Throughout our 31 day journey toward embracing the grace of Bible Study, we’ve focused a lot on growing our individual Bible study habits, but for our final days of this series we’ll be looking at the group aspect of studying God’s Word.
My heart feels tender toward this right now as I’ve been part of a women’s Bible study class this fall that’s coming to a close next week, and I’m sad for it to end! I know it’s time to spend our Tuesday mornings on other good things, but I’m going to miss this group and the sweet fellowship we shared over the Word of God these past two months. My friends know this about me: I L-O-V-E doing Bible study with other sisters in Christ, and I most appreciate it when it’s a cross-generational community of women and our study is centered on God’s Word more than man’s opinions.
Gathering in that way truly makes my heart sing. And there’s a reason for that:
Gift #5: Bible Study strengthens our experience of community within the Body of Christ.
A little background on how I came to appreciate this one –
I’ll never forget the day God sparked in me a desire to study his Word on my own, and guess where it happened – in a “formal” women’s Bible study at my church. I was a sleep-deprived new mom who barely showed up for Bible study, and I nearly talked myself out of going. As I was getting dressed that morning for the first meeting, I entertained the idea of quitting before even starting. I was tired and didn’t know how much effort I would be able to put into this study. I figured most people would give me a pass for having just had my first baby. But two things tipped the scales in favor of going to Bible study: adult interaction and coffee, both things I needed more of! Why I didn’t realize I needed more of Jesus in his Word, I do not know. But in spite of my pride and the fact that my brain wasn’t present with me at the time (remember – newborn who never slept!), God ordained the sweetest time of fellowship with this group of ladies, and the leader of my discussion group turned out to be someone who would change my life. Betty Whistler was the woman God used to ignite my desire to know the Word better. Immediately I could tell that she KNEW the Lord and walked with him very closely. Her Bible knowledge was appealing and her passion for him so contagious. That day impressed on me how little I really knew about the Bible and how easily I trusted others to tell me what it said over pursuing truth myself.
I didn’t come face to face with my strengths and abilities that day, and I didn’t feel good about my knowledge of the Bible. I think the most fitting description was that I felt broken. I had to deal with that study exposing my truest esteem of God’s Word, and it wasn’t pretty. But in the brokenness, there was encouragement. There was this conviction, quiet at first but louder over time, that God had something better for me and my experience of his Word. There was more in store. Sitting in a circle of women who had themselves already tasted of that was the starting point for me. Through them, God opened my eyes. Their passion, their exhilaration in unearthing truth from Scripture and applying it to their lives, breathed into me a new desire.
At that time, I wasn’t totally unfamiliar with the Bible, and my knowledge of biblical things wasn’t tiny. Growing up in a family grounded in God’s Word, I certainly understood its authority as absolute. I was blessed to have been given incredible Bible education and so many opportunities to learn. But I was missing so much. I hadn’t yet realized that I could personally learn from God through his Word – that I didn’t have to rely only on expert teachers as the pathway to understanding what it says. God’s offer to personally teach me just hadn’t dawned on me until that class. During that time, I was also hit by the conviction that I had spent years picking and choosing parts of the Bible that I liked to study, sticking with the easier, feel-good texts and completely ignoring the parts that stretched my mind, left me confused, or caused me too much discomfort in examining my heart. I had been a selective learner, and that one group Bible study revealed to me how wrong that was and because of it, how scattered and broken my understanding of God was. Context was entirely lost on me.
To this day, I still can’t talk about Betty’s impact on my life without crying. Tears flow right now, remembering how good God was to cross my path with hers, and I hope I never get over this passion to see believers doing Bible study together and on their own.
I know there are many more ways our lives get changed by studying the Word with other believers! What’s your story?