As I wander through Preach the Word, I am taking advantage of little nuggets here and there to prompt posts. Today I’m influenced by Wayne Grudem’s article on “Right and Wrong Interpretation of the Bible.” He makes a point that I have probably made before, but it bears repeating.
Grudem writes, “It is possible to do a short or long study of any passage. Do what you can with the time you have, and don’t be discouraged about all that you cannot do.”
Study time is not prescribed. I’m often asked how long sermon preparation should take. A standard question, to which I give a probably standard answer – “as long as you have.” It doesn’t help to feel bound to a ten-hour minimum study phase if you simply don’t have ten hours to study the passage. Grudem gives the example of having to give a devotional talk with ten minutes warning. Can it be done? Of course. He doesn’t suggest it is a good idea to prepare for ten minutes, but it can be done. On the other hand, the same passage might be studied for twenty hours in anticipation of a Sunday sermon, for two or three hundred hours in the preparation of an academic article, or for a full year or more for the sake of a PhD.
Don’t be discouraged by time you don’t have. Seems obvious, but it’s so easy to get discouraged when we think of all that we have not done in our preparation. Resources not checked, words not fully studied, verbs unparsed, syntax not diagrammed, cross-references not referenced, etc. If you didn’t have time, God knows that, and we need to know that too.
Don’t be disqualified by time you didn’t use. I would add this to the mix. Often there is not enough time. But sometimes we fail to use the time we have. Obviously that is not good. Often it is inexcusable. Who was it that referred to time-wasting as the greatest sin of the younger generation? Anyway, when you know your time is running out and you can’t honestly say you used every moment as you should have, what should you do? You shouldn’t carry a weight of guilt and self-recrimination that steals your heart away from the privilege of knowing God and preaching His Word. It is important to do what you preach – keep a short account with God, confess, repent, accept forgiveness. We don’t sin so that grace may increase, but praise the Lord that there is plenty of grace in His character . . . we need it!