A man climbs a mountain. Every once and a while he turns and looks out over what God has made, and he is privileged to see the greatest sights imaginable. He watches the valley grow smaller and smaller as he pushes his body to ever greater heights. He sees animals of different altitudes, and watches as the trees grow thin and the air grows crisp around him. He takes note of the way his hands and feet begin to burn as he strives to reach the top of the mountain. He clings to the great rocks and presses himself into them as he climbs further. He is learning this mountain. Every clip of the carabineer, every crack he can grasp onto, every slide and toe grip of his foot brings him closer to his goal and intimately closer to the rock he is climbing. Finally, exhausted, he reaches the top and turns around to see the view he has been laboring so hard to see. He cries tears of joy at the majesty before him.
Another man at the top of the same mountain marvels at the same view and then climbs back into the helicopter that carried him to the top. His hands are not tired. His feet do not ache. His view is the same, yet, his understanding of the mountain and his connection with that mountain are so much less. The ride was not cumbersome for this man of ease. Little was required of him; little was achieved by him.
The man who climbed knows the mountain. The man in the helicopter has only seen the view from the top.
My older brother began to teach me to know God when I was still very young (about 12). Much like climbing a mountain, knowing God is hard work. Memorizing Scripture, laboring over passages, studying hard, thinking deeply. As I have grown, I have found greater joy in the climb. You see, we live in a culture where we can constantly take “helicopter rides” to the tops of mountains of God’s character. We have enough material at our disposal that we can easily listen to a sermon, read a book, or hear a song that would give us a glimpse of the mountain. This is truly a great privilege, but it also has a tremendous danger laced within it. If we become so comfortable with the helicopter rides, we will never make the climb ourselves. We will be dependent on teachers and curricular for our sustenance. We will never know The Mountain.
Before you think I am being overly dramatic, think about it: Do the Christians around you speak of the deep things of God without a prompt from some teacher? Do we quote the Scriptures or famous people more often? When was the last time you sat and examined your Bible until the Lord clearly spoke? I tell you, we are a people of “helicopter theology.” We hear and we repeat some wonderful truths…but how well do we know those truths?
So, I want to invite you to study. Perhaps the single greatest method I have ever used to “climb the mountain” is the inductive study method. But, be warned: this takes work. Studying the Bible in this manner is not for the faint of heart! You will have to train your mind to think about Scripture and carefully observe details before you interpret and apply them. You will have to learn where to place the picks on the rocks and when to clip the carabineers. You will need to learn to deny the helicopter ride to the top…until you have climbed that mountain for yourself.
I’ve been using the inductive method for about 10 years now in my personal study and I do the work (and fun!) of climbing regularly with a small group. We climb together and it is laborious but incredibly rewarding. I pray you too would be willing to do the work to know the Lord intimately! If you want to take the helicopter, that’s fine… You’ll see some spectacular views and you’ll be privileged to stand in awe at those views. But if you will dedicate yourself to the climb, you’ll know The Mountain.
You can find more about the inductive study method here. You can also find numerous other resources to help you learn inductive study methods from lifeway.com and christianbook.com
1 Timothy 4:6-10 – “In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.”