Summary: 1. Being a student of the Word takes effort. 2. Being a student of the Word turns effort into joy. 3. Being a student of the Word turns the written Word into the Living Word.
Ravi Zacharias, a Christian intellectual who travels around the world lecturing in secular settings on spiritual themes, tells of an experience he had in Columbus, Ohio. He writes, “A few weeks ago, I did a lectureship at Ohio State University. As I was being driven to the lecture, we passed the new Wexner Art Center. The driver said, ‘This is a new art building for the university. It is a fascinating building designed in the post-modernist view of reality.’ The building has no pattern. Staircases go nowhere. Pillars support nothing. The architect designed the building to reflect life. It went nowhere and was mindless and senseless. I turned to the man describing it and asked, ‘Did they do the same thing with the foundation?’ He laughed. You can’t do that with a foundation. You can get away with the infrastructure. You can get away with random thoughts that sound good in defense of a world view that ultimately doesn’t make sense. Once you start tampering with the foundations, you begin to see the serious effects.”
The problem in our culture is that ideologically we not only have staircases going nowhere and pillars supporting nothing, but we are also tampering with the foundations. The whole world is built on the foundation of God’s Word. The Bible is not just a book of religious writings, its words are what the world is built upon. God is the Designer and Architect of the world. His will and his laws are the foundation of life. If the foundation is not there, the whole building begins to crumble, no matter how beautiful it is. But we live in a relativistic age which questions truth and outrightly rejects the Word of God. Unless there is a turnaround, we will find our culture collapsing upon itself. When God created the world he built it upon his laws and principles. And whether we agree with them or not, like them or not, we either accept them or accept the consequences of breaking them. Those laws and principles are carefully spelled out in God’s book, the Word of God, which we call the Bible. If all of life is based on the principles found there, then it is extremely important that we are acquainted with what this book says. Reading the Bible is not an obligation, it is a gift. It is the source of our strength. It develops our mindset and attitudes. It helps us to know who God is and what he is like. By reading the Bible we discover God’s character. It tells us what his will for our lives is. It gives us daily encouragement and a positive outlook on life. But this does not happen without reading God’s book.
The first point I would like to emphasize this morning is: Being a student of the Word takes effort. This sermon is for those who want there to be more to their spiritual lives than merely being forgiven of their sins and being assured of a place in heaven. It is for those who want more than just being a Christian, they want to be disciples of Jesus Christ. They want their character to mirror his character; their heart to be like his heart. But this takes effort. Just like it takes effort to have a good marriage, or to be good at some skill, so it takes effort to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. But the rewards of putting forth this effort are so wonderful that it is not a chore to do them, but rather a great blessing. Calvin Miller said it well: “Mystics without study are only spiritual romantics who want relationship without effort.” The apostle Paul encouraged Timothy, a young disciple, saying: “train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
But there is no effort without desire. You have to be hungry for God and his Word for this to become a reality in your life. That is why Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Richard Foster, in his book The Celebration of Discipline, says, “I have discovered that the most difficult problem is not finding time but convincing myself that this is important enough to find the time.” That is really the issue. It is not that we do not have the time, it is that we do not feel it is important enough to make time.
Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Only those who are willing to put forth the necessary effort will experience the growth and power that comes from being a disciple. This kind of discipleship brings a new freedom as well. Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Only a knowledge of the truth will set us free. You can try new things and new relationships to solve your problems, but you will not be free. Only when you give yourself to study the truth in the Word of God will you be free. Otherwise you will go around with a head full of wrong ideas and thoughts, and because of them you will continue to make bad choices and go the wrong way. But fill your mind with the Word of God and you will discover the freedom that truth works in your life.