I hate to admit it, but in the past few years the bible study part of my quiet time has become a chore for me. I love spending time in worship and I love writing out my prayers along with the answers I perceive in my heart (many that come straight from the Word), but I have become completely bogged down when it comes to bible study. Maybe it’s because of all my seminary training– I think I have to do a formal exegesis of every passage. Maybe it’s because of some of the intensive discipleship classes I’ve done. One even had us diagraming every sentence like I did in 9th grade English class. Bottom line is that somewhere along the line, my formal time in the Word became too formal, and lost its life. Sure I have found myself completely blessed by passages of scripture in spite of myself. He has continued to use the Word hidden in my heart to speak to me regularly, but recently I realized that I have allowed myself to become legalistic about studying the bible. God forbid! There’s nothing I hate more than legalism. I have to say that lately he has been breathing fresh grace into my life in every area, so I’m so glad that he is shining the light on this area now. Yes, there are times for intensive study, but I do not think that should the basis of our daily quiet time.
Recently, I was introduced to the book Divine Mentor by Wayne Cordeiro. It was exactly what I needed. Cordeiro says that rather than trying to analyze every verse its better to ask God to give you just one scripture or one thought that you can carry away for the day. It’s a lesson I’ve been learning in business. When I have team meetings, I realize that if I try to give my folks too much info, they seem overloaded and the meetings are not that productive. A business coach suggested I stick to one main topic, and since I started that things are much better. It makes great sense to approach scripture in a similar fashion, with the heart attitude of “What do you want to teach me today Lord?” Since I have been doing it, he has been faithful to show me something special every day. I always tell people that scripture is God’s love letter to us, and as such we need to seek something from God’s heart for us daily. Again, I am not putting down intensive study! Failing to learn about the background or context of a book can be a dangerous thing. You should study the Bible intensely, but not to the point that you lose your passion. So for me, this approach is a breath of fresh air. I am going to my Heavenly Father seeking fresh bread for the day, and I am no longer getting bogged down. It fits the idea of a quiet time much better, because it’s part of my special time with God. I no longer feel obligated to exegete every passage, but rather I am seeking my Father’s heart. I am taking the exegesis out of my quiet times unless the Lord prompts me otherwise. I can’t tell you what a blessing and a relief doing it this way has become for me.
Cordeiro uses the acronym SOAP– Scripture, Observation, Application, & Prayer as a guide for this method. He suggests you journal the lesson you get each day. Here is how mine looked today. Note: I had one main thought rather than one verse of scripture, but that happens most days for me. Hopefully, if you’re feeling the same way, this approach will help you revitalize your scripture study too.
Scripture— Genesis 41
When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream (41:1)
Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. (41:9)
Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” (41:15-16)
So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” (41:41)
Observation: It seemed as though Joseph’s suffering continued because of people. First, he had been betrayed and sold into slavery because of his brothers’ jealousy, and then he was falsely accused and imprisoned because of Potiphar’s wife. Even after he had proven himself by interpreting the dream of pharaoh’s cupbearer, he continued to be unjustly imprisoned, because the cupbearer got released and forgot him. It seemed as though people were in control of Joseph’s fate. However, what if Joseph had been released 2 years earlier? What if he had not been sold into slavery, and what if he had not been imprisoned? He would not have been available to pharaoh when he had his dreams. God’s timing was perfect, even though it seemed that people were jerking Joseph around. If he had never been sold, his whole family would have perished in the famine. If he had not been in pharaoh’s prison at the time of his dreams, he would not have been able to help save the whole region. The interesting thing is that during his time, he never lost his faith in God. Perhaps the trials even strengthened it. When pharaoh gave him credit for knowing how to interpret dreams, he was quick to turn the credit back to God. He could do nothing, but God would.
Application: Joseph could have easily become bitter and angry with God during this time. After all, many injustices had occurred. He had every right to be upset. His circumstances just weren’t fair, but he continued to entrust himself to God. As it turns out, God’s timing was perfect. Joseph did not get puffed up with pride about the injustices, but he turned to God. This verse comes to mind. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Pet. 5:6). God’s due time is rarely when we think it should be. One of my pastors once said, “I have never known God to be early, but I’ve also never known him to be late.” His timing is always perfect, and we must trust that in his time he will use everything for his good intentions (Gen. 50:20). Many times in my life I have questioned why bad things have happened. I have wished I could go back and do something differently so the outcome would be different. I have wished that I could control it all. I have lamented that people were jerking me around, and yet when I look back, I see very clearly how God was using it for good in my life. No, being abused was not good. Being betrayed by loved ones was not good, but as I entrusted myself to God in each situation, he was so faithful to use all the bad for good. I have a relationship with him that I wouldn’t trade for the entire world. He has been completely faithful in it all. When I look back at the worst of times, they were also the best of times spiritually. Jesus held me and spoke to my wounded heart in the most awful circumstances. Those experiences have been amazing tutors that have worked together for good in my life, and in the lives of those God sends my way (Rom. 8:28). I have learned to stop asking why these days, and instead ask, “God, what do you want to teach me in this?” He always shows me, and in due time, he always lifts me back up. What an amazing God we serve!
Prayer: Oh sweet Lord, how I thank you that your ways are higher than mine! I thank you that even when I cannot see any good in a given situation, your plans cannot be thwarted, and you will work it together for good in your perfect timing. I do not have to stress. I do not have to become indignant when people seem to be treating me unfairly, or when circumstances don’t seem fair. I can trust you! You are utterly faithful, and you see the whole picture. Thank you for always being right on time! Amen