Published October 8, 2013

Paul's Epistle...
"Are You Prepared?"

Some years ago, our younger son emailed from college to tell us he was facing a big mid-term exam the next day I'm sure he mentioned it in his e-mail so that we would pray that he would do well.

That's a good thing. And we did that. And he did do well.

But I remember thinking about this back when I was in school (many years ago). Praying, of course, is always a good thing. But we can't pray that God will give us the answers to the questions on a test if we haven't studied enough to have known the answers in the first place. It's fine to ask God to help us remember the answers, or to help us figure out the answers from what we have studied. But I don't think we can ask God to just "pop the answers" into our heads if we haven't prepared adequately for the test.

I think this was always the Golden Text around test time: "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed... (2 Tim 2:15.) Someone said they'll never be able to ban prayer completely from schools as long as there are tests given. How true.

Now, the same principle applies everyday in our lives. Our lives have many "tests."

We might want God to pop an answer into our heads to a problem we're facing in our everyday lives. And He might do just that. But most likely, he wants us to have studied "our textbook" — the Bible. God has already given answers to all of the major life problems we face. They're in the Bible. If we don't read the Bible, how would we know?

Ask any long-time Christian about this and they will probably be able to recall for you times when, as they faced a particular trial, suddenly a passage of Scripture would come to their minds which would provide the answer or the comfort or the assurance that they needed at that moment. This is God at work through His Holy Spirit, reminding us of what we've already read.

But, obviously, this answer or comfort or assurance would not have come to them in such a way if they had not been familiar with the Scriptures in the first place. "Reminding" is quite different from spontaneously popping information into one's head that was never before there. (God could do that, of course, but He normally chooses not to work that way.) It didn't work in school, it doesn't work now.

When I quoted 2 Timothy 2:15 above, I didn't give the entire verse. Here it is: "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

There it is. The "study" that this verse is talking about is studying the "word of truth" — which is God's word, the Bible. We must study it to get the answers. We must study it to be "approved unto God."

The Living Bible paraphrase renders "rightly dividing the word of truth" in this way: "Know what his Word says and means." Can it be said more plainly?

"Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." (Psalm 119:11.)

It takes regular and attentive study. But when it comes to the tests that life inevitably throws at us, that's how we can pass them "with flying colors."

- Paul

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Note: a version of the above appeared here Oct. 25, 2005.

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