Do you study, or do you just go to class?
There’s a difference, you know.
I used to teach high school. Most of my students came to class. Few studied. They may have read the book or looked at their notes. They may have done all their homework. They may have memorized some of the content. But even doing this, many never really studied.
What does it mean to study? Here are some definitions I found:
- to examine or investigate carefully and in detail
- to think deeply
- to read carefully or intently
- to consider attentively or in detail
- to devote time and attention to acquiring knowledge
- to learn intensively
And here are some synonyms: reflect, investigate, research, contemplate, consider, ponder, examine, scrutinize, deliberate.
These words represent the kinds of things I did when I studied chemistry in college. Without those, I would have mastered very few of the concepts presented to me, and I certainly would not have been prepared to teach those concepts to high school students. But no amount of study on my part could create true understanding for my students unless they studied too.
New ideas are to brains what furniture is to a home. When a teacher first delivers ideas, they are strewn about the rooms of our minds where we constantly trip over them. Study is a constant repositioning of ideas until each fits nicely: a purposeful process that fixes an idea comfortably in the brain.
No teacher, no matter how smart they are nor how well they deliver a lesson, can do the studying for us. Study is a personal undertaking.
Granted, if you don’t really want to understand chemistry, you probably won’t study it. If that’s the case for you, there is a slim chance that you can still live a productive and successful life. 😉
But let me offer you an earth-shattering observation from my years in the classroom: no matter what class I taught, no matter the age of my students, students who never studied never excelled in chemistry.
The question for us is not about chemistry. Rather, it is about how much we want to understand God and His ways. We fool ourselves if we think someone else can do our studying for us. They can’t. Neglecting study is settling for a mere delivery of ideas and leaving them out to trip over. And without study, we are vulnerable to being mislead by the whims and ideas of all manner of teachers.
Are we willing to apply ourselves to the more difficult but ultimately more rewarding task of study?
Here are five things that are typical of most study, including Bible study. In the next few weeks, I’ll talk more specifically about these, but for now, ask yourself if you are doing (or are willing to do) any of these:
1. Repetitive Reading
Reading over and over brings key ideas into focus and clarifies the context. Keep reading large passages until these become clear.
Making lists, diagrams, charts, maps, etc. Writing is a way of organizing abstract ideas or related content into a visual picture. Physically putting something on paper reinforces mental connections.
This means going over what we know and how we’d explain it if we had to. Struggling through an explanation isn’t a failure, it’s just a sign that we don’t quite understand it yet and need to do some more study.
This means fitting the idea into the big picture. Does our new knowledge make sense with other known information? Again, it’s not a failure if there is disagreement, it’s just a sign that we need to revise and/or do more study.
This could be an entire post in and of itself, but the most important point is: there is a reason application comes last. When I taught chemistry, I did not let students perform lab work until they demonstrated that they had some idea what they were doing! Obviously, it can be dangerous to start doing something when you don’t know what you are doing! Application is often the thing we want to do first because it tends to be emotionally satisfying. However, trying to apply scripture before we’ve done any verification leaves us susceptible to acting on faulty understanding. This is never a good idea! Once we’ve verified our conclusions, we can ask ourselves in light of what I’ve learned, is there a change that I need to make in my life?
So, are you studying or just showing up for class?