Breadth or Depth?
The topic of breadth or depth has been a long-standing issue for educators. With increased testing, teachers are often faced with a dilemma. Do they push through concepts to ensure exposure to a wide range of ideas (i.e., breadth), or do they linger and address fewer topics extensively (i.e., depth)? This is tough choice. However, I suspect every educator would agree that not much is retained by simply skimming the surface. If our students are going to use and apply what they learn, there must be time devoted to purposefully engaging with the content in a meaningful way.
If we know this to be true in the study of academia, why don’t we naturally apply this same belief to our study of God’s Word? According to the State of the Bible 2019 (Barna), only 5% of US adults are Bible centered. Barna defines Bible centered as those who interact with the Bible frequently. It is transforming their relationships and shaping their choices. (1)
We are bombarded by messages and information from the moment we get up until the time we go to bed. Commercials, billboards, news feeds, pop-up windows, television, talk radio, and social media work nonstop to tell us…
· How to think.
· What to do.
· Where to go.
· What to be.
It is easy to get distracted and lose focus on…
· What is true.
· What is beneficial.
· What is eternal.
Who and what will we listen to? With all of these voices, it is essential to immerse ourselves in God’s Word. Occasional Bible engagement (once a week) will never be enough. In order to live an abundant, victorious Christian life, we must study God’s Word, meditate on God’s Word, and allow God’s Word to impact our lives.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
God desires to be in relationship with you and me. We know from personal experience that relationships must be cultivated. I have a dear friend who probably knows me better than I know myself. We have spent many long hours talking through problems, crying over losses, taking long walks, and encouraging each other. The many years together have given us both an appreciation for each other and taught us a great deal about ourselves. While God isn’t here with us physically, like my friend, He is with us through His Word. The more we know His Word, the more we know the Lord who gave it. Knowing who God is also helps us understand who we are. Peter reminded us of this truth.
But you are not like that (disobedient), for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9
When we embrace the God of the Scriptures, our views on life change. Going deep into the Word of God reveals truth. Knowing God’s eternal truths enables us to reject the lies of the enemy who seeks to draw us away from God’s Word. Spending regular quality time with God in His Word changes the way we think and respond to life because we gain His perspective. God’s Word provides direction for every decision we will ever make. All we need in order to be what God wants us to be is already in Scripture. However, we have to read it, study it, and meditate on it, or we are flying blind.
I think we all know how important Bible study is. Why, then, do so many Christians fail to study God’s Word faithfully and regularly? When asked, many say they are too busy. Let’s be honest; we are never too busy for what is important to us. If we consider Bible study valuable and want to know God’s perspective, we will make it a priority. This is simply a cold hard fact we all must face.
I also hear people say they don’t read the Bible much because they find it hard to understand. This is why study is so important. We have to go deep. We have websites today (www.blueletterbible.org, www.biblegateway.com ) that provide in-depth commentaries. Great Bible apps can be downloaded that offer a variety of translations. In addition, there are many Bible studies that can be easily accessed. We really have no excuse when it comes to Bible study resources. However, all the resources in the world are no substitute for the work of the Holy Spirit. Understanding God’s Word requires the Holy Spirit’s involvement. Our prayer should always be for God to reveal truth to us through His Holy Spirit. This is how He speaks to us through His Word.
But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. 1 Corinthians 2:10-14
A word of caution is in order. Reading the Bible isn’t about cherry picking verses to justify our actions or to criticize the actions of others. Reading and studying the Bible is about coming into the presence of a Holy, Mighty God. It is about hearing His voice over all of the other voices in our lives. God’s Word helps us to see ourselves in light of who He is. It brings us to our knees when we fail, and it lifts our heads when we are forgiven. God’s Word is everything to us.
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Hebrews 4:12-13a
But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4
As I referenced at the beginning, those who are Bible centered interact with the Bible frequently; it transforms their relationships and shapes their choices. As Christians we have to remember it isn’t just about us. We are His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). We represent Christ to a lost world. Could we be sending mixed messages to the lost? Could we be causing confusion among unbelievers? I think the obvious answer is “yes.” When we don’t know God’s Word but profess to be a believer, we run the risk of promoting ideas that are popular with the world but counter to the truth of God’s Word. The ramifications for our testimony can be devastating.
It is time for us as Bible-believing Christians to get back to the spiritual discipline of Bible study. Meditating on God’s Word requires focused, deliberate attention over a prolonged period of time on Biblical teaching. When we do, our relationship with the Lord is transformed, and our perspective on life comes into alignment with His. God’s Word truly is our lifeline.
Bible reading gives breadth. This is where we start. If you are not reading your Bible daily, begin today!
Bible study gives depth. Studying His Word will equip us to serve others.
Meditating on God’s Word gives us God’s perspective.
Breadth or depth? The answer is both!