“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15
This is a scripture that is often overlooked in our daily lives. How many of us go beyond reading the Bible to actually studying it? Most of us know that we need to spend time reading the Bible every day in the process of developing a relationship with our savior, Jesus Christ. But, did you know that God wants you to study it?
What does study mean? The definition on thefreedictionary.com says, ” a. The effort to acquire knowledge, as by reading. And b. An act or effort made in the pursuit of knowledge.”
In order to study, you must apply yourself to an effort to learn and understand what you are studying. You must learn the subject well enough that you can apply the knowledge to practice. So, when we study scripture, we need to learn it well enough to be able to apply it to actual daily practice. It needs to be ingrained in our hearts so that it is what we do automatically. If it is learned all the way to the heart level, it is so much easier to resist temptations because the word of God has become a part of us. That pleases God. He approves of it. We then need not have any shame. The caution in the above verse is that we correctly interpret the scripture so that it is appropriately applied to our lives without any distortion. It is so easy to grab a verse and apply it without even looking at the context in which it was written.
Perhaps I tell you “I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. I am going to the doctor to see if my broken arm has healed enough to remove the cast. If it has healed enough, maybe I can begin to use it a little bit to get some work done around here,” and the next day I come home without the cast. However, you are anxious to have me get my projects done. You see my cast is off and get upset with me because I do not immediately go out and build the deck I have been looking forward to build. I ask why you are angry. Your response to me is that I promised to get the projects done if I get the cast off. Do you see how things are taken out of context here? The wording was changed to accommodate the other party’s feelings and desires. The fact that I cannot fulfill their desires immediately ruled the way they thought about the situation.
Now, I don’t really have friends that would do that to me. But we tend to do that frequently to our friend Jesus concerning His word, the Bible. We twist or turn it to fit our preconceived notions as to what we think it should say rather than looking at the actual context and applying it the right way. We let our emotions and assumptions guide us rather than allowing the Word of God to guide us. Let me give you one actual example of what I am talking about.
I have a few friends that fit into this story, so I am telling the story with all of them in mind. Maria (not her actual name) was feeling horrible about herself and her life. As I dialogued with her, I heard this: “I am in so much pain because of the abuse that I endured in my childhood. I cannot just get over it like my husband says I am supposed to do. He tells me that the scripture says I am supposed to just put my past behind me. But I can’t. I stuff it, but it just keeps coming back. I don’t know what to do.”
Well, here is the first problem. There is no place in scripture that says to put the past behind us. If you did that, you would not know what to do in life at all. Everything we have learned would be gone. We would have nothing to guide us, nothing to show us what is right or wrong.
The scripture that her husband was quoting to her is from Phil 3:13-14. The context of that scripture is Paul talking about all of his accomplishments. He is saying that rather than holding up his own accomplishments, he is striving toward the goal that Christ has set for him (and us). In order for him to successfully gain what Christ has for him, he is putting behind him all of his accomplishments (not his past). That is so that Christ can perfect him. The glory then goes to Christ and not Paul (or us). This scripture is about us applying ourselves to becoming more like Christ which happens when we humble ourselves, giving ourselves over to the master designer, God, who then changes us in ways that we cannot do ourselves. All glory to God!
Maria’s husband took the verses out of context and misapplied them because he was emotionally tired of living with the pain that came from his wife. His response to his wife was ungodly because it misused God’s word, had no compassion and tore his wife down spiritually. God is all about truth, compassion and building people up into being godly ambassadors of Christ, strengthened by the word of God.
There are many scriptures that the devil likes us to take out of context and mis-apply or apply in ways that tear people down and defeat them. Our duty before God is to interpret the Word of God correctly and apply it correctly with love and compassion with the purpose of raising people up to God in their need so that they can grow and be set free. If we try to put the past behind us (stuff it) Christ cannot redeem it. He can only redeem what we can hold in our hands and lift up to Him. He will not violate our will. If we stuff, hide or deny our past, He will not force the redemption of our past. Our past and the redemption of it is our testimony of Christ’s work in us and it glorifies Him as redeemer.
So, in conclusion, be sure to really study the word. Interpret (rightly divide) it in light of the context and the whole of scripture. Apply it in your own life. Share it with compassion and a godly desire to see everyone redeemed and rescued from the pain they suffer. Then no shame can be placed on you and you will receive the approval of God, our king and redeemer.
May God bless you all richly as you seek Him. He through the Holy Spirit will guide you. Do not listen to every voice that speaks to you but test the spirits to know if they are of God. 1 John 4:1-4.