Today’s article was written by graduating M.Div student Matthew Wireman who blogs at Off The Wire. This is part 2 of 2. You can read the first part here. Don’t miss any of our guest content. Be sure to subscribe to our feed or get Said At Southern updates via email.
6. Remember that it is a gracious thing to struggle with the lack of desire when you are working through your studies. When someone talks to me about wanting to have sweet fellowship with God and not dry theology, I oftentimes rejoice with them that they desire such a thing. It is God’s gift to you that you would want to fellowship in spirit with the Creator of the world. If you were content in abstract theology with no heart palpitations, I would be worried. But for you who is concerned that he is losing his first love, I rejoice. Ephesus surely did not think they had abandoned their Lord. They had wealth, understanding, etc. But they had committed adultery by their fine sounding arguments. Do not stray from your Master. Strive to enter the rest promised to you who persevere to the end.
7. Remember God’s providence and ask yourself: “How is God using this time to sanctify me? What am I learning that conforms my mind to that of Christ? How am I different from before I studied? Don’t merely look at this time in seminary as preparation – look at it as ministry in itself. We cannot pit study against ‘real‘ ministry. Parsing Hebrew tenses should not be seen as distinct from being a good pastor. It should be seen as one component in being a good pastor. We cannot think that praying with a saint is more holy than translating a passage of Scripture.
HOWEVER, if you put more weight on your studies rather than praying with someone, then you should repent. We are not individuals on our road to glory. We are a family and an army. We must labor with others in order to stay on that road. Reading and praying are equally important, but we need to make time in our lives for both. I confess, my life has been consumed with studies the last two years. I have looked for various ministry outlets but have grown tired and too busy for ministry other than my studies. Yes, I have been a member of my church and served where I could. But it has been difficult to be consistent in practice for the ministry.
8. See the studies you are not particularly crazy about to teach you that ministry will be mundane and oftentimes difficult. Do not think that ministry will be easier because you will not have deadlines for papers or exams. Rather, you will have weekly deadlines with sermons and Bible studies.
What is difficult about this one is that all things in theology are inter-connected. To say, “I am not a history man, I like my theology like I like my steak – bloody and rare,” is to miss the blood that was shed in the name of ‘aberrant’ theology. The Reformers shed their blood and defended the sovereignty of God and the necessity of grace alone through faith alone. As Solomon said, there is nothing new under the sun. So the open theist’s claim of seeing something fresh in the Scriptures was refuted centuries ago. To say, ” I am a history buff and not into exegesis,” is to miss the very point the men of history were making. It was through laborious hours at candle and plume that the deity of Christ, the inerrancy of the Scriptures, the virgin birth, etc were defended and won. We must do the hard work wedding all parts of our systematic, historical, and biblical theologies together.
9. Make sure you are spending time in devotional reading with the Lord. I have heard some people say that you should not draw a line in the sand so as to say that ‘all our studies should be worship.’ Yes, they should be. But given the amount of work that we have to pump through each week, we are acquiring tools for our future exegesis and pastoring. Do not sell yourself short by thinking that if you parse slowly it is the same as reading through, meditating on, and memorizing portions of Scripture. I have gone back and forth on this, but I am convinced (as I have begun implementing it in my life again) that getting up, sipping my coffee, reading through a psalm slowly and asking the Spirit of God to parse my soul and see if there be any unrighteousness in me – something that quickly reading through a volume will not do.
Perhaps some folks are wired differently than myself. Fair enough. If you can prayerfully work through a systematic theology while asking the Lord to mold your soul, by all means do that. I am speaking tho those of us who need to have a set aside time to read and pray – who falter in breathing devotion. Even on my ‘good’ days I find I need to set aside time to commune with God. If I am able to prayerfully work through texts, I still need the Word of God to cut through my deceitfulness and bare my soul before my Sovereign.
– written by Matthew Wireman