The Discipline of Study

We know that our God often uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27), so does that mean that we should remain foolish? Can we just trust that in our stumbling stupor we will somehow shame the wise? Of course not! Paul is clear: “Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.” Ephesians 5:17 (NLT). All of the spiritual disciplines, including study, help us to “place ourselves before God so that he can transform us.” Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998) p. 7. One result of transformation is understanding what the Lord wants us to do.

Unlike fasting, which is a struggle to say the least, study is kind of my thing. I’ve done Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), Community Bible Study (CBS), Beth Moore studies, and others. All of these are great, but the absolute best program I have ever been a part of is the Fellows Program through the C.S. Lewis Institute. And I think the depth of this program is related to Foster’s four steps of study: (1) repetition; (2) concentration; (3) comprehension; and (4) reflection. Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998) p. 64-66. If you get a group of people to read a book that’s one thing. When you get to unpack a book of spiritual truth, or a selection of Scripture, with people who have taken the time to really read it, mark it up, and digest it in a manner similar to the way Foster recommends, then that is a whole other thing. A much better thing! And I am incredibly thankful to have had the opportunity to do this with many, many books. In the course of the two years of the program I sat around with incredible people and chewed on about fifty different books — heavy, well-written, challenging books. We read Lewis, Bonhoeffer, Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Schaeffer, Murray, and many others. (I also attended lectures given by Henry Blackaby, Ravi Zacharias, J.I. Packer and others). More than any other experience in my life, the Fellows Program taught me to study. It also meant that the very few hours of television that I used to watch had to be discarded. Because study requires time; it requires concentration; it requires reflection. You can’t do that and watch television at the same time.
So I have a long way to go with the discipline of study–especially right now because I am not currently doing any formal program. I need to come up with a plan for myself. This book is part of that plan, but I need to formalize what I intend to do next, and what Scripture I intend to study. (not just read or meditate on, but study). And I need to tell someone about it so that they can hold me accountable. As Americans we have so many resources at our fingertips that we are really without excuse.
In short, I agree with Foster, “Study is well worth our most serious effort.” May we spur one another on to make that effort.
And for those of you reading along, I’d love to know what you liked best in this chapter and also if you’ve found a particular program helpful in learning to really study books and/or Scripture.

3 thoughts on “The Discipline of Study

  1. I have never even heard of the C.S. Lewis Institute but have no doubt it is as amazing as you described…I would love to do that someday!

    Studying has not been my “thing”, but has become an increasingly more dominant part of my life as I aged…as I grew in maturity and saw it's worth, and realized how much I was missing out on without true study! Nothing is as soul stirring as discovering something totally hidden in scripture…well, hidden to the plain eye that is!

    Again, wonderful “spur” Kristie! Keep it coming!

  2. Laurie says:

    I loved Foster's acknowledgment that our ABILITY to study is a gift. I've always thought it would be cool to do a Biblical word study on the word “mind”. The truth will set us free…but how will we know the truth if we don't study it? I loved how he put it, “Good feelings will not free us. Ecstatic experiences will not free us. Getting 'high on Jesus' will not free us. Without a knowledge of the truth, we will not be free.” Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster(San Francisco:HarperSanFrancisco, 1998) p. 63.

    I was thrilled to learn that repitition has an advantageous effect even when we don't understand (or even believe!) what we're regularly repeating. He used the example of loving ourselves unconditionally…hmmm…”psychocybernetics” he called it. So all those Sunday school songs, hymns and memory verses from long ago have had a transformative effect whether I understood them or not.

    As stated earlier, it IS all about the inner transformation, NOT amassing knowledge.

    I loved the his list of suggested reading…I'm determined to dig in.

    He wrapped up with Alexander Pope's words, “There is no study that is not capable of delighting us after a little application to it.” Who of us don't yearn to be delighted?

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