Lessons from Nationals 2016

10:08 PM

During Nationals, I kept a list of some of the things that God was teaching me.  I'm very glad that I did, because it helped me to be more aware of spiritual growth, and I was also more likely to remember what I had learned.  In this post, I'd like to share some of this list.  There's no way that I could tell you everything that God did and all His goodness to me, but these are the main things that God impressed upon my heart during the preparation for Nationals.

Relationships are more important than knowledge.  Bible Bee is a wonderful competition and has helped me to grow so much in the Lord, but the Bible Bee is not my relationship with the Lord.  When I really get down to it and am honest with myself, Bible Bee is my own personal hobby.  It's the thing I love to do in my free time.  And it's a good thing to enjoy.  But frankly, sometimes God calls me to deny myself and serve Him in ways that are not at all connected to Bible Bee.

I remember one Thursday night I had just figured out how I was going to finish up all my school and not get behind in my memorizing before the weekend.  And then I heard that we had something going on the next day, something that I absolutely detest.  This thing would go on my list of "Top 10 Least Favorite Things To Do" if I had one.  I felt bitterness instantly springing into my heart.  It would've been bad enough to miss a whole day of studying even if I had enjoyed what I was doing, but to miss a day for this!  The Lord convicted me, showing me some of my selfishness and wrong motives.  If I was really wanting to serve Him, then I would gladly offer this sacrifice of time and pleasure.  What we do is not so important as who we do it for.

Looking back, I am so thankful that I did not sacrifice relationships for studying.  When you're seeking to grow in your relationship with the Lord, sometimes that means growing in your relationship with the people around you.  They're important.  They need Christ, and a light that is always hiding under a commentary isn't going to shine very brightly.

God knows my heart.  We humans are so silly.  We care so much about what others think, even the people that we barely know or may not particularly admire.  But regardless of others' opinions of us, God knows us.  As 1 John 3:20 says, "...whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything."  It doesn't matter what others think of us, even what they think of us as Christians, because God knows who we are.  He knows that we are His, that we are called by His name.  He sees our heart that desires to serve and glorify Him.

I need to forgive as God forgave me.  One day, I overheard one of my brothers working on a memory passage.  I think that it was Matthew 18:21-35.  The point of the parable is that, because God has forgiven us so much, we need to forgive others; their sins against us are so small in comparison with our sins against God.  When I heard my brother reciting this passage, my big sister brain immediately turned on with the thought, "This would be a great passage to share with my brothers when they are struggling to forgive each other."  This was pretty hypocritical of me, because a few days later, I was having a hard time forgiving one of my siblings.  It was a very little thing -- so little that I don't even remember who it was or what they did.  Instantly the Holy Spirit pricked my conscience with the Sword of the Spirit: "Wasn't there a passage that you were going to share with your brothers when they would't forgive each other?"  "Oh, yes...uh...I forgot about that."  The Lord has reminded me of this passage many times since then.  A theme throughout John 13-15 and 1 John is that we are to love others as Christ loves us.  God has given us so much grace; let's extend this same grace to the people around us!

Work hard for the Lord.  This fall, Colossians 3:23-24 was sort of my motto for my Nationals studying: "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ."  As I applied this to my Nationals preparation, I began to see that I needed to apply it to ALL areas of my life.  Everything that I do should be for the Lord.  Everything that I do for the Lord I should do to the best of my ability.  Thus, everything that I do needs to be done to the best of my ability.  I should give everything my best, because when you're doing something for the King, you want to do it well.  The servant of the King's greatest desire is to hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

I need to make a habit of remembering God's love.  One passage that I memorized for Nationals was Psalm 143:1-11.  Verse 8 begins, "Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust..."  One morning, I woke up and immediately remembered this verse.  It was such a wonderful way to begin the day, so for the rest of the days leading up to Nationals, I tried to meditate on this verse as soon as I woke up.  I loved waking up and thinking about God's love each morning, and the verse stayed with me throughout each day.  Remembering God's love is so important, because God is love.

View everything in light of eternity.  What is really important?  What really matters in the grand scheme of things?  Compare the seventy or eighty years that you may live to eternity.  Life is so short that it is not worth it to live our lives for comfort and pleasure in it.  We must live our lives with the constant remembrance that we are on the brink of eternity.  When someone insults or aggravates us, when things don't go the way we wanted, or when we lose everything we have, we need to ask ourselves, "Will this matter?"  No, what will really matter in Heaven is the Lamb on the throne.  His servants will be there worshiping Him.  Then "the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace." ("Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus")

Don't get so caught up in the details that you lose the big picture.  I love to study the Bible.  I enjoy learning the little things; the big, theological words; and the facts that few people know.  But recently, I've come to see that in doing this, I sometimes neglect the true meaning and significance of what I am learning.  Sometimes I get so caught up in studying "Theology" that I forget God.

Studying and memorizing 1 John this fall was so good, because it helped me to get back to the basics of Christianity.  This is summarized in 1 John 3:23: "And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us."  These are the two most important aspects of the Christian life: belief and love.  Yes, studying the details and knowing the Bible well is great; however, in all this we must not forget the Gospel.

Christ didn't open His mouth when He was afflicted.  This is something that I've been thinking about a lot in the past year.  Certainly, there are times to speak up and stand for truth.  There are even times to defend ourselves.  But sometimes it's better to just remain silent.  In our everyday little squabbles, they tend to end much better if we give in to the other person and don't continue the argument.  This is often seen as a weakness by our culture today.  People say that you don't have any backbone if you don't defend yourself when you're insulted or taken advantage of.  But this is what Jesus did.  "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth." (Isaiah 53:7)  Sometimes God calls me to take up my cross by simply remaining silent, like Jesus did.

God loves me.  I struggled with something a lot in the Fall.  It would be hard to explain it completely on here, but it was really hard.  Yet through this, God opened my eyes to see the depth of His love for me.  I saw in 1 John 3:1 that God loved me so much that He had made me His child.  It didn't matter what I could or could not do, because God loved me so much.  His love is not dependent on my merits.  Because of His love, I also had no reason to worry about the future.  I knew that God would do exactly what was best for me.

It's so simple, and yet so unfathomable.  As I pondered God's love day after day, I felt more and more assured in it, and so much more in awe of it.  During this time, I felt like 1 John 4:16 described me: "So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us..."  God first began to open my eyes to His love eleven years ago, but this past year I grew in the knowledge and reliance of it.  My trust isn't always perfect, but His love always is.

What are some of the things that God has taught you in the past year, especially through Nationals?

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  1. Anna, this is SO very beautiful! Your first point "relationships are MUCH more important than knowledge [+/or Bible Bee:)] I definitely saw that in my own life; getting wrapped up so much in the study as to neglect relationships. So very thankful for my mama + daddy pointing that out to me. God wants our relationships to be strong! And if they are not, if we are not wholly focused on GOD, then even the hundreds of verses that we have memorized are not doing us much good, because we are not listening to them! It sounds impossible to be selfish about the Bible, but really, if we are focusing more on "I must study, MY study time, etc" we are focusing on ourselves, not the Lord. One thing God taught me was to LISTEN to that still small voice! I could go thru a whole day of doing memory + study + not glean a thing! I find that I need to be intune with His Spirit, + listening to the Words that I am reading + studying. Press on dear sister! To know our Saviour is the greatest gift on earth! Love you!!!

  2. Relationships was a big thing for me this fall too! I was helping my siblings study and there were times (much more frequent than I would have liked) that I was so frustrated at people not wanting to study. My mom kept reminding me that next year and the year after and years after that my siblings won't remember what I taught them about 1 John or all the worksheets I gave them to do, but they will remember that I took time with them and whether I really seemed to care not just for studying and BB but for them. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Amen! I also have a tendency to want to focus on the theology aspect of studying but forget to actually apply what I'm learning.

  4. Thank you for sharing, Anna! All of your lessons were so good. One thing that God has been showing me this year is the importance of not letting head knowledge (that is, knowing lots of Bible verses and facts) come before my relationship with Jesus. It's so easy for me to become self-righteous because I've memorized so many verses, but just memorizing facts and keeping rules doesn't make God love me more. He cares more about the relationship.

  5. Anna, you are so wise (and you know I never say that unless I mean it). Watching you study, apply your study, and take breaks when you would rather be studying was such a joy this fall.
    Love you, sister!

    1. I saw your comment and thought, "Who is saying that I am wise?" :) Thank you for all your encouragement! You are such a good sister and friend, and I know that I can always talk to you about everything.

  6. Anna, thank you so much for sharing some of the lessons that you learned from Bible Bee. I also learned a lot this year from studying. The biggest one for me was relationships as well. I can know so much about the Bible and have large portions of it memorized, but I have to focus on relationships with others. They are so important. Thanks so much for your openness!

  7. This makes me wish I had kept a list of lessons when I was competing. At least I get to benefit from yours! Thank you for your sweet, Christ-exalting attitude.


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