Exert Oneself in Study

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15 (HCSB)

A dear friend of mine recently took a World Religion class. Being a fairly new Christian, this obviously brought up a lot of questions and doubts about her own belief in God.  She would feel condemned about questioning her faith, as if she was letting God down by doing so.  I disagree.  I think God wants us to ask the hard questions.  He wants to prove Himself to us.  

A classroom setting with the teacher up front and 20-30 students sitting in rows does not invite dialogue.  This is a pre-fabricated setting.  When the teacher or guest speaker asks all the Christians in the classroom, “If Jesus really was God, how come when He died on the cross did he say, ‘My God, why have you forsaken me?'”  There is no one-liner that can be answered in this setting.  It does bring up an amazing question that as a Christian, I want to know the answer to.  In a class such as this, the tone could very well be negative and condescending; challenging anyone who believes this way to respond; to defend.  But unless a person is extremely studied up and knowledgeable, it is in the best interest of all Christians everywhere to keep their mouth shut.  Otherwise, it ends up merely “irreverent, empty speech” (2Tim 2:16).  

So what are we to do?  We accept the challenge.  Not necessarily to the questioner, but to God.  He wants us to come to Him.  In the verse above, the word diligent can be translated as study or exerting oneself.  We therefore are to   

.  .  .  exert ourselves in study so that we are approved to be God’s representative and not humiliate Christianity with our ignorance; so that we do not need to be ashamed of our beliefs and are able to correctly teach the truth that God has revealed to us.

The ideal situation would be to sit down one-on-one and have a dialogue with each other about the question. Say, “You know, that is a great question and one that I would like to explore further.  It would be great if we could do that together.”  If the question was valid and not just meant to provoke anger, then the person will be happy to do this.  

When questions or challenges to your belief arise, be it in a classroom, something you hear on the radio, a friend from a different religion or in your own reading, do you know how to “exert yourself in study?”  Do you have the tools you need?  Do you even know where to start?  In this age of information, it is tough to sift through and find valid sources for our inquiries.  It can be frustrating, time-consuming and leave us with more questions and no answers.  So we give up.  We either choose to simply accept our beliefs as challenged or be “tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching.” (Eph 4:14)

If you struggle with studying, I strongly encourage you to find a believer who you trust and ask them a question that appears to challenge your belief.  Then ask them to help you find the answer.  As you are exerting yourselves in study together, find out what study tools they use and trust?  How do they approach the question?  Where do they start?  Ask them to lead you through the process so you will be able to study for yourself in the future.  

Here is one method that can be used when studying together:

  1. You do, I watch.
  2. You do, I help.
  3. I do, you help.
  4. I do, you watch.
Come up with 4 challenges or questions that are tough to answer.  There are a myriad out there.  Examples include, “If God is good, why is there pain?”, “How could God order the slaughter of innocent women and children?”, “Aren’t there many paths to the same God?”, “The Bible tells me to submit to my husband.  Does that mean he can do whatever he wants to me?”  These are all great questions and ones that deserve to be studied.  Take one of these questions and allow a mentor or leader to teach you how to find the answer.  Don’t become too actively involved, just watch and learn.  Ask questions about the process, not the content.  For the next question, help in the process.  Make suggestions and do some of the work, but allow the other person to lead you through.  On the third, you will be steering the ship.  You will take the question and analyze it, giving your teacher jobs to do and things to look up.  They will be your helper.  Finally, you will complete the entire process yourself without assistance, only encouragement.  You will come up with an answer yourself.  Imagine!  God loves to reveal Himself to those who diligently seek Him.  This may seem daunting and hard, but God is actually in charge so no worries!
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self- control, self- control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  2 Peter 1:5-8