Would Jesus say your Bible study is fruitful?

Would Jesus say your Bible study is fruitful?

Consider the well-known parable of the sower, and how Jesus explained it for the benefit of his disciples:

“Listen then to what the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-9) means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:18-23).

The passage says Jesus pays close attention to what you do with His message. Today, during our Bible studies, the Bible speaks to us just as Jesus spoke to His audience twenty-one centuries ago. He explained to His disciples that NOT ALL those who heard Him understood Him. Today, what Jesus explained to His disciples in the passage above is still true; all may not “hear” or understand when they study the Bible.

Bible study resources have grown exponentially

In the last several decades, Bible studies by individuals and small groups appear to have flourished in the US. One cause for the spread of Bible studies by believers as well as seekers is the unexpected birth and growth of Internet technology, and the unlimited access on the web to Bible study resources, tools, sermons, courses, videos, podcasts, you name it. Thank God for the growing practice of the study of the Bible using all the above resources, worldwide, and especially in the US.

The effectiveness of what we study

How does one benefit from individual or group Bible study? It is a function of the effectiveness of how much we understand, and how we use or absorb what we read in the Bible. The effectiveness of a Bible study is a measure of how we live and practice what we learn during the study; it can occur in different ways:

  1. We can change what we believe
  2. We can change what we value
  3. We can change how we think
  4. We do or obey what the Bible calls us to do
  5. We can give up what is ungodly and unholy
  6. We can convey convincingly to others what we understood from the Bible.

Jesus expects understanding and fruitfulness

While explaining the above parable, Jesus provided the best analogy for assessing the effectiveness of Bible studies, although, the context in which Jesus stated the parable is not identical to modern era Bible study. Yet, His parable can serve as a timeless gauge to assess the effectiveness of what we hear or read during modern Bible studies.

If we used the parable as the yardstick, Jesus would consider fruitfulness as the measure of the effectiveness of what you read and understand in the Bible. Jesus defined four kinds of people based on how they understood and responded to his message:

  1. A person who lets the message roll away: The message of the Bible study is totally lost on this person because he/she fails to understand the Bible.
  2. A person with a short-lived acceptance of the lesson: This person has a quick positive response to the Bible. However, after the quick positive response to Bible lessons, this person easily gives up the lessons learned from the Bible, when faced with opposition, temptations, doubts, or discomfort.
  3. A person who accepts the Bible lesson but lives a fruitless life: This person accepts the lessons learned from the Bible and begins to live by them. But the worries of life (we are sure to have them) and the deception that come with wealth, education, ambitions, etc. deny fruitfulness to the person.
  4. A person who understands the Bible and lives a fruitful life: This person understands what he/she reads in the Bible and is fruitful by living by the words of the Bible and spreading the message of the Bible to many others.

As Bible studies are blossoming all over the world, the above parable of the sower should convince us that Jesus expects fruitful Bible studies from us.

Are your Bible studies as fruitful as Jesus expects? If they are, thank God. If not, pay close attention to His parable above.

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Paul Swamidass

Paul Swamidass, PhD, is Professor Emeritus, Harbert College of Business, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA. After a total of 33 years of teaching and publishing as a business management professor, he retired from Auburn University in 2016 after teaching there for 24 years. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Greater Things: The Qualifications of a Biblical Leader, Vide Press, 2020.

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