Skilled as Workmen: Approved of God

Skilled as Workmen: Approved of God

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     As the Author of life, God gave us the Word of Life. We now have the unique opportunity and esteemed privilege to be workmen of His life-giving Word. We can be faithful laborers in God’s Word, building for ourselves a greater and greater understanding of His masterful Scriptures. As we gain this understanding, we can live accordingly and bring magnificent results to our lives! And we can help and bless others by giving skilled assistance so they too can practically understand and apply God’s Word. Let’s take some time to detail why and how we study the truths of the Word: we all can become successful, accomplished workmen of the Scriptures.
     Perhaps one of the greatest reasons why we study the Bible is that the Author Himself wants us to! Although Timothy is a leadership epistle, it contains this great God-breathed truth that every believer can take to heart and apply.
II Timothy 2:15:
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

     Another translation gives even more insight into God’s desire for us as workmen.
II Timothy 2:15 [Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible]:
Be diligent to present thyself approved to God—a workman irreproachable, rightly dividing the word of the truth.

     God wants us to know His Word, and He wants our workmanship to reflect effort and diligence. A couple of years ago I took on a challenge to build a fireplace mantelpiece, which included the vertical components on either side of the fireplace opening. I had a supply of beautiful red oak harvested from trees on my parents’ farm. The boards were carefully selected, then run through a jointer and planer to give the wood straightness and smoothness. I had other pieces that were milled with more ornate designs for a stately, attractive appearance.
     But I was missing something—something very important. I lacked the skill and expertise to do the fine woodworking required to cut and assemble the wood into the finished product. Thankfully, a believer who was quite skilled in this area helped me through the process. With his masterful hand, each piece was cut with exactness. Each joint was accurately mitered. Each component was fastened together with precision. Attention was given to every detail. I carried out my instructions in sanding, staining, and finishing the wood, and together we secured it around the fireplace opening. The results—beautiful! It became the focal point of the whole room and brought a great sense of satisfaction.
     Likewise, we want to diligently exercise our skills as Biblical workmen, who study God’s Word with precision and accuracy, rightly dividing each component part. That’s how we stand approved before God, by being skilled laborers in the finest “material” known anywhere—the Word of Truth. Our goal as workmen is to stand approved before God for our workmanship as we carry out His will.
     Another undisputed reason why we study the Scriptures is to keep our minds focused on spiritual things and to not be distracted by worldly things. Our minds have been designed with not only a huge capacity for holding thoughts but also with a great capability to change from one thought to another with lightning speed. This is a marvelous quality that God built into the human mind. But if allowed, our minds can become distracted and shift from godly to worldly thoughts, which can lead us away from the Word of Truth.
Matthew 13:22:
He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.

     The Greek word from which “care” is translated means “dividing or distracting the mind.” The adversary, as the god of this world, wants to distract us and redirect our focus away from the Word and toward the things of the world. Planning a systematic time to put the Word deep in our hearts helps us to be more consistently focused on spiritual truths. Instead of the Word being choked from our lives, we can keep our minds infused and saturated with rich truths from the living Word.
     One more reason why we want to have a systematic study plan is that it assists in keeping our minds healthy, strong, and growing, being replenished with God’s Word. Our mental health is similar to our physical health. Nutritionists agree that our physical bodies generally function best when fed a balanced diet of fresh, wholesome foods. This contributes to enjoying better health and can assist in a quicker recovery if our bodies have been compromised by sickness or injury.
     Likewise, our minds may become compromised by emotional injury or be faced with pressures that challenge our mental strength. A consistent diet of the Word helps us be mentally healthy and gives us the alacrity to adjust to and overcome any challenge in life. As we invest the time to study the rightly divided Word, we enjoy a better mental disposition with the strength of God’s Word in our minds. This strength enables us to quickly rebound when faced with challenging circumstances.
     Another important purpose for focused study is to help and bless others. Opportunities will arise to help others who may need our skilled assistance as workmen of the Word. Sometimes this involves helping people individually in areas where they may be struggling, or it may involve studying collectively in a group setting, like a household fellowship. The greater our heart’s desire is to help others, the greater will be our need for the spiritual understanding that comes with our Scriptural workmanship. Teaching others requires not only knowing the material, but knowing it well enough to communicate it effectively. And knowing the Word well comes from laboring in it.
     In summary, there are a variety of reasons why we want to study God’s Word. First is because God desires us to stand approved before Him as workmen of the Word. Systematic study also keeps us from getting distracted in life, and it helps keep our mental state strong and healthy so we can rebound quickly in the challenges of life. It also equips us to help and bless others.
     Now let’s focus our attention on how we study the Word. Perhaps the simplest way to study the Word is to just enjoy reading it. This basic element of reading can greatly increase our scope of the Bible. Jesus Christ, our best example of a workman of the Word, had a great scope of the Scriptures. There are more than eighty occurrences in the Gospels where he made reference, either directly or indirectly, to the written Word. He knew the Scriptures because, first and foremost, he read them.
     Although we know the Church Epistles are our main focus in the Grace Administration, systematically reading through the entire Bible is a great way to increase our overall scope. With a good plan to follow, this can be accomplished comfortably in a year. The more times we completely read through the Bible, the broader our range of understanding becomes.
     The benefits of having a broad scope of the entire Bible are enormous. Perhaps the most significant advantage is it gives us a better understanding of the Church Epistles. For instance, the Book of Romans alone refers to the Mosaic law over seventy times. Romans comes alive with greater meaning when we more fully understand the Old Testament law and the huge blessing of being freed from it. Our understanding of the great mystery found in Ephesians blossoms with significance when we grasp the concept of the separation between Israelites and Gentiles found in the Old Testament and how Christ “hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us” (Ephesians 2:14).
     In pursuing how to study the Scriptures, we want to have a purpose and a methodical, or systematic, plan. My first job after graduating college involved working with drill crews to determine what was underground at the sites of future highways and bridges. If a new bridge was to span a river, borings would be made where the anticipated bridge piers would be built, whether on land or in water. The crew would drill down deep at these locations, until they found a solid, weight-bearing material, such as bedrock. They needed to be very specific and methodical in their exploration to properly evaluate what was below the riverbed. From this data, the bridge’s foundation would be designed and built to be strong enough to safely withstand the river’s most severe and extreme conditions for many years to come.
     We, as workmen of the Word, can operate in a similar fashion. Here is a record of a group of people who did just that. They had a specific purpose and knew what they were looking for.
Acts 17:11:
These
[the Judeans in Berea] were more noble than those [Judeans] in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
     The believing Judeans in Berea did not aimlessly, randomly, or sporadically jump all over the Scriptures. They carefully examined the Scriptures to gain the understanding they desired. Their purpose was to find out “whether those things were so.” As the drill crew had searched, the believers in Berea searched to find the bedrock of the Word so they could build a solid foundation of understanding on it. The foundation they built needed to be solid and sure to stand the test of time. A strong foundation of understanding from God’s Word will withstand any challenge in life.
     Pursuing the how of studying also depends on what we choose to study. A superb, systematic study plan is already laid out for us as we track with our ministry’s yearly theme and weekly teaching topics. This not only gives us a focused direction but allows us to work simultaneously and benefit from each other’s workmanship on the same subject—both in our local fellowships and at Sunday Teaching Services.
     Another way to choose what to study is to determine areas in which we want to build greater trust and believing in God’s Word. If we need to grow in our believing regarding finances, health, outreach, or family relationships, these would be obvious study topics. We also study in order to help others find answers and build believing in their areas of need. With a goal in mind, we become clearer on what to study. Then the more spiritual light needed in an area, the more we seek and the deeper we search into God’s Word.
     Now let’s get even more specific on how to make the most of our study time. For a moment, let’s go back to the analogy of building a fireplace mantel. Just as we pick out the best boards for that specific project, so can we pick out the most conducive areas of the Bible to meet our particular study needs. We want to spend our time working areas of the Word that contribute directly to our goal. We want to choose sections of scripture or specific words that will be the most beneficial for us to study and that we can realistically handle. And if we need it, we can ask for help from another skilled workman of the Word.
     The Way Ministry’s publications are an invaluable resource to aid our personal study. We can enjoy and learn from what’s been produced by others who have labored meticulously with care, concern, and a deep respect for the Word and its Author. Before I decided on the style and pattern for the mantelpiece, I looked at many beautiful examples—some much more elaborate than I could or would want to build. But those examples still gave me vision and understanding. I saw how the wood was patterned, what trim was used, how it was pieced together, and what finishes were used. This is like our ministry publications in which great Biblical studies have been produced by those skilled in working the Word. Although we may not intend to duplicate the entire process of masterful research and magnificent presentation, we can still see how concepts were put together, how individual words were researched, and how related scriptures build understanding.
     Our level of study is sometimes determined by what tools we have at our disposal. A variety of tools were used in our mantel construction—for example, a saw, a tape measure, a square, a nail gun, a sander, and clamps. If I only had a saw, my workmanship would have been limited. Likewise, if I only have a concordance, there is a lot I can accomplish, yet it would still be limited. If I wanted to “cut the same joint” that was used in a ministry publication, it would be helpful to use similar tools. Perhaps I need a Greek-English interlinear to arrive at the same conclusion that was reached in the publication. That may have been the tool that was needed to rightly divide the Word of Truth and make the precision cut.
     It takes diligent effort applied again and again to achieve mastery in rightly dividing God’s Word. This is why we want to be consistently studying and steadily becoming more proficient with our tools. We also want to continue checking and reviewing the precise work already done in our ministry publications. Once we have a study plan tailored to our needs or interests, we consistently study to grow not only in our skills as workmen but also in our spiritual understanding.
     In considering how to study, immediate action can be beneficial. Let’s see if we can take immediate action on what we are learning from this article. If you do not already have a study plan, this would be an excellent opportunity to stop and put one on paper. It doesn’t have to be elaborate; even a small study project can get you started. What areas or topics would you like to read or study? Can you set aside some study time early in the morning before the day’s busyness unfolds, or is there a better time? Have you been considering acquiring another research book or ministry publication? If so, take the steps to purchase it—you could order it from The Way International Bookstore or visit a State bookstore. The point is to take action.
     As we take action, obstacles may come up from time to time with cares of this world creeping up. The world has endless suggestions on how to fill up our time so that our “workman” time is crowded out. When tempted to think we’re “too busy,” we can push through those inconvenient times and hold on to our time in the Word. If you do find yourself getting off course and not working your plan, take action to get back on track as soon as possible.
     God described Apollos as “mighty in the scriptures” in Acts 18:24. The Amplified Bible adds that Apollos was “well versed and mighty in the Scriptures.” He became well versed and mighty by being a strong workman—he was a true champion of the Scriptures. Champions become champions as they work hard and stay focused, even when it is not convenient.
     We can ask and expect God to bring us wisdom, knowledge, and understanding as we labor in His Word. Let’s remember that it is not man’s word but God’s Word. As we apply the techniques in being true workmen of the Word, God will cause His light to illuminate our understanding and give us clear direction in life.
Psalms 119:130 [The Amplified Bible]:
The entrance
and unfolding of Your words give light; their unfolding gives understanding (discernment and comprehension) to the simple.
     It is God, the Author of life, Who desires us to be workmen of the Word of Life. There are numerous reasons why we study the Word, and when we take the time to consider these, our motivation and incentive become even stronger. And, of course, learning how to study the Word in even greater detail increases our skill as God’s workmen. As we implement our study plan, the results will be worth the effort. We’ll be rewarded with increased understanding and application of Biblical principles, and we can anticipate great blessings from God. Let’s enjoy the benefits of our labor as skilled workmen who stand approved before God, being faithful laborers in the Word of Truth!

This is a reprint from the September/October 2010 issue of The Way Magazine.
Copyright© 2010 by The Way International. All rights reserved.
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