|Volume 17 Number 12 December 2015||
Ronald D. Reeves
Quality Bible classes are not accidental. They are the product of good efforts by both teachers and students. Each teacher and every student has the opportunity to either contribute toward or detract from quality Bible classes that enhance the learning process and motivate students to be participants therein.
I encourage fellow teachers to ponder the spiritual needs of the student body most likely to be before them and to select studies that will address those needs in a profitable manner. I encourage teachers to spend adequate time in study so that one can lead a quality and in-depth study. Such a study will be logically arranged and will be amply supported by biblical references that are directly related to the study. If the teacher is offering an opinion or does not know something, such should be freely acknowledged, giving the student body an opportunity to appropriately weigh the commentary being given.
The conduct of the teacher in class may be very important. I encourage teachers to present material logically and clearly as well as to demonstrate that open discussion, rather than argument, is not only acceptable but is valued and encouraged. Teachers should not underestimate the lack of knowledge associated with the student body before them. Therefore, care should be taken to maintain logical arrangement and to support affirmations with related biblical passages. In addressing the class, one should remember to serve the needs of the entire class rather than only a portion thereof. The methodology and mannerisms should induce many in the class to feel free to participate if they desire. Also of import are the expectations that a teacher holds when addressing a class. For one to assume that everyone will always agree concerning all matters demonstrates a measure naivety. Respect for the students and their respective views enhances the learning process, even though a teacher may clearly disagree with commentary offered in class. Yes, a teacher must conduct himself or herself in a manner that encourages discussion, review, research and the discovery of truth. May it be that a teacher motivates class members to be more diligent in their study of the Word of God.
I encourage fellow students to prepare in advance through study when possible for class. Such cannot be adequately done if the student body is not advised in advance about the course of study. As a means of enhancing the learning process, students should maintain proper attitudes and conduct.
With respect to attitudes, students should go to class prepared to be challenged to grow spiritually. Such requires that one not assume that he or she cannot be honestly mistaken about some passage or subject matter, but rather each student needs to be open minded to the degree that will allow him or her to grow spiritually without accepting error. Maintaining such a balance may be more difficult than one anticipates. We may fall off balance in this regard and not even know it. An open-minded student is actually weighing in his or her mind what is being taught, examining it from a neutral perspective and drawing conclusions that are demanded by the biblical evidences presented. In contrast, students who approach a biblical topic with a prejudiced mind limit their own potential of spiritual growth.
With respect to conduct, I encourage students to demonstrate that open discussion, rather than argument, is their goal. Students should freely join a discussion of issues that interests them and do so in a manner that encourages rather than taints the learning process. On occasion, students will and should voice disagreement with what is being taught. Such should be done honorably, though. We do well to remember that a discussion should never be allowed to degrade into a personal confrontation. Such neither serves the one holding to truth nor the one who may be honestly mistaken. As always, may we as students give a “thus saith the Lord” for what we affirm. Affirmation without biblical support is of lesser value.
Quality Bible classes occur when quality teachers, employing qualitative methodologies, interact with quality students employing quality listening skills. I pray that all of our Bible classes rise to such a high plane.
Often in Scripture we find the call to abound or excel in Christian character to accomplish the biblical goal of spiritual growth and maturity. Pursuing excellence is not a quest for human superiority. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “excellence” as “the quality of being excellent,” to be “very good of its kind; eminently good.” So the meaning of the word “excel” indicates the concept of going beyond a limit or standard. To excel is to be preeminent or to be at a level higher than that of others. Excellence is not obtained by the mere ambition to be superior or greater than other people, but is the result of the challenge to going beyond our own limits, improving who we are. Excellence is not determined by comparing our score or performance to someone else’s. The pursuit of excellence comes from doing our best with what we have to bring glory to God and with the focus of growing and improving.
Spiritual maturity is the result of the quest for godly character in man and cannot be obtained without the pursuit of excellence. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10; cf. Philippians 1:9-11; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:1, 10; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Matthew 23:37-38). God wants His people to abound or excel in both what they are (inward character) and in what they do (behavior or good deeds). Most people (even Christians) seem to be satisfied in living a mediocre existence. The Christians in Laodicea were given the consequences of living in a lukewarm way for God (Revelation 3:14-16).
Living at the level of mediocrity is one of the greatest temptations of Satan. In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis created the fictional correspondence of an older expert devil teaching his young nephew about the effective schemes to separate a person from God, and he considered:
You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy [God]. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one, the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. (60-61)
To compromise with sin (small or big, it does not matter) is to accept to live at the level of mediocrity.
However, because of who we are in Jesus Christ, because of our eternal hope and because of the grace of God, we must be always seeking to do our best to be godly and to choose what is the best way to please our Heavenly Father. Some accept mediocrity because, as limited human beings, none will ever arrive, as they say, and there will always be room for growth and improvement (cf. Philippians 3:12-14). To do our best is not a justification for failure or mediocrity, but it is the evidence of genuine spiritual growth and maturity.
The emphasis in this exhortation of Paul, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), is that whatever we do, all must to be done to the glory of God. Regardless of what we do, He deserves our best, since our existence must reflect the honor and glory that we give our God and will ultimately be rewarded by Him (1 Corinthians 15:58). The pursuit of excellence is never a matter of simply choosing between what is good or bad, but it is the choosing what is best or superior that will better enable us to accomplish what God has designed us to be and for us to do (Philippians 1:9-11; Ephesians 2:10). Solomon affirmed, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Life is full of opportunities, and there is a lot of possible work to be done. The encouragement of the wise man of God is to use all of our strengths and abilities to accomplish everything we do in an excellent way so that we can really fulfil our purpose on earth. “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5; cf. Matthew 22:37).
Jesus did not come to be a mediocre Servant, nor was He sacrificed on the cross for us to be ordinary, mediocre people! He was born, lived and died so that His disciples could be special people (1 Peter 2:9-10). New Testament Christianity is not an ordinary way of living, but it is the excellent way. “But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31).