If you have ever had to learn a skill, you will probably remember the frustration that accompanies it — the feelings of inadequacy, the monotony of repeating a process until you have learned it, the strong desire to quit or to find an easier way. Learning to study the Bible well introduces all of these same feelings, which is why we must study with patience.
Our culture believes that patience is a hassle and looks for ways to keep us from ever having to exercise it. Television shows resolve conflict in thirty minutes or less. Restaurants serve us food almost as quickly as we can order it. The Internet delivers any and every purchase we could conceive of in under forty-eight hours. Music, ebooks, and movies are available instantly.
The concept of delaying gratification can be difficult to learn and practice in a patience-optional culture that celebrates immediate satiation of every desire.
The Cumulative Effect
So it isn’t surprising that the desire for instant gratification can even creep into our study of the Bible. We approach our “time in the Word” like the drive-through at McDonald’s: “I’ve only got a few minutes. Give me something quick and easy to fill me up.”
But sound Bible study is rooted in a celebration of delayed gratification. Gaining Bible literacy requires allowing our study to have a cumulative effect — across weeks, months, years — so that the interrelation of one part of Scripture to another reveals itself slowly and gracefully, like a dust cloth slipping inch by inch from the face of a masterpiece.