Some people like me who grew up going to church tend to think of Sunday school as something we did as kids. I have vivid memories of walking to church with my four brothers and sisters every Sunday. We’d stop and pick up the newspaper at the Arcade on our way home and buy some penny candy. Then I grew up. I was busy being a professional, a wife, and a mother. I never gave Sunday school much thought again until I had kids of my own. To be honest, I started attending Sunday school as an adult because my kids needed to go to Sunday school and I had to go somewhere for that hour. Now, twenty-some years later, I realize it’s probably the single most important step I’ve taken in my Christian walk. Simply attending church on Sunday morning where I listen to my pastor’s (however incredible they are) fifteen-minute messages isn’t enough. I actually have to read and study the Bible. The best way to get started doing that was Sunday school.
Examples of how adult Sunday school and Bible study outside Sunday morning services have changed my life abound. Here’s one: last spring my Sunday school studied the Fruit of the Spirit. Some veteran churchgoers might secretly have scoffed at the choice and murmured, “That’s Christianity 101. Everyone knows about the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control.”
Sadly, no one gets points for being able to list them. By studying what each one means, we learn how to apply them in our lives. The scary thing about the fruit of the spirit is that I’m supposed to possess all these traits if I’m filled with the Holy Spirit. When I accept Christ as my Savior, I should be filled up with the Holy Spirit. So what happened? I’m still impatient, I’m still cranky, I’m still flying off the handle. I’m anything but meek.
The Bible is all about practical application. The Sunday school lessons I learned are now applied every time I go to the cancer clinic. I pray as I drive to the clinic, Lord, let me be patient, let me be kind, let me control my irritation with the wait, let me show love to the tired, stressed nurses in the infusion room.
It works, people. Recently, I sat in the waiting room, as usual, waiting for an injection that takes about five minutes to administer by the time vitals are done. I waited thirty minutes, getting more and more antsy. I know an LPN will do the shot. I see her call the woman rocking a bald head sitting across from me. A few minutes later I see the LPN taking the woman in a wheelchair out the exit.
Where’s she going? Why? When is she coming back? Still I wait. I remind myself I’m not actually in a hurry. I have a good book to read. I can people watch. I can scroll through social media. Finally, the LPN calls my name. We chat. She tells me her Friday has been crazy. I sympathize. It’s been a long week. This is my third trip to the clinic in five days. We discuss the fact that this shot really hurts if the medicine hasn’t been allowed to warm up after being refrigerated. She says the woman she treated before me because nauseated because of the painful injection. The nurse decided it would be best to take her to her car so she didn’t have to walk so far.
That’s what I saw her doing. The LPN felt terrible. She felt as if she’d hurt this person and she didn’t want to hurt me too. The kicker is my injection sat out longer while she took the patient to her car. That allowed it to warm up. It didn’t hurt as much as it normally does.
Unless we engage with people, we never know what they’re going through. If we don’t know and practice the fruit of the spirit, we’ll never be Christ-like. The Bible is as relevant today as it was when it was written. Study it and then apply it.
Those scoffers are at it again. Fruit of the Spirit is New Testament. The Old Testament is different. How can we possibly apply it to this modern world? I spent nine months with a group of women in Community Bible Study examining Genesis in minute detail. It’s full of murderers, adulterers, and sinners of every make and model. Sound familiar? Those people made every mistake imaginable. By studying their history, we can learn from those mistakes.
This morning in church we sang a song called “Clean Hands,” in which we ask to be a people who seek “your face, O God of Jacob.”
Because of Bible study, I know who Jacob is, the grandson of Abraham, the father of twelve sons whose descendants became the twelve tribes of Israel. The father of Joseph. Jacob was a flawed man who made many mistakes, but God kept his covenant with him.
Why is it important for me to know all that? Because it teaches me that I can rely on God. He will keep his promise. He will answer prayer. Worshiping with these words was deeper and richer because of Bible study.
Speaking of prayer, this summer we’re studying examples of prayers in the Bible to help us in our own prayer lives. Today it was the prayer of a little-known minor prophet named Habakkuk in a book of the Bible by the same name that is only a few pages long. I found it utterly fascinating how relevant this Old Testament prophet’s words were to the people sitting in the room. Habakkuk cried out “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” (Habakkuk 1:2)
So many of us feel that way. We pray but we can’t hear God’s voice answering. We want God to do our biding. We’re like Habakkuk, questioning how evil can go unpunished. God responds. He always does. We might not like the answer, but we can rely on God to do what’s best for us.
To think I would’ve missed all this rich, thought-provoking discussion, this deep dive into the Bible, if I’d never gone to Sunday school.
Sometimes it’s hard to make it church at all, I know, but once there, consider staying for Sunday school. It’s not just for kids.
Interested in Bible Study? Check out Community Bible Study. It’s an international Bible study available all over the world!