Across America, there are gyms everywhere: for men, women, body building, sculpting, toning and trimming. Most people go to the gym to shape their bodies to be more attractive. But when my friend Ron goes to a gym to jog or lift weights, his primary concern is not how big his muscles can get or how ripped his abs will be: Ron is on active duty in the military. When he trains, he is preparing his body for action.
Bible study can be like going to the gym. The question is: what is our motivation? Are we mostly concerned with sculpting our minds so that others will admire how well shaped they are? Like those who are diligent about hitting the gym every morning, hoping for physical admiration, we may be doing our “daily devotions” because we long to be acknowledged for our theological aptitude. Yet Peter, in his first letter, tells us the real purpose of Bible study: “Prepare your minds for action” (1 Pet 1:13 NIV).
This admonition from Peter now colors my daily devotions. As I read a text, whether it is part of a reading plan or merely a favorite passage, I stop and ask myself, “How might this prepare me for action?”
For example, when considering how Hannah’s story from 1 Sam 1–2 might “prepare me for action,” I noticed something I passed over many times: When Hannah’s prayers were misunderstood as the quiet blabbering of a drunk woman, she did not get offended by the priest, Eli. Instead, she maintained her humility, explained herself, and welcomed his prayers for her.
By nature, I am a defensive person. This passage challenged me to prepare myself not to get offended when I am misunderstood. It may seem like a minor thing, but it isn’t. I have seen families torn asunder by misunderstandings that were not handled with humility. And, sadly, I have seen relationships in the church damaged because of a misunderstanding that led to an offense.
Being misunderstood is a terrible feeling. More than once, someone has falsely accused me of something because they misunderstood something I said. My immediate reaction is to feel insulted at the implications of their misunderstandings: How dare she accuse me of that? But as God’s Word prepares me for action, I am prepared to stop and clarify the situation, like Hannah did with Eli. Consequently, I am able to quench a wild fire before it causes lasting damage.
What if Hannah had become insulted by Eli’s suggestion that she was drunk? What if she had stormed out of the temple, declaring, “I’ll never set foot in this place again!” She, and indeed all of Israel, would have suffered consequences. After all, the child born in response to those prayers became a great judge who crowned Israel’s first king.
According to Peter, preparing our minds for action is a matter of being nourished by the “pure milk of the word” (1 Pet 2:2 NASB). By stopping to consider how our Bible reading can prepare us for action in the real world—in the office, in the kitchen, in traffic and in our house of worship—we will find that our daily study can prepare us to do more, not just know more. This will affect not only how our minds are shaped, but also how those around us encounter the God whose image we bear.