual book that will only be properly understood by those who are spiritually minded; that is, by those who think beyond just those things that are physical. Romans 8:6 teaches - "For to be carnally [i.e., fleshly] minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."
Colossians 1:9 declares - "For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding." Paul prayed that the brethren would be filled with knowledge and spiritual understanding. Certainly we should strive for such today. In order to be filled with knowledge of God's spiritual word, we must first develop a spiritual mindset. We must endeavor to think beyond that which is physical and temporary. We must focus on that which is spiritual and eternal. A good Bible student will be spiritually minded.
3. A GOOD BIBLE STUDENT HAS A DESIRE TO KNOW THE TRUTH.
God's word is truth (John 17:17) and we need to have a desire to know it. If we do not love the truth nor yearn to learn it, we will easily be deceived and led astray (cf. II Thess. 2:10-12). Jesus stated that if we, as His disciples, live in His words, then we "shall know the truth, and the truth shall make [us] free" (John 8:32). Good Bible students will adopt the attitude found in Proverbs 23:23 - "Buy the truth, and do not sell it." In other words, do what is necessary to acquire the truth, and then never give it up. Hold on to the truth as your most cherished possession. A good Bible student will desire to know the truth.
4. A GOOD BIBLE STUDENT HAS AN OPEN MIND.
Friends, we must go to the Bible to see what it teaches. If we open its pages with our minds already made up about a particular subject, we are unlikely to learn the truth. Let us work to be objective and abide by the law of rationality in our studies. May we handle God's word with honor, respecting the context of every passage, and may we only draw conclusions that are warranted by the biblical evidence.
We all need to have open minds. That is, no matter how much we've studied or think we know, we should always approach any subject with a teachable attitude. There is always more we can learn, if we are open to it, and perhaps as we grow in knowledge and understanding, we will even be corrected in things we have unknowingly misunderstood. Only a fool believes that he has everything figured out and that he cannot be wrong about anything. The wise are always willing to consider the possibility that they have come to the wrong conclusion in their studies. I don't present this point to encourage you to be gullible or naive. I don't want you to have such an open mind that your brain falls out! Don't foolishly believe everything you are told or read about the Bible (that includes materials found on this website). Don't ever just accept what other people tell you about God and His word. Check everything out for yourself! This is the only way to make your faith personal and strong.
Take the Bereans, for example, in Acts 17:11 - "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." They listened to God's word and were open-minded, but they didn't eject their common sense and accept just any old thing that was taught. They checked it out for themselves, and we must do the same! A good Bible student will have an open mind.
5. A GOOD BIBLE STUDENT PRAYS FOR WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING.
Children of God should pray for guidance in all areas of life, and Bible study should not be an exception to this. The Bible is God's book, and therefore it is only proper that we entreat Him to help us in our studying of it. God has promised wisdom to those who ask for it! James 1:5 - "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." A good Bible student will pray for wisdom and understanding.
6. A GOOD BIBLE STUDENT IS DILIGENT IN STUDYING.
In order to acquire a deeper knowledge of God's word, one must diligently apply himself in his studies. To be diligent means to be steady, energetic, and tireless. Many students casually read the Bible or lightly ponder a verse, but if the meaning is not immediately clear they conclude it is too difficult or impossible to understand. In other fields of study, such as medicine, mathematics, engineering, etc., we easily understand that diligent effort is involved in finding answers (i.e., truth) in these fields. Let us not conclude that searching the depths of God's word requires less diligence. If you're studying a difficult passage, don't give up! As one scholar said, "Do not get discouraged; it may be the last key in the bunch that opens the door." It takes a lot of continual effort to be a good Bible student, but it is worth it. Success typically takes hard, diligent work. Only in the dictionary does "success" come before "work."
The apostle Paul encouraged in II Timothy 2:15 - "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." How can a person learn God's word and be able to rightly interpret it? By diligently studying it! Remember the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 9:10 - "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might..." If something is worth doing, it is worth doing right! Is Bible study worth doing? If so, then don't just do it half-heartedly! Study with all your might! Study with the intention of growing to your maximum potential. Study to learn and so that you can teach others God's truth! A good Bible student will diligently study.
7. A GOOD BIBLE STUDENT IS ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT BIBLE STUDY.
Almost everyone is enthusiastic about something, but what about your enthusiasm for Bible study? Does studying the Bible energize you or put you to sleep? It is impossible to be a good student of the Scriptures unless you want to learn and unless you are excited about the opportunity to study the book given by God Himself.
I Peter 2:2 gives instruction regarding the enthusiasm we should have - "As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby." Although it has been a couple years now, I remember when our younger son Abel was a few weeks old. He was still a newborn babe, but he had an appetite--he desired milk! The result of his regular eating was growth, and that is exactly what we expect of all newborns. If my wife tried to feed our son and he never seemed hungry or enthusiastic about eating, we would know that something was wrong. When a child of God isn't enthusiastic about spiritually feeding on the Scriptures, then you know that something is wrong!
As Jesus Himself said in Matthew 5:6 - "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." One who really hungers and thirsts for righteousness will be excited about studying God's word. It will be something he looks forward to and thoroughly enjoys. Truly, a good Bible student will be enthusiastic about Bible study.
8. A GOOD BIBLE STUDENT HAS COURAGE.
To be courageous is not to blindly overlook danger, but it is to see it and conquer it! In studying the Bible, good students must have courage! They must have courage to accept God's truth, even when doing so may require significant changes in their life. They must have courage to teach God's truth to others, even when doing so may result in persecution, hatred, or getting fired. Good Bible students have the courage to not only learn the truth but apply it in their lives (cf. James 1:22).
I commend you if you're willing to hear and study the truth, but that is not enough! Do you have the courage to do what God wants you to do? What if your spouse or family is against it? What if your friends are against it? When these difficult situations arise, who will you please--your fellow human beings or God Himself (cf. Gal. 1:10)? Those who are cowards will please men and not God, and in so doing they condemn themselves (cf. Rev. 21:8). Be strong in standing up for what is right and standing against what is wrong! A good Bible student will have courage to live by the Book.
So, are you a good Bible student? Are you laboring to be the best Bible student that you can be? May we never be satisfied with mediocrity when it comes to our knowledge of God's word. We must study to understand God's book so that we can live by its instructions and teach it to others! Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.