Encouragement for Theology Students

Posted On May 08, 2024

Written by Professor Levi Berntson, assistant professor of theology

Have you ever wondered whether studying theology is really worth it? When we look around and observe how other people spend their time, it can sometimes make us stop and question whether the formal study of God’s Word is valuable. How do we even know that we can understand God’s Word rightly? After all, Christians often disagree in matters of interpretation, so maybe we should just give up. Would we perhaps be better off employing ourselves in service to building wealth, enjoying hobbies, or pursuing greater amounts of leisure instead? When we have thoughts like these, it is tempting to become tremendously discouraged in our task.

Although we may be discouraged at times, we ought to be profoundly encouraged when we remember the marvelous joy and privilege that we all have as students of theology. What could be more worthy of our time—or our life—than the study of God? To provide some reassurance, here are five points of encouragement from Scripture for theology students:

  1. Scripture teaches that God’s Word is clear and understandable, so our efforts to study it are not in vain. David describes God’s Word as bringing light to the eyes (Ps. 19:8) and a lamp to the way (Ps. 119:105, 130), and Isaiah says that God’s Word is never empty but always accomplishes what He wills (Isa. 55:11). The author of Hebrews picks up on this later point by describing the Word of God as a sword that effectively pierces our hearts (Heb. 4:12). For this reason, God’s Word is clear for doctrine (John 20:30–31; Gal. 1:8–9; Acts 17:11) and it is clear for practice (Deut. 30:11–14; 1 Cor. 10:6–11), so be encouraged that you are not attempting to study a hopelessly confusing text, but one that brings light to your eyes.

  2. Scripture teaches that God the Holy Spirit illuminates our eyes when we approach His Word in faith. The psalmist informs us that it is God who must open our eyes to behold the wondrous things in His instruction (Ps. 119:18), and Paul echoes this thought when he tells the Ephesian church may have the eyes of their hearts opened to God’s truth (Eph. 1:18). Jesus promised that the Paraclete, the Helper, would come to open the eyes of the Apostles and all Christians to the words of Christ (John 14:26) so that God would reveal to us through His Spirit what Scripture says (1 Cor. 2:10–13). So, if you at times feel tired or overwhelmed in the task of theology, remember that God has not left you to yourself. Rather, He pours out His Spirit upon us so that He may illuminate the eyes of our minds to His Word.

  3. Scripture nowhere teaches that studying theology is an easy task. On the contrary, Scripture is full of admonitions that point us in a different direction. The psalmist describes the righteous person’s study of God’s Word as an ongoing, daily enterprise of growth (Ps. 1:2–3). The study of Scripture is not a quick task that can be completed in a specific amount of time, but rather it is a lifelong pursuit of steady growth in grace. This is why Paul tells Timothy to train himself up in godliness (1 Tim. 4:7). This training in godliness requires the diligent use of the mind and the careful application to life, for Scripture tells us to work hard in this endeavor lest we slip into spiritual laziness (Heb. 5:11–14; 1 Cor. 3:2). So, if theology sounds like a hard task, be encouraged that Scripture agrees!

  4. Scripture also teaches that some things are more difficult to understand than others, and therefore we do not have to pressure ourselves with a goal of perfect comprehension. Not only has God hidden certain things from us (Deut. 29:29; cf. Luke 9:44–45), but Peter says that even some things in God’s revealed Word are difficult to understand (2 Pet. 3:16). While Scripture is clear in the essential matters that it addresses, this does not mean that every place of Scripture is equally clear. There are indeed difficult passages that vex our minds. If we think that a student of theology is someone who has mastered the Bible in every respect, then we set ourselves up for disappointment, because this is not possible. Even Paul himself recognizes his own limits of knowledge in what he writes to the Romans, but this does not drive him to discouragement at all. Instead, he responds with praise and glory to God (Rom. 11:33–36). Likewise, we will spend our entire lives as students of theology being mesmerized by the shining truths of Scripture and awed by the bottomless depths of its mysteries. Some of us may earn a Bachelor of Arts in Theology or a Master of Divinity, but we will never be a true master of the Deity.

  5. Scripture teaches us that the task of theology produces far greater dividends than any other task. Pursuing the priorities of the world looks attractive and pleasing at first, but they all pass away like a fading flower of the field (James 1:9–11; 4:13–14; 1 Tim. 6:17). Instead, the wise person pursues a Word from the Lord (James 1:5–6) and the riches of treasure in heaven before God (Matt. 6:19–20; 1 Tim. 6:18–19). While we are called to provide for ourselves and our families, Scripture does call us to remember what God thinks is most important for us all: knowing and loving Him as He has revealed Himself in Scripture.

So, the next time you feel discouraged as a student of theology, open your Bible and see how God encourages us in the calling that He has given us.