Five years ago, my husband, Dwight, and I signed up for Disciple Bible Study I (the first in a series of long-term bible studies) through our church. The course was scheduled for 32 weeks and ran from September to May. We started out meeting on Monday evenings from 7 pm to 9 pm, based on the schedule that the instructor chose and on the day that suited us best; and for the first few months, we had a full class of 8-10 students. Our teacher, Stanley, was a brilliant lawyer and member of the church who had taught previously and seemingly enjoyed doing so. He paired us into groups of two to share the responsibility for bringing food/refreshments to class each week. So, every time we met, one pair of students would bring in something of their choosing to share with the class. It was a great time of learning, plus food and fellowship.
However, the attendance and numbers started dropping for one reason or another; and soon we did not have enough people to keep the class going. As a result, we joined a Wednesday night class that already had a large number of students, and Stanley was relieved of his Monday night commitment. The whole experience was bittersweet because while we were sad to have our class canceled and leave Stanley, we were happy that we were allowed to continue with our studies. Even better, our new teacher and classmates were very welcoming and they had a lot of energy and enthusiasm for the study of the Bible, which made our transition that much easier.
Our new teacher, Evangelist T.J., really knew her stuff. She believed in studying the Bible to show ourselves approved, not just as preparation for class sessions, but for life itself. She also strongly believed in the power of prayer and would begin and end each class session with prayer. Opening prayer was primarily to bless the class and the session and in closing prayer we shared praise reports and prayer requests and prayed for travelling graces. In every prayer, we thanked and praised God for His goodness and mercy and for every blessing.
Being in disciple Bible Study, therefore, required serious study and serious prayer because, many times, we were tired or overwhelmed in our daily lives. We had families, jobs, and responsibilities that demanded our time and attention, but we were committed to finishing what we started. Why commit to 32 weeks of Bible study, when there were so many other things that we could have been doing with our lives? Because we wanted to grow in grace and knowledge of God and His Word. We wanted more than “mere Christianity”. We wanted to grow in our faith and in our relationship with God who loved us enough to save us. And in the process, we learned how much we need God in our lives.
Bible study also helped us to stay connected with each other in a way that just attending church on Sundays could not. We got to know one another better; we shared prayers and tears, trials and triumphs with one another. Many times we took turns sharing the teaching responsibilities, particularly when Evangelist T.J. had to be away for one reason or another. We shared meals together and took holy communion together. We became like family, and when one person was missing from class, we truly missed him or her. It was a wonderful fellowship.
After four years of Disciple Bible Study (DBS) with Evangelist T.J., five of us remained in our group from 15 in the first year (including Frances who joined us in the third and fourth year). We endured to the end and completed the series, having covered every book in the Bible in depth. We wrapped up Disciple Four in May of 2019 and had our last yearly graduation in June of 2019. Consequently, we are graduates who know a whole lot more than we did before we began. Yet, we have not arrived to the point where we do not need to study the Bible any more.
We continue to read and study the Word of God because it “…is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). God can reveal something new that we had not seen before or shine light on areas in our lives that need to be dealt with. God is patient and kind, full of compassion and tender mercies. He knows best when to address the issues in our lives with us. And we can always trust His timing, as He knows when we are strong enough to face them.
Continuing to read and study the Bible also helps us to develop spiritual discipline and, coupled with prayer, we can live victorious Christian lives with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will empower us and remind us of the Word, just when we need it most. He is that friend that sticks closer than a brother and will guide us into all truth.
Sadly, many Christians do not have any power and are defeated by the enemy, the devil, for no other reason than their lack of discipline. They lack the discipline to read and study the Bible, so they do not know how to answer when challenges, temptations and questions arise. And they lack the discipline to pray, so many battles are lost that could have been won. Yet, developing those disciplines, among others, will strengthen our faith and equip us to not only overcome the trials and temptations that come our way, but to live as more than conquerors through Jesus Christ.
Even though it was a sacrifice, I am so glad that I signed up and completed those four years of Disciple Bible Study. The journey was well worth it. The knowledge and confidence that I have gained through bible study and prayer have empowered and strengthened me in my walk with God. It has also forged friendships that may not have happened otherwise, and has equipped me to make disciples for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ? If so, how disciplined has your journey been so far? If not, please commit/recommit your life to Jesus today and begin to study the Bible and pray. Join a small group bible study and/prayer group, if you can, to help keep you accountable and to gain encouragement on your journey. Surrender your all to Jesus and watch God change things. Your life will never be the same again because whatever you need, God’s got it.