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.