Like thousands of kids every year, I was somewhat compelled to take piano lessons when I was young.
At first, my teacher gave me very basic numbers to play—the type of numbers you can use one finger for as you poke the keys. Slowly, I progressed to the point where I could play songs like “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” I could also drive my family crazy by playing “Heart and Soul”—over and over again.
I still enjoy playing the piano to this day and am forever grateful my mom made me stick with it even though I never wanted to practice. On Sunday afternoons, I can sit down at the bench and play some classic hymn, while my wife and daughter sing along.
That ability I have today to play the piano is the result of hundreds, even thousands, of hours of practice through the years, and practicing never really ends. I have never heard someone say, “I learned how to play the piano;” instead, they say, “I am learning how to play” or, “I’m practicing the piano.”
That’s why I love the description of Ezra that continues, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it.”
That phrase do it can be translated “put it into practice.” Ezra studied the law of God and then he put it into practice in his life.
Learning is never enough. As the apostle James writes, “If anyone is a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (James 1:23-24).
This illustration portrays the Word of God as a mirror. When you woke up this morning, you looked in a mirror and assessed yourself. Did you need makeup? A comb? Do you still have your hair?!
How helpful is a mirror if you peer into it, turn away, and refuse to do anything about what you observed? In the same way, how helpful is the Word of God if you read it and then turn away and don’t put any of it into practice?
Studying the Bible includes knowledge; but putting knowledge into practice is true wisdom. Pastor Charles Spurgeon once wrote: “To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.”
Ezra says in his heart, “I want to learn the law, not just for the knowledge it gives me, but to live it out—to put God’s Word into practice.”
And by the way—contrary to the famous saying—practice does not make perfect. As hard as we may try, we will never achieve perfection in the Christian life.
Just like the best concert pianist can still learn a new piece of music, or practice a new technique, the process of sanctification never ends for the believer. And with that in mind, as we study God’s Word, there are six more questions I want to suggest that will turn studying into practicing:
IS THERE AN EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW?
The Bible is filled with biographical examples, both good and bad, and we can do well to emulate many of these biblical figures. A great starting point is the famous passage we call “The Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11. There you can observe people who lived for God and learn from their examples of faithfulness.
IS THERE A BEHAVIOR TO AVOID?
No biblical figure, apart from Jesus, achieved perfection, and we will find many behaviors and examples that warn us against sin. Find behaviors in the Bible that led people away from God, and critically search your own life for any traces of these destructive attitudes or habits.
IS THERE A SIN TO CONFESS?
The first five books of the Bible, called the Pentateuch, and many New Testament Epistles provide detailed lists of sins against God. Every time you come across one of these lists, compare yourself to God’s standard, and be willing to confess whenever you fall short.
IS THERE A COMMAND TO OBEY?
From the Ten Commandments in Exodus to the Great Commission at the end of Matthew, the Bible is filled with instructions from God. The Lord has the authority to dictate how we live, and His commands warrant our obedience.
IS THERE A PRINCIPLE TO BELIEVE?
Some aspects of biblical knowledge may not require a behavior change but need to be firmly believed and embraced in your heart. As you read the Word, look for timeless principles, asking God to give you the faith to believe them, allowing them to transform your heart.
IS THERE A PROMISE TO CLAIM?
Promises from God like, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” are not just words on a page for you to read, they are the words of God meant for your ears
(Hebrews 13:5). Trust Him; trust that when He makes a promise to you in His Word, He will see that promise to completion.
As we let the text of Scripture influence our lives in addition to our minds, we will honor God by pursuing the wisdom that comes from obedience, rather than the foolishness of knowledge alone.