by Rob Tims
Many ministers have the high calling of writing the Bible studies for their church’s groups. The task amounts to nothing less than a calling to teach, so we treat it with great reverence, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment for the work (James 3:1). The task is often time-consuming, drawing our precious resources away from other things that we not only could be doing, but we must be doing.
What better things could we be doing instead of spending hours writing that study? Great question.
I logged 2,000 miles in the swagger-wagon over the Christmas holidays last year. The last leg was a beast: 700 miles up the southwest coast of Florida, through the middle Georgia, and home to middle Tennessee. Sadly, our national interstate system is ill-equipped to handle the traffic associated with the college football bowl season, especially with heavy rain for half the journey. What had taken 10-11 hours in previous trips took a whopping 14.
North of Atlanta and facing 4 more hours of driving, I was ready to call it a night. At first, only the horror of unpacking and repacking the van at a hotel yet again kept me going. My neck hurt. My back hurt. I was generally annoyed with everyone I loved. But soon I began to think about home.
Home. Where my memory foam pillow and mattress awaited me. Where I could walk around in my underwear without anxiety. Where I could shower until the hot water gave out. Where the thermostat could be set to my liking. So enamored did I become with the idea of “home” that I audibly groaned in the driver’s seat. My lovely wife presumed I was groaning in pain. And while I was quite uncomfortable, the groan was actually for the one place that could end my irritation.
One of the best things we can do as ministers of the gospel is groan for home. Creation is groaning for home, longing to be “free from the bondage of corruption” (Romans 10:20). The Holy Spirit is groaning as He prays for us, because we don’t know how to pray for ourselves (Romans 10:26-27). Further, we groan, “waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 10:23).
When was the last time you intentionally sat down and groaned for home? The kind of groaning Paul describes is not something that only comes along when something traumatic happens that calls our attention to heaven. Rather, Paul describes an ongoing reality for all Christians who are never content as merely saved sinners living in a fallen world. We groan for the reality that awaits, and that’s what keeps us going in the meantime.
It’s hard to make it home if you don’t long for it. Get on your knees and groan.
I’m a dog-lover. Unfortunately, a variety of factors have converged to prevent me from owning one. My home and its yard are insufficient. I have four kids who need their parents often. My wife is generally opposed to something else to clean and clean up after. So I’m left to befriend others who have man’s best friend to get my fix.
To more than a few canines in my community, I’m like a rich uncle who comes sporadically but lovingly, and always bearing gifts. And the best gift I can give them is a bone. Not a toy bone, or even a rawhide bone. I mean a real bone … from an animal … that’s been slaughtered. My furry nieces and nephews growl with delight for hours over their rock-hard, marrow-filled bones from rich Uncle Rob.
This is not unlike what you and I are to do with God’s Word. Psalm 1:1-2 tells us, “Happy is the man who … delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night.” In Psalm 63, David speaks about how he “meditates” on the Lord in his bed (verse 6). The word translated “meditate” is “hagah” in Hebrew, and while the translation is accurate, it doesn’t reflect the depth or tenacity associated with what the Hebrew implies—namely, that we are to growl with delight over the Lord and His Word, like a dog growls with his bone. Far too often, we who are charged with teaching and explaining God’s Word fail to delight in it in this way.
Let’s not believe the lie that we can effectively write about, share, or teach what we do not consistently delight in ourselves. Let us growl.
Groaners and growlers are the best givers. They are like the Macedonians (not to be confused with the Kardashians). Groaners and growlers use their time, money and gifts for others because they give themselves first and foremost to the Lord (2 Corinthians 8:5). Because they experience the Lord’s generosity in their lives, they impart His generosity to others. Second Corinthians 8:9 is their mantra: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: Though He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.”
Yes, people are thankful for the studies we write for their groups. But they are equally grateful to know us personally, and we are equally rewarded when we are able to give more of ourselves to them personally. Fortunately, a tool like smallgroup.com frees us to give to others more without compromising the studies we have to write. The ability to quickly tailor high quality studies to our needs liberates us to attend to the needs of those we serve.
Have you groaned? Have you growled? Have you given? Before you sit down to write that study, ponder whether you’ve been up to these better things.
Rob Tims is a Christ-follower, husband, and father of four and lives in Nashville, TN. With more than 20 years of ministry experience in the local church, Rob now works at Lifeway Christian Resources on a team that provides trustworthy, customized Bible studies for individual churches. He also is an Associate Professor for Liberty University Online and enjoys preaching and teaching in various venues throughout the year. Be sure to purchase his first book, Southern Fried Faith, available exclusively on Amazon for Kindle or in print.