Fresh out of college, I started working at a construction equipment manufacturing company. In my first week on the job, I found myself in a machine shop looking at a 9-cylinder diesel engine. My task was to work with a small group to disassemble and reassemble this engine. I graduated with a degree in marketing. To describe me as ill-equipped for this task was the understatement of the century. Alone, I was ill-equipped.
As believers, we aren’t so different from this situation I found myself in. Our dead hearts were made alive by Christ and now we find ourselves sent into a world of which we are we are not supposed to be. (John 17:14-18). We are forgiven all sin but still struggle to live by the Spirit and not the flesh (Romans 8:5). We are called to die to ourselves and live for Christ (Matthew 16:25). Our Lord asks us to suffer with patience, be angry and not sin, spread the gospel to the ends of the earth, and practice meekness in the face of our opponents. Alone, we are ill-equipped.
But the Lord has plans to equip us to do his work and does not leave us alone. He has not only given us his Spirit and the body of Christ, but also his Word. His Word has many purposes, one being to equip the man of God.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
This means that on Sunday when we sit and hear the Word preached or attend a weekly Bible study, God intends to use it to equip us. How can we be better prepared to attend that Bible study or sit and listen to the Sunday sermon so that the Word equips us instead of going in one ear and out the other? How can we get better at applying truth and growing toward Christ?
- Recognize your Need: God sees our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7) and the posture of our hearts towards him. It is hard to teach someone who doesn’t want to be taught. We are better prepared to let God do his work on us with a heart posture of knowing we need his help. We come Sunday morning or to our mid-week Bible study wanting to be equipped. We keep in the forefront of our minds this purpose of God and we stop and pray that God would use his Word to do his work on our hearts. We get out of the habit of checking Sunday mornings off of our list and remember how much we need Christ to change us.
- Prepare: It sounds almost too simplistic yet many of us don’t do this and it is so helpful. Read the passage in advance. We prepare for tests, we prepare meal plans, we prepare for sports practice, we prepare for that big presentation at work, but rarely do we prepare for Sunday morning. Spending time in the text before you come to church starts to prepare your heart. You will be more familiar with the passage and it will be easier to listen, understand, and apply. We need to hear things multiple times before they start to stick. The same goes for your Bible study; set aside time to read and think about what you are studying that week. If you don’t know what your pastor will preach on, ask him to share his weekly plan with you. It takes discipline to manage your time and priorities well and we must acknowledge that God’s equipping is needed more than just about everything else for which we take time to prepare.
- Engage: Be an active participant. Have your Bible open, take notes, write questions or thoughts about application. Then, talk to others about the sermon or engage with your Bible study group. As a leader of a Bible study, I can’t tell you how encouraged I am to hear questions from women because it means they are engaging with the text! Things stick more when we process them with others. Come to a Sunday night home group where you can discuss and apply the sermon. Plan to review the sermon as a family on Monday mornings at breakfast and have everyone share what they learned about God. If you are discipling someone, plan to talk about the sermon weekly with them. Ask others in the church how the sermon series has been affecting them spiritually. There are many ways to engage; let’s get in the habit of talking about application and how our lives are being transformed by God’s Word.
I wasn’t equipped to put together that diesel engine and was useless to the three engineering majors in my group. I don’t want to find myself ill-equipped for the good works God has planned in advance for me (Ephesians 2:10). Let’s get better at applying truth and growing toward Christ as we come to church next Sunday and start our next Bible study this fall.