I went to my first Bible study because I was lonely. I was in my early twenties with two small children at home and was desperate to meet other women and make new friends. The offer for free child-care only sweetened the deal and I signed up, eager for a few hours away from children and hungry for adult conversation. I did not go to this study because I had a burning desire to know God or his Word. However, while I did meet new friends and benefitted from a few hours away from the demands of small children, ultimately, I met God. And I have continued to attend Bible studies ever since.
If you attend a weekly Bible study of some kind—in your church, neighborhood, or community—I want to ask you why? Like me in my twenties, perhaps you attend Bible study to make friends or enjoy child-care. The reasons that compel us to walk in the door will vary from person to person and from season to season. But the bigger question I want us to consider is, Why do we go to Bible study at all?
It’s an important question because the answer shapes our expectations. What should we expect to be the result of going to Bible study? I’d like to propose that, while there are a myriad of good things that happen in and through Bible study—we deepen friendships, grow in our knowledge of God’s Word, invest in the lives of those around us—one of the ultimate things that happens is transformation.
If you are a Christian, God is at work in your life transforming you. He is changing you into a woman who is better able to discern his will (Rom. 12:2). He is changing you so that you will be better equipped to join him on his mission to seek and save the lost. He is transforming you so that you will be more consumed with his kingdom than with your own, with his glory than with yours. And he is changing you to be increasingly more like Jesus in every way (Rom. 8:29).
One of the most remarkable things about this extra-ordinary transformation is that it happens in very ordinary ways. And “going to Bible study” is one of the ordinary means God uses to do his extraordinary work.
But this transformation does not just happen automatically—it requires your participation. Two ways you can actively participate with God in your transformation is by doing your homework and by showing up to discuss it with others.
DO THE HOMEWORK
A lot of women I talk with think of the homework provided in their Bible study as optional or something they will be better able to prioritize in a different stage of life. But time in God’s Word is vital at every stage of life! And a good Bible study will provide you with the structure and opportunity to spend that time productively.
Most Bible study homework will ask you to read a passage of Scripture, answer questions about the passage, and consider how you are to respond to what you’ve read. The actual moments you use to go through these steps can feel so ordinary. Some of you do your study early in the morning while you’re still in your pajamas. Others study over lunch while sitting at your desk. Some of you try to finish it while you’re waiting in the carpool line. Very average moments for the most part. But, as we move through the homework of our study—reading, answering questions, reflecting, and thinking about how we are to respond—God is at work!
Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16 that, “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” This list is not exhaustive. As you read God’s Word, he, by his Spirit, is instructing you, teaching you, convicting you, encouraging you, rebuking you, feeding you, calling you, reminding you, humbling you, lifting you, comforting you, and loving you. That list is not exhaustive, either.
And it’s as you read, think, and faithfully respond to God’s Word—repent when he convicts, rest when he comforts, obey when he instructs, rejoice when he reminds—that you are transformed. This is the extraordinary work of God that he carries out in the ordinary moments of your day.
DISCUSS WITH OTHERS
There is both an individual aspect to our relationship with God—he meets with us one-on-one as we study his Word—as well as a corporate aspect. He has created us to meet with him in and through community with other believers. In the same way that we actively participate in his work by doing our homework, we also participate with him by discussing his Word with others.
Most of the small groups I’ve been a part of move through three basic activities: fellowship, discussion, and prayer. God is at work in all of them. As we fellowship, we are learning to better love those around us. As we are loved by others, we experience God’s love through them. As we listen, catch-up, laugh, weep, comfort, and encourage, our bonds are strengthened, and our relationships deepen—and we are conformed a bit more to the image of Jesus as we learn to love others like he has loved us.
As we discuss God’s Word, we learn from each other. We hear how God is working in the lives of those around us. We are able to see God and the truth of his Word from the perspective of another. As we pray, we lift each other up to our loving Father, asking him to draw near and meet our needs.
Again, ordinary moments, really. You may meet to discuss God’s Word at the church, in someone’s home, at the park, or in a conference room. Some meet at night, others in the morning. Some meet once a week, others once a month. Some groups stay together year after year. Others change every semester. The one constant is that God is at work as we meet together to discuss his Word. He uses that time to change us and conform us more to the image of Jesus.
This time of year, churches all across the world are getting ready to begin another year of Bible study. If you have never participated in one, I highly encourage you to sign up. If you’ve been a part of an organized Bible study every year for the past six (or more!) decades, sign up again. Because, I promise you, as you faithfully spend time reading, thinking about, and responding to God’s Word you will be changed. As you show up week after week to discuss his Word with others, our living God will be at work. You and I will become more patient, kind, and self-controlled. We will begin to experience less fear and more peace, less anger and more joy, less selfishness and more generosity. We will be better equipped to join God on his mission. And he will be transforming us more into the image of his Son. Extraordinary!