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How (and Why) Should We "Study to Show Ourselves Approved"?

How (and Why) Should We "Study to Show Ourselves Approved"?

Years ago, I heard a pastor say that our spending choices reveal what truly matters in our hearts. I believe this could also be said about final words before death, as Paul demonstrates in 2 Timothy, his final letter, written to the young pastor Timothy and, ultimately, to every believer. 

Where Does the Bible Say We Should “Study to Show Ourselves Approved”?

In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul says, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” How do we handle the word of truth? Ephesians 6:17 calls the word of truth the sword of the Spirit. 

While other weapons in biblical times were also used for hunting and cooking, the sword was designed for one purpose only: to kill. It was not a weapon to take lightly, and this is especially true when referring to the word of God. 

In Greek, the words correctly handling the word of truth are translated to cut straight. To cut anything straight requires skills beyond an amateur. In Paul’s final letter, his fierce defense of the inerrant word of God is never more straightforward as he gives a charge to those who share Scripture with others. The obvious recipients are preachers and teachers, but Paul’s command doesn’t stop there. 

We may not preach or teach to a crowd every week but consider how often our children need guidance, or a co-worker without Christ asks for advice, or a friend reaches out in dire need of hope. Will we share our opinions, or will we share truth? The Bible says we should study to show ourselves approved so that we will be ready to wield the word of truth at a moment’s notice.

We must know the Word and share it as God intends—straight, without wavering, or with a sugary coating that makes it easier to swallow. His Word is living and active. Our words, although sometimes helpful, do not cut straight to the heart. 

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What Does It Mean to “Study to Show Ourselves Approved”?

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Paul felt the weight of his chains as he penned this charge in a dark, dank prison cell. He’s aware that his days are numbered, heightening the sense of urgency in every word. He knew what Timothy (and ultimately, every believer) would require for doctrinal truths to remain strong and intact. We must know and practice the word of truth, refusing to remain amateurs in a world of false teachers who hone their skills for destruction. 

Paul says we’re to do our best to present ourselves to God as approved. The Greek word for to present (or show) is parastesai, which gives the idea of service. To handle the word accurately, to present or show ourselves approved, is, in a sense, an act of service to God and others. 

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Why Is It Important We Show Ourselves Approved?

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We must show ourselves approved because it is a response to who we are in Christ Jesus. “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8).

Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us we’ve been saved by grace through faith, that it’s not from ourselves. It is a gift of God, not by works. It is also the very reason why we have the ability, in Christ, to show ourselves approved. We’re no longer shackled to sin but rather free to make every effort to be godly, holy, and loving, producing good works.

As a teenager, I remember my dad saying on more than one occasion, “I love you, but I don’t approve of your behavior.” Scripture is clear about the security of salvation (John 10:28-29). If we have a relationship with Jesus Christ, God accepts us. He loves us so much that He gave His only Son so that we might have a relationship with Him. God loves and accepts us as His children, but that doesn’t mean He always approves of our behavior.

Many people strive for their earthly father’s approval their whole lives but don’t consider what it means to gain their Heavenly Father’s approval. Here’s the good news. Gaining our Heavenly Father’s approval is not out of reach. Pleasing God is attainable for every Christ follower.

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What Happens if We Don’t Study to Become Good Workers?

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Good workers recognize their desire to serve others and share the gospel isn’t based on earning anything from God but rather on pleasing Him out of a heart of gratitude. They want others to see their love for God, His Word, and His ways reflected in their choices and actions.  

We’ll never be perfect on this side of heaven, but when Christians refuse to grow in righteousness, there will likely be consequences:  

- We will begin to conform to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2), becoming more susceptible to sin. 

- We become a target for temptation, which is not a sin, but if allowed to make itself at home in our hearts and mind, it can wreak havoc in our lives and our witness for Christ. 

- We may (even unknowingly) lead others astray by our recklessness. Yes, sin is sin, but some carry heavier consequences, and this is one of them. (Luke 12:47-48, Matthew 18:6

The entire first chapter of James is a handbook for those who aren’t sure where to start when it comes to being a good workman. In the middle of this chapter, James, the half-brother of Jesus, pauses to warn believers how quickly we can spiral into sin if we’re not in God’s word and growing in faith and righteousness:

“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.” (James 1:13-16)

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How Can We Study to Show Ourselves Approved?

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We can study to show ourselves approved by believing that spiritual disciplines are key to our spiritual growth instead of a checklist. Some could include: 

1. Read the Bible with purpose. Keep a journal handy and jot down what you learn about your Heavenly Father – His desires, ways, and character. 

2. Study God’s Word for yourself. “…if you truly call out to insight and lift your voice to understanding, if you seek it like silver and search it out like hidden treasure, then you will discern the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God….” (Proverbs 2:4)

3. Pray throughout the day. Time set aside to concentrate on prayer is excellent, but we can also pray with our eyes open throughout the day. Doing so helps us stay alert to ways we can pray for people and situations and celebrate as we see God at work through those prayers. 

4. Take steps to move toward biblical community. Extroverts, introverts, and every believer in between, is called to do life with other believers. 

5. Seek out an accountability partner. 

6. Be a “Paul.” Pour time and energy into sharing the word of truth with the next generation.  

7. Be a “Timothy.” Remain open to learning and growing in the faith regardless of age.

A Prayer to Show Ourselves Approved

Heavenly Father, I long to hear the words, Well done, good and faithful servant! Show me how to handle Your word of truth so that my thoughts, choices, and actions reflect it. Amen.

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Cathy Baker Salem Web Network ContributorCathy Baker is the author of Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Beach and Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Mountains. She writes from a tiny studio lovingly known as The Tiny House on the Hill in the Foothills of SC. As an author, Hope Writer, and Bible teacher for over twenty-five years, she encourages women to pause and embrace the seemingly small, mundane moments of their day for God’s glory. She invites you to join her in the tiny house where you’re always welcome to come in and take a seat.