STUDY- Discipline 2014-23
The next and last Spiritual Discipline in the Inward Disciplines is that of Study. The purpose of the Spiritual Disciplines is the total transformation of the person. They aim at replacing old destructive habits of thought with new life-giving habits. Nowhere is this purpose more clearly seen than in the Discipline of study. I must remind you again that Richard Foster wrote the book,
I think it would be easy to “gloss over” this Discipline as not being worthy as a Discipline. The apostle Paul tells us in (Rom. 12: 2). “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
What do you think happens when you study?
Study is a way to learn and be changed. We may pray to the spirit, sing out our praises to our Lord, live as obediently as we can, be filled with revelations perhaps, but still be unchanged. Why? Because we may never have taken up one of the ways God uses to change us: namely study. If we get to know the knowledge of truth we can be free as stated in John 8:32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free”. Ignorance of the truth can hamper and confuse us in the spiritual walk of life. This all may sound good or even confusing to a degree so let us look into just what study is.
Do you think study helps us in life?
Through study, we can move in a certain direction as a kind of experience in life. So, with study, there is concentration, perception, repetition, and ingrained habits of thoughts that are formed. These habits of thought that are formed will conform to the order of the thing being studied. What we study, such as the Bible, determines the kind of habits that are formed, which is why Paul urges us to focus on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and gracious.
The application of study is a process that is different than that of meditation for instance. Meditation is devotional, whereas study is analytical. Meditation will relish a word in Scripture, for instance, and study will clarify the meaning. They are two distinct experiences. Study will set the framework from which meditation will function. Through study we will be changed, perhaps slowly, but changed never the less. We will learn, and through the learning be able to meditate on the words read and studied.
What different ways are there to study?
We can have different ways to study; verbal and nonverbal. The verbal way of studying would be in the reading of books and attending lectures or Sunday school lessons, which make up half the field of study. Nature and, most important, the observation of events and actions are the primary nonverbal fields of study and one that we can learn much from.
What is the primary task of studying?
The principal task of study is the perception into the reality of a given situation, encounter, book, etc. We can go through a major crisis, for example, without any perception of the real nature of the tragic situation. But if we carefully observe and reflect upon what occurred, we can learn a great deal. In doing so we are studying the situation. We can study before an occurrence, and that is studying also.
What steps are there again to studying and how do they relate to Spiritual Growth?
They are: Repetition, Concentration, Comprehension, and Reflection
This is an age old way of learning something. Going over and over again, to get it engrained in your mind. When we read the Bible, we get channeled into a specific direction. Pastor Laura had me read the Book of James each day for a month. That is repetition, but is only the beginning.
Upon reading the Bible over and over, learning will increase because it centers the mind and focuses the attention on what is being studied. Our mind is centered on what we are reading, absorbing input from the written Word. The key is not to be distracted and get off base while reading, but instead keep your mind on the subject at hand, because that leads into the next area.
Reading the Word in Scripture, will give us the “knowledge of truth” as I mentioned in John 8:32 because with comprehension the knowledge comes out. After reading James many times, it was amazing to realize that what I read before was now understandable in a new light from the reading days prior. Insight and discernment occurs and the true perception of reality of what was read, happens. After we have read over and over, concentrated on the Word, and start to comprehend, then something else develops.
We start to see the significance of what we are studying in the Bible. We start to see things from God’s perspective and in understanding the subject matter, we start to understand ourselves. Jesus speaks often of ears that do not hear and eyes that do not see. When we ponder the meaning of what we study, we come to hear and see in a new way.
What to study????? !
The Bible is a great start and it can be studied in many ways. Someone won an award once in church one time for reading the Bible in its entirety over a short period of time. That in itself was amazing, but I always wondered, did he go through the steps we just outlined of the four areas beginning with repetition. I doubt it. He got the award, but it was not meaningful. Reading the Bible a section or book at a time is a worthwhile undertaking and if you end up reading all of it, that is great.
What are some other books that could be read that will give you meaningful insights to Christian thinking?
A few are:
The Confessions of St. Augustine “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas A Kempis
Brother Lawrence’s “The Presence of God” Blaise Pascal’s “The Pensees”
Martin Luther’s “Table Talks” “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
St Theresa of Avilla’s “Interior Castle” St John of the Cross, “Dark Night of the Soul”
The main thing is not to worry about what you have NOT read, but instead, remember that the key to the Discipline of Study is not reading many books, but experiencing what you do read. I believe that from reading the various classics of old and those works from more modern writers, we will learn. From learning we will be able to better understand the Christian culture of belief we have in our Lord Jesus Christ.