As believers, each one of us ought to be compiling papers. We ought to have a growing stack of articles and papers on things that the Lord has made alive to us. There ought to always be something “on the stove.” It is like an artist working on several canvases at once. He is working on a portrait, but he is also working on a landscape and a still life at the same time. And he can move from the one to the other, as he is moved, and we ought to be doing things like that. We ought to be acquiring and accumulating pieces of information, cutting things out from the newspaper or magazine, and collecting them for a later time when we are going to use them. Then we begin to synthesize and collect and bring together the different strands and weavings from this one and from that. It becomes a personal statement of an aspect of God and His way that has come together in a new synthesis. “Syn” means to bring together. So I encourage you to that. We are lazy, and it is easier for us just to use phrases that are familiar to us than to find a way to express ourselves that is fresh and creative.
The apostle Paul was a full-orbed man. He was at home with orthodox Jews, philosophical Greeks, and unbelieving pagans. Paul was a man for all nations and for all seasons. We are not going to come to that kind of apostolic and prophetic stature by being lazy. Time is a cherished thing. How are we employing it? What would you rather do, put your feet up on the coffee table after a day at work and watch some entertainment, or turn on your computer and begin to work on a theme that has occupied your interest? We are going to be held accountable for all that we have done in our bodies, both good and bad. The issue is not whether anyone else will ever see your paper or article. Something comes into your whole stature, as a person, when you wrestle with the issue of God. There will be a greater quality of credibility and penetration because you have been a student and given your time to this discipline. It is a deepening that affects the quality of what you say, even if what you say is not that particular subject.
From the practical point of view and as a first rule, avoid consulting any other source but the Word itself. For example, you don’t turn immediately to a commentary when you are grappling with some question about the faith. Turning to a commentary ought to be the last thing you do. Rather, wrestle with a theme or a text. Ponder it word by word. Look to the Lord and ask for whatever understanding He is pleased to confer. If you feel there is yet something lacking, then turn to commentaries. Commentaries and other writings are God-given, and they are a gift to the church, but they must not be a substitute for our laziness or lack of seeking.