The words, "Study to show thyself approved unto God," were penned by Paul to Timothy, as a last admonition to a coworker who was younger in years and in point of service. In the same epistle Paul further admonished his "dearly beloved son," "Continue . . in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of." 2 Tim. 3:14, 15. It was not during the first part of Timothy's ministry that Paul sent the admonition to him to "study" and to "continue" in the word of God, for at the time of the writing of this epistle, Timothy had served about seventeen years in the gospel ministry. The aged apostle knew that the work of ministering to the spiritual needs of man demands constant application to the word of God, that there may be continuous growth in knowledge.
In order to meet God's approval, the Bible worker as well as the minister must fulfill God's charge. Christ commanded Peter, "Feed My lambs," and, "Feed My sheep." John 21: 15-17. He commissioned those assembled on the mountain in Galilee, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations." Matt. 28 :19. He also charges us: "Feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood." Acts 20 :28. "Preach the Word." 2 Tim. 4:2. "Feed the flock of God." 1 Peter 5:2. "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." 2 Peter 3:18.
According to these texts it is evident that in order to be approved of God, the Bible worker is to study with the one objective in mind of gaining that which will in turn benefit the church, God's flock upon earth. In Ezekiel 34 God pronounces a curse upon the shepherds who feed themselves and not the flock of God. He further charges those shepherds with defiling the food and drink which they did not devour for themselves, so that it was not fit for the flock. The curse was pronounced, not because the shepherds fed themselves, but because they were selfish, and thought only of themselves and forgot to minister, to the flock the good things which God had provided. If the flock is to be fed, it is necessary for those entrusted with this responsibility to be filled with the Word, to pray over it, to meditate upon it, and to live with it until it becomes a very part of their being, before giving it to the flock.
In the days of the apostolic church, when the believers were being rapidly multiplied, the burdens and responsibilities of caring for large congregations consumed the time of the apostles to the extent that the ministry of the Word was neglected. Realizing the danger threatening the church as a result of this condition, they appointed other men to care for the detail service, and declared, "We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word." Acts 6:4. That was the work to which Christ had called them, and if the apostles had continued serving tables, instead of ministering the Word, the Christian church would have died in its infancy. It is a fact in history that the decline of the Christian church came about because the ministry became absorbed in other things than that to which God had called them; namely, studying the Word, living with the Word, and ministering the Word to the flock of God, in order that they might grow from strength to strength. In these days which are so filled with activity and duties which are proper in themselves, there is great danger that Bible workers and ministers will be drawn away from the things of first importance. Hours of precious time are occupied with routine things which others might do, and our ministry is impoverished because the time which should be given to the study of the Word has been given to other things. The church is undernourished, and the ministry is blamed.
There must be time for study and prayer and meditation on the things of God. Before we can see the beauty in the word of God, we must take time to get the glare of the world out of our eyes. We must take time to get the
din and hurry of the world out of our ears before we can hear the voice of God speaking to the soul through His Word. We must take time to rightly approach unto the mercy seat and get into the very presence of God, where things take on their proper and relative values. We must take time to visit and pray with the flock of God in order that we may rightly divide the word of truth and give meat in due season, according to the needs of each individual member.
Each worker must adjust his program to meet this need. It is imperative that part of each day be given to this important phase of one's ministry. From time thus spent, the worker will come forth with calmness and assurance, braced for his God-given duties. The flock will feel this strength and will be conscious of a new power as the Word is spoken. And best of all, "when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away."