Desire, Discipline and the Study of God’s Word

19 Feb

To really profit from your study of Scripture you need to discipline yourself to study it whether you feel like it or not.

But perhaps you are thinking, “That’s the problem. I’m not disciplined. Maybe Paul or someone else like that could discipline themselves to do all this work. But I’m not a student. I’m not able to discipline myself to study God’s Word on a regular basis.”

You can’t?

I don’t buy it. What you really mean is you don’t desire to be that disciplined. Self-discipline is all wrapped up with desire. There have been many people who have thought they could never stop smoking, who suddenly stopped smoking after the doctor told them that unless they change they are going to die. After hearing that, they discipline themselves in ways they never had previously. Why? Their desire has increased.

If you are going to stop being lazy what you need is a greater desire for God’s Word.

But you say, “O.k., then that’s the problem. Maybe I could discipline myself. There are areas of my life in which I am disciplined, but I don’t desire God’s Word like that.”

I’m glad you are being honest, but please don’t be content with saying something like that. That’s not the end of the story. Many times people think because they don’t desire God’s Word they are just stuck. They think they just have to wait around until God zaps them with desire. No, a lack of desire is not an excuse. It’s a reason to repent.

A lack of desire for God’s Word is a sin. Peter commands us in 1 Peter 2:2, “Like newborn infants long for the pure milk of the word.” Peter is saying we should long for the world like a baby longs for his mother’s milk.

I have had many babies in the house so I can give personal testimony to the way a baby longs for his mother’s milk. We’re talking an overwhelming, all-consuming desire. Our baby doesn’t look on eating as something optional. Actually, her little life basically centers on eating. She sleeps, she wakes up, and she wants to eat. Then she sleeps. And then she wakes up and wants to eat. Not all that complicated. And that is the kind of attitude God says we must have towards His Word. Anything less is sin.

Since we are commanded to desire God’s Word we can be confident there are specific things we can do to grow in our desire for God’s Word.

If you are going to strengthen your desire for God’s Word you need to deal with the sin in your life

One of the primary reasons people don’t desire God’s Word is because they’ve got unrepentant sin in their life. Which means if you are going to desire God’s Word you need to be committed to confessing and repenting of every sin that is in your life. Once you’ve done that, you have prepared yourself to the hear the Word.

Before telling us to long for the Word, Peter lists a number of specific sins that we must repent of if we are going to do so.

He begins with malice. Is there bitterness in your hearts towards anyone? If you have any bitterness in your hearts towards anyone you are not going to desire God’s Word the way you should.

He moves on to deceit and hypocrisy. Are you playing games when you come to God’s Word? Are you trying to pretend like you want to hear what God has to say when in fact you are committed to living your life the way you want to live it? If you are going to desire God’s Word you’ve got to stop being two-faced.

He concludes by addressing envy and slander. Are you secretly wishing you had what someone else has? Are you speaking behind someone’s back in malicious ways? If you are envious you aren’t going to desire God’s Word, because your mind is set on the things on earth. And if you are a gossip you aren’t going to desire God’s Word because your heart is filled with hate not love.

If you find yourself bored with the Word of God on a regular basis, I’m begging you to examine your heart because a lack of desire for God’s Word can be a symptom – of an unrepentant heart.

If you are going to strengthen your desire for God’s Word you need to constantly remind yourself how much you need God’s Word

Martyn Lloyd Jones once wrote that most of our problems come from listening to ourselves instead of talking to ourselves. Since we are sinners our minds are often full of lies and we often have problems because we sit back and passively listen to those lies instead of actively taking the truths of God’s Word and confronting them.

There will be times when our hearts tell us we don’t have time for studying Scripture and that our time would be better spent doing something else, and you know what we need to do at that point?

We need to stop listening to ourselves and start talking to ourselves. We need to tell ourselves the truth. We need to remind ourselves how much we need God’s Word.

If you suddenly, (and this may be difficult for some of you to imagine,) didn’t have the desire to eat, would you just be content with that? Would you say, oh well I don’t have the desire to eat. So I guess I’m not going to eat anymore? Of course not. That’s a major problem. As a result, you would want to do something about it. You would eat – because you know you desperately need it.

The same is true (only more so) when it comes to studying God’s Word. When your feelings are telling you to turn away from God’s Word, you need to remind yourself of what the Word of God is, who you are and how much you need to have God speak to you.

How could we ever forget how much we need God’s Word? Why would we ever need to remind ourselves that we need God’s Word? I mean it seems so obvious.

There’s a one word answer to all those questions: PRIDE.

Many people come to a complete stall in their relationship with God because they are not teachable. They are proud. And that pride blinds them to their need.

You are not going to desire God’s Word if you think you’ve already heard all the Bible has to say; if you think you know it all; if when you read the Bible you think – been there, done that.

To desire the Word you’ve got to recognize your need for the Word which means you need to humble yourself and repent of your pride.

If you are going to strengthen your desire for the Word refuse to study the Bible in a half-hearted way

Quite frankly, half-hearted Bible study is a bore. If you think of Bible study as another duty you have to fulfill; if when you study the Bible you are just trying to rush through to get to the end; if you are not thinking and reflecting and meditating on what you are reading; then I’m not really surprised you find Bible study dry and stale.

I know personally, it’s not always easy for me to read the Bible. There are times, especially on Monday mornings when I’ll begin to read the passage that I am going to preach the following Sunday and it doesn’t seem all that exciting to me. I look at it, and I’m not always impressed the way I should be. But then I begin to study. And that study is often laborious. I start to look at what each of the words mean and I begin to consider the context, and slowly but surely over the course of the week I find myself becoming more and more thrilled by what the Scripture says because I’ve come to really understand it.

I like how G. Campbell Morgan once put it. Once after a particularly stirring sermon he was once approached by a man who said, “Dr. Morgan, your preaching is such an inspiration.” To which he replied, “Ninety five percent of inspiration is perspiration.” That’s right on. It takes work to understand the Scripture.

Another pastor writes, “There is no avoiding it; studying the Bible is hard work. The Holy Spirit is not going to zap us as we stroll through the park or slouch in front of the television set. The Spirit works through the Word, and we have to work to get His message for us.”

If you are going to strengthen your desire for God’s Word make a commitment not to turn from the Word of God until you understand what God is saying and are challenged by it.

If you are going to strengthen your desire for the Word, cry out to God that change your desires and help you love to hear Him speak

If you love the Word of God you are going to long for the Word and you are going to read it.

Pastor Geoff Thomas explains, “There is nothing like the power of love to strengthen desire. A youth may struggle to learn the language of a foreign country in school to little avail, but if he falls in love with a girl from that land how strong is his appetite for mastering its language. The love of Christ is the strongest constraint to knowing the Scriptures and if we have little desire for the Bible we should ask if we indeed know the Saviour or if our first love has been left. Let us begin here, let us be sure that we are in love with the Word of God.”

If we don’t love Christ and if we don’t love God’s Word what should we do? We should begin by praying that God would change us and help us to love it the way we should.

If you are going to profit from the Bible you need to develop a strong desire for God’s Word which will then translate into disciplined, regular reading of it.

10 Responses to “Desire, Discipline and the Study of God’s Word”

  1. Charli March 13, 2010 at 5:05 pm #

    Whoever took the time to write and submit this post, I am eternally grateful. For years I have struggled off and on with a lack of desire to study/meditate on the word of God.

    I hear all the time about how important it is to meditate on the word every day. Yet and still I have continued to fall short in the area of desire. Therefore it has been boring for me and pretty much a going through of the motions.

    Well I was in serious prayer about it this morning. I woke up, went through my usual routine of forcing myself to read a few scriptures and spend time communing with God. That’s when I came to the conclusion that this just isn’t working out and I can’t ignore it anymore. I’m tired of struggling to read something that I know is good for me and vital for my life. After emptying out to the Lord about how I really felt, I expressed how desperately I need Him in order to change.

    I’m sitting here responding to this post in amazement at the fact that the specific answers I needed were right at my finger tips. It was laid on my heart to just google it. So I googled “causes of lack of desire for the word of God” and this was the very first site that got my attention.

    Finally, someone who walked right into my living room (via the internet) and expounded on not just the importance of studying the word, but also the reasons why I struggle with desiring to read the word.

    In all my life I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone to explain this in such a simple form that even a child could understand.

    I’m now accountable for the truth that I’ve received today and I thank God that you took the time to write and post this information.

    This post was a God send for me today.

  2. Sandra June 24, 2010 at 12:19 pm #

    I totally agree with Charli’s comments. I too have struggled for years with this same problem. There have been times when I was on fire for the Lord and His Word, but then I would find myself stuck and just going through the motions.

    I am a member of the prayer ministry at my church and have often felt inadequate at times when it came to praying because of my lack of studying God’s Word. My pastors tell us continuously to speak God’s word into every situation of our lives, and sometimes I do, but more often I don’t because I don’t study enough to know what His Word says about what I am going through.

    I find myself being distracted every time I commit to studying the Word of God, and I am guilty of listening to myself more so than talking to myself.

    This morning I got up and instead of going through my regular motions I immediately begin to repent of my sin of neglecting God’s Word and while I was speaking the Holy Spirit begin to instruct me in the way to go. I knew I had a problem with discipline when it comes to studying God’s Word, so looked in the concordance of my Bible, but it just gave me various scripture verses. I then got on the internet and googled, “how to be disciplined in the study of the scriptures,” and this was the first site that came up.

    It was so simple, and so enlightening. There are many postings on how important it is to study the Word of God, but this is the first I’ve ever read that also gives you reasons why you may find it difficult.

    After reading this post, I can no longer ignore my need for God’s help and His Word. I am going to bookmark this website, so I can keep you updated as to my progress. I can’t wait to see what wonderful things the Lord has in store for me.

    God bless you and keep you and may He continue to make His face to shine upon you and establish the works of your hands.

  3. Tommie June 28, 2010 at 6:02 am #

    Wonderful insightful post.
    I would like to add a few thoughts. I always find myself just reading and not really studying the word.
    I have found a cycle in my life. When u study the word the Spirit makes the truths alive in u and u become compelled to use, to apply, what you have learned during study and then after applying the truth you grow and remember that lesson, if you do not go on to application you forget it and you will have to learn it all again. (not that I have perfected anything yet, biblical truth is applied daily and becomes life.)
    I find true biblical study goes on to action, and action opens your eyes to the fact, that you are in need of more study and sends you back to the word. If I can stay in that cycle it would be bliss, but we so easily get in tangled in sin, and have to, with great joy repent and turn and throw off sin and dive into true study.
    And that is why Christian faith is first of all relationship with Christ it always comes back to that, Christ stays the centre without Him, we cannot know the truths, He is the truth.

  4. pw October 9, 2010 at 3:32 pm #

    What a powerful article! Thanks so much. I am a minister who once was so on fire but worked myself to death & became burnt out. I needed a new desire for God’s work, new discipline, and this article has greatly helped with that. May God bless you as you continue to serve Him.

  5. God's Word October 27, 2010 at 5:11 pm #

    “…you need to discipline yourself to study it whether you feel like it or not” – Many believers today only tend to give into God’s word only when convenient” thanks for the post

  6. Charlotte November 18, 2010 at 7:16 am #

    I like to thank God for using you to provide this information to help me as well as others. I didnt realize I was just going thru the motions as well. There where times when I would study but, it wasn’t enough because it was not on a regular. I have gained 20lbs eating food that was not healthy for me. This I know the devil had a death assignment against me(but he is a liar). God has his healthy food for me the word! And with God he promises eternal life (WOW). What an Awesome God! I WILL BE EATING THE HEALTHY FOOD FROM KNOW ON (GOD’S WORD)! Eph. 6:17

  7. Robert Brownlee Jr December 31, 2013 at 4:56 am #

    I was at a strong crossroads in my Word life.. I felt a heavy conviction on my study life because i wasn’t where God desired me to be… my prayer life was not where it should have been… this helped me tonight… thank you. My wife noticed my desire was sinking away… this truly helped…

  8. Diana January 12, 2014 at 2:52 am #

    Thank you for having the perfect amount of “truth in love”. This was the kick-in-the-pants I needed. Thankful for this awesome post at such an important time. Blessings to you!

  9. tayclemons2014 October 21, 2014 at 4:39 am #

    This was a blessing to me!! Thank you for blogging about such an important topic!

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  1. Humility-part 2 (How can we keep humble?) | Gospel Enthralled - September 20, 2012

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