Raking is easy, but all you get is leaves. Digging is hard, but you might find gold!
– John Piper
Have you ever felt that no matter what book of the Bible you read or how long you spend, things in your spiritual life just aren’t working out? If you have, don’t worry, there are many of us out there.
Most of us because of our lack of focus and diligence spend our time in the garden of God’s Word raking leaves. But the ones who truly benefit from the truth, the ones whose lives are changed day by day are those who are steadily digging for gold.
John Piper is right, getting rich from God’s word requires hard back bending work. The blessed man meditates in God’s law day and night (Psalm 1). And God says that He will be found by the one who diligently seek him as for for a precious treasure.
The solution isn’t buying another commentary or joining another accountability group although there are all helpful. Your Bible is really all you need. However, let me submit to you that what happens before you actually open it can drastically improve your ability to stay laser focused on the Word and keep digging till you find the shining ore.
In the past couple of days I’ve been revisiting one of my all time favorite Practical Godliness reads on my Kindle. It’s called Solitude improved by divine meditation, is written by Nathanael Ranew. It is powerful.
Here are 8 mindset fixes Ranew advocates you must make before you start your Bible study. As long as you follow them, your efforts will be successful, as the Holy Spirit illumines and empowers.
Mindset fix #1: Holy awe and reverence
Come into your Bible study time with the firm knowledge that you are coming into the infinitely pure presence of a thrice holy God who has every right over you and all you have and who has given you grace where you deserved wrath and death, at the cost of His own blood. This is the one whose presence you are approaching. Let that sink in and praise Him. Let that sink in and humble your heart.
Also, keep in mind that God is primarily concerned with your heart attitude not the outward devotion. Therefore keep your heart in check. Are you just checking off your devotions off the list or are you coming as newborn babes, inwardly crying out for the pure milk of the Word?
Consider that reading the Bible is not just a duty commanded in Scripture, it is also a form of homage that we render to God. It is worship and as such it ought to be given to Him in spirit and in truth. No “strange fire” allowed here.
Being filled with holy awe and reverence at the God who gave us life and the Scripture is the first step toward engaging God’s Word profitably.
Mindset fix # 2:Tell your mind to STOP running!
The second fix is calling your mind back from all the preceding ideas it was running after. Our brains are always on, thinking non-stop. Train yourself to tell yourself to let go of all the other ideas you were entertaining prior to coming to the Word. Stop thinking of work, the kids or your favorite television show. Just stop. NOTHING should occupy your thoughts when you are about to get into the Scripture.
Ranew put it best when he wrote “God complains of men when bodies are brought and hearts are left out. Well may He complain, if we go about meditation, a mind, a thought exercise, if we let the mind and thoughts be sent abroad and not called home.”
Mindset Fix #3: Be on your guard.
The minute you decide to stop raking God’s Word but instead to get a shovel and start digging, the Devil and your heart will rise against you. Satan who from the beginning has been set to derail us from God’s Word will bring a 1001 things to your attention to divert you from seriously feeding on the truth. These things might be legitimate things to think about yet shut them out. Also, the remaining sin in your heart will try to take your mind away from serious study and cause you to think of vain things and entertainments. Likewise, be watchful when you start thinking of the light bill that needs to get paid today. It can wait.
Throughout Scripture, we are told to “take heed”. Take heed to your foot, take heed what and how you hear the Lord Jesus said in . The same principle of circumspection in the things we do naturally applies to the study of God’s Word. So watch out!
Mindset Fix #4: Apply your brain power to the text.
We are not only to take our minds off from other thoughts and ideas but we must also purposefully apply our brain power to the text in front of us. Set your mind where it was not set before. The sin in your heart will cause you to mind everything except what it should mind: spiritual things. So take it as buy a hand, like you would a child and set it upon the Scripture.
Mindset Fix #5: Be ready to think intensely
“No pain, no gain” the adage goes in gyms across the country. In other words, if Lanky Appleseed wants to get a six pack and gain pounds of pure muscle weight, he must put in some work. Lifting light weights won’t help. No, Lanky must get to a place where he is uncomfortable, where he feels pain, where he generates intense amounts of energy. Following our analogy, thinking lightly over the Scripture won’t yield much. No, one must expand some serious energy with her mind. When was the last time you felt like your brain was sweating as you studied over a passage of Scripture?
The Lord not only blessed us with the ability to think but also with the ability to think intensely and rigorously. How focused and intense in our thinking can we be when we are highly concerned with some urgent business, some imminent danger to be escaped or a family emergency?
If we can be so intense and rigorous in our thinking about earthly matters, how much more seriousness should divine or spiritual things engender in us. As Ranew put it and I’m paraphrasing there should be no seriousness of thought on any ground or interest whatsoever superior to the seriousness we should have when we come before God’s holy Word.
Mindset Fix #6: Intend to know things precisely.
At the outset, intend to know things in an exact manner or with precision. Let’s hear Nathanael Ranew again:
“When a man studies a thing, he endeavors an extensive and comprehensive seeing and having the fullest view. he sets it not before him to see a little, but the most he can.”
In other words, begin with the right end in mind. That end should not be to know a little bit more about this topic or have an idea what this passage is about. Rather your goal should be to know whatever you are studying exactly, precisely and in a comprehensive way. To know it as best as you can. No one starts studying for an exam with the goal to know as little as possible. The scientist’s goal is not to find as little information about his research subject as he can, but the opposite. Have the same mind.
I’ll finish this section with the author’s own words:
“As Proverbs 2:4, wisdom must have a searching for as for hid treasures, as the searching in the gold and silver mines, in which there is not only great earnestness of search, till the rich vein is discovered, but being once found, there is a following it with exactest industry, and utmost curiosity, to find not a part or quantity of the treasure, but all the riches scattered over the whole mine, part after part.”
Mindset fix #7: Intend to spend some time meditating over what you’ve read.
“It is not the digging into the gold mine, but the digging long that finds and fetches up the treasure.”
“Meditation is not a hasty hurry of thoughts: that is precipitation, not meditation.”
Most often we read whatever we intend to read and off we go to the next errand. That’s the wrong way to approach an epic Bible study. From the outset, we should plan on spending some time to think and rethink what we have read after we are done. Pick one or two things that particularly spoke to you in the text and force yourself to spend a preset amount of time thinking about them. Let your thoughts dwell over those points long enough until you have gathered all the sweetness you can find. Don’t stop this meditation until you feel like your soul has benefited from it. Your end in this work should be to feed your soul until you are full.