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I recently read an article by a brother in Christ who had met a nice young woman after having spoken in a gospel meeting. She wanted to talk with him as a man of God and he, naturally, obliged her. She launched into a very bizarre story of how God spoke to her out of a spaceship, out of a cow, a horse, a light fixture, a frog and even an image of the Madonna. She seemed completely sincere. Yet it did not discourage our brother from Bible study in lieu of alien or animal testimony. These perceived events may seem very real to someone, these diverse revelations almost always vary from the written Word of God. We recognize that God does not deliver His truth partially and confusingly through a holy cow, but through the Holy Scriptures (II Tim. 2:14-17).

There are many in times past who have expressed “additional” revelations from God. These usually change what God has already written in one form or another. II Pet. 1:20, 21 clearly instructs in the completeness of God’s original delivery. II Tim 3:16, 17 states we are completely furnished for all good works. It does not appear to me that God needs any additional instruction to us after we were “completely furnished”. Lest we become complacent about any additional information being alleged, there are MANY today who claim further instruction from God. I have personally heard from quite a few who heard God speak to them in “a still quiet voice”. (As I recall when God spoke to the Israelites in the desert, his voice was neither still nor quiet. The Israelites asked Moses to go and listen to God and then tell them what He said. His voice was apparently frightening. Just listen to the televangelists on TV. Some are couched as new “interpretations” of formerly misunderstood passages.

Why do people not use the same simple logic when trying to determine if the teaching they hear in the religious world is the truth of the Bible? Does God intend for various groups to reach opposing views from His word, or is the Bible intended to bring us to unity by eliminating errors and promoting a way of truth? How does God tell us what He approves? The fact is that God commands and expects us to understand His will: “Wherefore, be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17.) So, how can we do what God commands and expects us to do? Paul’s instruction in II Tim. 2:15 will help us to answer these questions. He said: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” The word translated “rightly dividing” referred to teaching accurately or expounding soundly. Thus, God teaches us something through the Bible and we are to accurately determine what that message is. Unlike the teaching done by many in the denominational world, the Bible says that we can understand the will of God (II Tim 2:7, John 7:17, Rom. 12:1, 2; Col. 1:9; Eph. 5:17).

This end of understanding God’s truth can only be reached as one is “diligent” in using God’s word. The KJV uses the word “study” to translate the word rendered “be diligent” in most other English versions. The original word carried the sense of “making every effort” to do a good thing. Diligence is not reflected in a casual scanner of the Word 2 or 3 times a week for a few minutes. Diligence demands a systematic and thorough examination of God’s word daily. This “diligence” is considered by the psalmist of old when describing the blessed man: “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in his law does he meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2). Psalm 119 as a whole depicts the one who loves the law of God as continually considering God’s word and meditation upon it so as to properly know and apply it. It seems a high degree of diligence is needed if one is to rightly discern and practice God’s will as God expects. Is this kind of dedication missing today?

Consider people in school today. If they studied their courses as they study Bible subjects, confusion and contradiction would predominate in those areas, too. What if you were taking American History? After spending an hour reading the text book, you threw down the book and said History is not understandable. Would such a brief attempt to understand history justify that conclusion? Would you expect to get a passing grade in the course after only an hour of effort? How many hours would it really have taken to understand History? No reasonable person would believe your efforts were adequate. However, it seems to be widely accepted for Bible study. Many expect knowledge of God’s truth to be handed to them with little or no effort on their part. A survey I recently read concluded that over 80% of Americans spend less than 1 hour each YEAR reading their Bibles? Yet while I was in school, it was believed that one hour of class required three hours of preparatory study. (Let’s see, 3 hours of church services should be about 9 hours of study time per week?)

We must do as Paul commanded Timothy. “Meditate on these things, give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (Acts 17:11).
Just as it takes work to study and properly understand a subject in school, it takes work to study and properly understand Bible subjects as well. There is no shortcut that negates the need for diligence. If we are to unite in understanding God’s word, it will require a diligent effort. It will not come from a frog, a cow, or a space ship. Let us never abuse God’s word by improper handling. Instead, we must deeply respect, thoroughly study and properly use it. If we do, we can understand His will and receive that heavenly reward He promised and we all want. I’d rather be a Lazarus than a rich man. How about you?

Larry Lauderdale