The Journey of a LifetimeOct 25, 2021
Going on an adventure may seem so exciting for some, but it can also be terrifying for others. We can feel a wide range of emotions as the journey unfolds right before our eyes. Merriam-Webster defines a journey as something that suggests travel or passage from one place to another. Examples are “journey from youth to maturity” or a trip from your hometown to a vacation destination. However, when we talk about a lifetime journey, it presents an adventure for the long haul to a destination marked before us. This is what our faith journey looks like.
Dr. Mark "Dean" Haywood, the Provost and Professor of Hermeneutics, Homiletics, and Bible Exposition at Grace School of Theology, shared some lessons he gained from his experience of being a teacher and student of God's Word. For him, knowing the Scriptures is vital in our faith journey. "It opens up your biblical understanding and brings you to a point where you can better know some direction for your life and the people around you as well as you begin to study God's Word and utilize these tools that will help you go deeper in His Word," Dr. Mark Haywood shared.
But he believes that studying the Word and spending time in devotion is more than just an academic exercise—these are opportunities that open us to worship God through the Scriptures. That is why he would start his classes with devotion. He knew that it would be alarming to see someone who finished seminary with an increasing knowledge but decreasing love for Jesus Christ.
"We can never completely know everything about God. And so, the more we study, the more we can learn and come to know Him in a much more personal manner. It is our goal to study the Bible as a journey of a lifetime so that we continue to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ and continue to know what God has for each one of our lives, and that we fall deeper in love with Him," Dr. Haywood explained.
He also pointed out that without the Holy Spirit, we cannot fully understand the Scriptures. When you read Paul's writings in 1 Corinthians chapter 2, it speaks about the Holy Spirit as the Revealer. He is the Teacher if you will. He's the Leader and the Guide. He's the One that will bring things back to our remembrance and it's very important that you trust Jesus Christ so that you can have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
This also stresses the value of prayer in our life journey as a follower of Christ. But people don't seem to give much importance to praying before reading the Word. Dr. Haywood shared, "We need to pray before our devotion because we are asking God to reveal His truth to us. Pray for understanding so that He can continue to open up His word and as it sinks deeper into our hearts, we put it into action or apply His Word. At an early age, Dr. Haywood learned the importance of prayer when he witnessed his 6’1” father on his knees talking to God. From that moment, he realized that there must be something special about prayer time.
In studying the Word, he encourages us to choose a more literal translation and to steer away from paraphrases should we choose to use it for our study or in rightly dividing the Word. While paraphrases can be entertaining to read, he would not recommend them for personal study as the interpretation may be incorrect or out of context. Dr. Haywood explains that word-for-word translations are preferable in your journey through God's Word. He provided us with a few guidelines to help in understanding God's Word better.
Allow the Word of God to interpret itself. This is called the inductive method of studying His Word. Through this, we should try to search the Word without our preconceived notions and concepts about what is already there and to allow the Word of God to speak to us for what it really means. This is similar to starting with nothing and working our way up until we know what the passage is saying to us.
Here are four foundational steps in the inductive method according to Dr. Haywood's brief explanation:
- Observation - ask critical questions during this step using the four W’s: Who, what, where, when, and an additional w for "wow factor".
- Who are they speaking to?
- Who's speaking to whom?
- Who was being talked about?
- Who's the author?
- What is the topic?
- What is the subject matter?
- What is the complement to that subject matter?
- When did it take place?
- Where did it take place?
- The Wow factors are those things and statements that do not fit with the previous four categories.
- Interpretation - involves using the grammar aspect of the phrase or passage and taking the plain meaning and sense of the text. One may gather and use tools to help interpret the text such as a Greek dictionary or software used in Word studies.
- Correlation - where you go through the text and look in other places of the Bible where a particular concept, idea, or character may have shown up. One may use a concordance or electronic tools to help you here.
- Application - the most essential part of your journey in His Word. Once you have done observation, interpretation, and correlation, you would have a good grasp of the context of the verse, passage, or topic. Once you’ve done the upfront work, you then cross the application bridge where you move from the ancient world to your world and begin to ask essential questions such as:
- How does this apply to me?
- How can I incorporate this into my daily living?
We are reminded of the passage in James where it says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” The goal of the journey in studying the Word is to have transformed and changed lives.
As you take this adventure, you will begin to see and know more about God. And as you know more about Him, you will understand yourself, who you truly are in His perspective. He has given you this Word as a manual and a map for your journey of a lifetime.
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