In spite of the fact that Johnny Werhas had achieved success as a professional athlete—third baseman with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the California Angels —he felt an inner emptiness. Instead of enjoying his status, Werhas found himself envying some of his friends, particularly those who had a life with family and faith. He sought out advice from a pastor who strongly suggested that Werhas begin to read and study the Bible. As he did, Werhas discovered the inner peace which had eluded him as a professional athlete. Today, Werhas is pastor of the Yorba Linda, California, Friends on the Hill Church, where he has seen membership increase from about 150 people to more than 4,000. In a recent interview in the Los Angeles Times, Werhas described himself as a “happy man” who no longer envies his friends.1
Because of his Bible study, Werhas discovered what countless people before him learned, namely, that through the Bible we experience God and gain insight into living. British writer John Flavel declared: “The scriptures teach us the best way of living, the noblest way of suffering, and the most comfortable way of dying.” Here are some other reasons for studying the “Good Book.”
Study the Bible to Know God
In her exceptional book, Christian Spiritual Formation in the Church and Classroom, Dr. Susanne Johnson, a professor of Christian Education at Perkins School of Theology, says: “Christianity is not a self-help, self-improvement program for which spirituality is but the latest technique. It is a Story that intends to render to us the character of the God we worship. In its bare bones, the story line is of a God who creates, reconciles, and redeems the world . . . It also tells us how reality is to be construed and life to be lived in light of God’s character, depicted in the stories of Israel and Jesus.”2
Study the Bible to be Like Jesus
Referring to Jesus, the apostle Peter urges us to “follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). One way to do this is to study the Bible as Jesus did. Of course, the only Bible Jesus had was the Old Testament. Yet, He studied and knew it thoroughly.
In the New Testament we have many examples where Jesus quotes extensively from the Scriptures. For example, when Jesus inaugurated His ministry, He did so by quoting from the book of Leviticus (see Luke 4:18, 19). Later, when He was criticized by the religious establishment of His day, Jesus defended His actions by citing Scripture (see Luke 6:3–5).
When Jesus faced temptation, He resisted by recalling and quoting from passages in the book of Deuteronomy (see Matthew 4:1–10).
Study the Bible to Live Wisely
The Bible contains ancient wisdom which is highly applicable for life today. Minister and author A. W. Tozer writes: “The Holy Scriptures tell us what we could never learn any other way: they tell us what we are, who we are, how we got here, why we are here and what we are required to do while we remain here.”
In an era when there are few moral compasses, the Bible is an effective tool to guide us for living compassionate, loving lives dedicated to serving God and humanity.
A good example of one who is guided by biblical principles is retired professional basketball player David Robinson. At the peak of his career, earning some $12 million annually, Robinson was one of the sport’s leading philanthropists. In order to remain a more anonymous giver, Robinson makes donations through a foundation he’s established. He gives substantially to schools, the homeless, and children’s charities.
Robinson explains his philosophy saying: “The Bible is very clear: Don’t do your good works before men to be cheered by men. We do the right things because that’s what God told us to do.”3
Study the Bible to be Transformed
As we read the Bible, it in turn reads us. Scripture is not passive. When we dig deeply into the Bible’s stories they dig deeply into our lives and character. Through study we are forced to think, feel, and act in new ways. Dr. Johnson notes: “The Bible, as a key witness to faith, does not just lie there inertly. It can exert tremendous life-changing power on us. We not only read and interpret the Bible, the Bible interprets us. It does things to us, for us, among us. Hence, we sense that through the Bible we encounter the living Word of God, God’s own self-revelation through Israel and in Jesus Christ.”
Study the Bible to be Stronger
Consider the difference between a strong and a weak cup of tea. The same ingredients are used for both—water and dry tea. The difference is that the stronger cup of tea results from the tea leaves’ longer immersion in the water. A lengthier immersion allows the water more time to get into the tea and the tea into the water.
In the same way, the length of time we spend in the Word of God determines how deeply we get into it and how deeply it gets into us. Just like tea, the longer we are in the Word, the “stronger” we become.
Study the Bible to Ease Stress
One benefit of Scripture study is its power to lighten life’s stresses. Dr. Dale Matthews, an associate professor of medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., and author of The Faith Factor: Proof of the Healing Power of Prayer, recommends reading and studying the Bible for 15 to 20 minutes daily. “I’ve found early morning is best because it allows me to prepare for the day by grounding myself in God and finding sustenance to help buffer life’s stresses.”4
Study the Bible to Face Trials
Believers have always turned to Scripture for hope and comfort when facing difficulty. In the Bible we read about the God who knows us, loves us, cares for us and, ultimately, does what is right for us.
Dr. Eugene Habecker, a former president of the 191-year-old American Bible Society, in January 1997 was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The frightening prospect of dealing with cancer was eased through the hope he found in Scripture. “I learned to let go and give this problem to God. I said to him, ‘I’ll do my part, but the result is truly yours.’ ”5 Some biblical passages which he found most comforting included: “Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. They give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises” (Romans 15:4, NLT). “You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my only source of hope” (Psalm 119:114, NLT). In addition to these texts, Dr. Habecker adds: “I also found the entirety of Psalm 91 to be of great comfort during my ordeal with cancer.”
Study the Bible to Enjoy Growth
The Christian never finishes when it comes to spiritual growth and development. “No one graduates from Bible study until he meets the author face to face,” says minister E. T. Harris. Through all of life, both spirit and mind must be nourished and challenged continuously through the study of Scripture. British minister Charles Spurgeon observed: “Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years.”
Study the Bible to Face Life
One avid Bible student was Sir Wilfred Thomason Grenfell. Dr. Grenfell did medical mission work in Canada’s rugged Newfoundland province in the twentieth century. He not only studied the Bible but committed vast amounts of it to memory. “To me the memorizing of Scripture has been an unfailing help in doubt, anxiety, sorrow and all the countless vicissitudes and problems of life,” he wrote. “I believe in it enough to have devoted many, many hours to stowing away passages where I can neither leave them behind me nor be unable to get at them.”
Study the Bible to be Healthier
Cardiac surgery patients who said they received “strength and comfort” from their faith were three times more likely to survive than those who did not, according to a study of 232 men and women done at the Dartmouth-Hitchock Medical Center in New Hampshire. Likewise, in a recent study of 112 women, researchers at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro reported a link between high “religiosity” and lower blood pressure, even when lifestyle factors such as weight, smoking, alcohol use, and diet were taken into account. In fact, being “religious” had an even stronger beneficial effect on the women’s blood pressures than other health habits, good or bad.6
Study the Bible to be Fulfilled
There is yet one other compelling reason to study the Bible. If we allow other demands on our time to squeeze out Scripture study, we may sincerely regret our neglect of Bible study. Canadian missionary to China, Jonathan Goforth, declared: “My deepest regret, on reaching three-score years and ten, is that I have not devoted more time to the study of the Bible. Still in less than nineteen years I have gone through the New Testament in Chinese fifty-five times.” Expressing similar remorse is Billy Graham. In an interview, the evangelist was asked this question: “If you had to live your life over again, what would you do differently?” His answer: “One of my great regrets is that I have not studied enough. I wish I had studied more and preached less. People have pressured me into speaking to groups when I should have been studying and preparing.”