Summary: As disciples we are primarily students of Christ. God gives us his word to train us and correct us.
I sat the last exam for my engineering degree in January 1973. I had to sit it in January because I’d failed one of my final exams the previous June. That had nothing to do with the fact that I’d got married three months earlier nor that I’d just started reading Lord of the Rings a few weeks before the exams, nor that the 1972 Lords Ashes Test was being broadcast on the radio late at night just before my exam. All those things may have contributed to my poor performance, but the real reason was that I hadn’t studied the subject well enough. When I sat for the post I made sure I studied very hard and as a result I did quite well. But I remember walking out of that exam thinking, "Aah, that’s the last exam I’ll ever have to do. I don’t plan to do any more study ever again!" Well, those were famous last words weren’t they? The day I began my job as an engineer, my boss handed me a bundle of manuals to study so I’d understand the way things were done in the Dept of Civil Aviation. Often when I was given something new to do I had to read up on the best ways to do it. In fact anyone who works in a professional field knows that you have to refresh your knowledge constantly if you’re going to keep up.
And it wasn’t just in my professional life that I continued to study. In those days I used to catch the tram to work and I discovered that that 40 minute tram ride was a great opportunity to read Christian books. So while people around me were staring out the window at the same old scenery day after day I’d get out the latest Christian book and read it in peace and quiet.
What I was discovering you see, was that we’re always students, whether it’s in our professional life or in our Christian life. There’s always something new to discover, always another question to ask, or another step to take in following Jesus.
Why is that? Well, because we’re disciples of Jesus. Disciple comes from a Latin word that means student. The disciple was the person who followed a Rabbi and studied under him. So when Jesus called the first disciples, do you remember what he told them he was going to do? He was going to teach them, how to fish for people. They were going to be his students.
Well, Christians today are still called to be Jesus’ disciples. It’s just not as easy as it was when Jesus was around. We can’t follow along with him and ask him questions and listen to what he teaches the crowds. He’s not here any more. So how can we be students of Christ when he’s no longer here?
Paul tells Timothy just that in our first reading today. He says "Continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work."
If we can’t learn directly from Jesus we can still listen to what he’s said, to the things that God’s arranged to have recorded for us as our manual for Christian living. God’s instruction manual contains everything we need to deal with anything that life might bring. It can teach us, rebuke us, correct us; it can train us in godly living, it can help us to develop proficiency in good works. And all we have to do is to study it and then do what it says.
The problem is that there are all sorts of things that tend to hinder us, even stop us from studying God’s word. Let me suggest a few of these and you can think about whether these are issues for you.
In that story we just heard of Mary and Martha, Jesus was visiting and when he began teaching Mary dropped everything to listen to him. Martha meanwhile was slaving away in the kitchen preparing food for all the visitors and she was getting a bit cross. So she comes and complains to Jesus and what does he say? "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42). I think Bill mentioned this danger last week. Martha was distracted by the good, but she missed the best.