My wife and I go to an inner-city church on Sunday nights to teach an Awana Bible study program to the kids. It has been an interesting process. The theme verse that they repeat every week is 2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
That is so foundational to any study of the Bible. It grounds many important truths.
“Do your best” — That is a phrase I wouldn’t necessarily expect to see in the Bible. It obviously doesn’t mean to do your best to save yourself, as that is impossible. It is all up to Jesus. But we are commanded to do our best to properly handle the word of God.
Think of how we do our best in so many other areas: Tests at school, projects at work, hobbies, sports, etc. We spend hours of hard work and deep thought to do our best. Yet we can get very sloppy when approaching the word of God. Do we really do our best to handle it correctly?
“present yourself to God” — Yes, the audience of one is paying attention to how we treat his word. He cares if we handle his word accurately or not.
“a workman” — Yes, it is work. Eternally satisfying work, but work.
“does not need to be ashamed” — So mishandling God’s word would be something to be ashamed of? Yes.
“correctly handle” — There is a way to correctly handle God’s truths. It isn’t a free-for-all where everyone gets their own special revelation.
“the word of truth” — It is indeed the word of truth. Beware of those who claim the name of Christ yet deny that. Also see 1 Thessalonians 2:13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
The Awana program seems pretty solid. It is mainly geared to young kids, though my youngest daughter did it for a couple years in high school and got a lot out of it. I find it a little heavy on memorization relative to context, but I realize that young kids have spongy brains and that it is a prime time to get them to remember these verses (schools should overhaul what they teach at different ages, such as learning languages in the early years, but that’s another topic).
I was thrilled one night when they were told about Philippians 4:13, a commonly misunderstood verse. I was able to explain what it really meant, and the kids seemed to get it. I pray that they will go through life getting that verse right the first time and sharing the great news of it with others.
P.S. Here are the Powerpoint slides to one of my all-time favorites lessons on reading the Bible in context. I have gotten verses wrong many times — including all the examples in the presentation — so it is a lesson I never want to forget.