An excerpt from "From the Mouth of God" by Sinclair B. Ferguson
[In 2 Timothy 2:15] the verb Paul used for ‘do your best’ (spoudazein) has the basic meaning ‘to hurry’. It then came to express the idea of making a strenuous effort.1 Here, as though to emphasise the energy that will be required, he suggests that Timothy’s approach to Scripture should be that of a ‘workman’. ‘Rightly handling’, sometimes unhelpfully translated ‘dividing’, is elsewhere used of building a road. Paul is therefore conveying a picture of strenuous effort being made in order to make a straight and reliable pathway into the Bible’s message.
Handling the Bible properly can be hard work!
Alexander MacLaren, the famous Victorian minister, used to go into his study early each morning wearing heavy boots rather than soft slippers in order to remind himself that studying the word of God was hard work. There is an old adage: ‘Half the bad theology in the world is due to suppressed perspiration.’ It is the result of not really making the effort, taking the time, and exercising the necessary disciplines to try to grapple with what God is really saying in the pages of Scripture. (There are, of course, other reasons for the other half of ‘bad theology’.)
The value of our Bible study depends on this. Are we willing to work at it? Sometimes Christians seem to suggest that if we find Bible study is hard work then we cannot be very spiritual. Perhaps that explains why so many people have been attracted to the more immediate, straight-from-heaven, no-need-to-study revelations that they claim have come to them in prophecies and tongues.
But the Scriptures do not disclose their riches to lazy minds and hearts. Paul urges Timothy ‘Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.’2 Christians need to think about what the Bible says.3
So, according to Paul, Bible study requires hard work (‘a worker’) and a correct approach (‘rightly handling’), involving mental activity (‘think’). That is why our forefathers used to speak about ‘digging in’ to Scripture.
If we are prepared for the hard work, the next stage is to learn to grow in our ability to read the Bible with understanding.
1) Paul uses it in this sense in 2 Tim. 4:9, 21.
2) 2 Tim. 2:7.
3) For a brief valuable treatment of the importance of the mind in the Christian life see John R. W. Stott, Your Mind Matters (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1972).