Currently I am taking the high school group through the book of Proverbs. It is a wonderful study! We are enjoying the rich practical insight that the Proverbs provides us with so that we can live a “Life of Wisdom to the Glory of God.”
Soon after we started our study into the book of Proverbs, I gave the students an assignment. I told them to find one verse from the Proverbs, write it at the top of a college-ruled sheet of paper, set the paper on their desk or nightstand–somewhere they will daily see it–and begin the practice of meditating on that one piece of Scripture, day and night. Then, as they turn the Scripture over and over in their minds, I told them to write down, on the sheet of paper, their thoughts, observations, questions, cross references, illustrations, and the ways they are applying the verse. At the end of the summer, we will gather and share the fruit of our meditations.
The reason I gave this assignment is because I have enjoyed the fruit of this process in my own life. I have found that meditating on a single verse for days, weeks, even months, causes that truth to find its way deep into my heart and inevitably, into my life. A friend of mine and I used to practice this in college. He, one day, with hope and joy in his voice, said to me, “I finally feel like I am applying the Scripture.” I could say the same thing in my experience. I felt like I was finally applying the Scripture.
We were attending an excellent Bible college while attending a great church. The result was that we were constantly receiving deep, biblically saturated teaching. What a blessing! We got somewhat frustrated, however, because we didn’t feel like we were spending extended time on any particular section of Scripture. At church we would hear from the gospel of Luke in the morning, then from the book of Genesis at night, then we would learn theology proper and Greek in the classroom, while hearing chapel messages on the attributes of God and Christian living. As a result our minds and hearts, while being exposed to much wonderful truth, were not landing for any length of time on any one truth.
But thank God for Howard Hendricks. In his helpful book on personal Bible study and interpretation, Living by the Book, he encourages his readers to sit for a while with a single verse: writing down observations, questions, etc. This approach to Bible study was reaffirmed by one of my favorite Bible professors who would exhort us to sit down with a piece of Scripture for a few hours. Go on a walk and meditate on that verse. Come back and write down more observations and questions. Just get that verse into your soul!
John Piper exhorts us to do the same thing in his book for pastors, Brothers we are not Professionals. He says,
We have been schooled (quite erroneously) that there is a direct correlation between reading a lot and gaining insight. But, in fact, there is not positive correlation at all between the quantity of pages read and the quality of insight gained. Just the reverse for most of us. Insight diminishes as we try to read more and more.
Insight or understanding is the product of intensive, headache-producing meditation on two or three propositions and how they fit together. This kind of reflection and rumination is provoked by asking questions of the text. And you cannot do it if you hurry. Therefore, we must resist the deceptive urge to carve notches in our bibliographic gun. Take two hours to ask ten questions about Galatians 2:20, and you will gain one hundred times the insight you would have attained by quickly reading thirty pages of the New Testament or any other book. Slow down. Query. Ponder. Chew (75).
Important words for Christians (like me) who tend to rush through study (like me) and who don’t take the time to really meditate on God’s Word (like me).