The following is an excerpt from Great Leader Great Teacher, by professor and author, Dr. Gary Bredfeldt. Gary is professor of leadership and church ministry at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“Ezra had determined that he would be a doer of the word, not merely a hearer. Unlike many of the Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ time, Ezra was concerned with actually living out what he had studied in the Scriptures. Ezra understood that a study of the Word of God has a tendency to reveal the needs in our lives and the darkness in our hearts. There are times that the light of the Word shines in the corners of our lives and calls us to change. Ezra was willing to make the changes that the Word of God required.
As a young pastor of a church located in the mountains of Colorado, I found that part of my responsibilities as pastor included caring for the parsonage provided by the church. The home was a small mountain house that needed quite a bit of regular maintenance. The most recurring problem was the unreliable water system. The home was built over an old mine. Water was pumped from the mine to a holding tank located under a hatch door in the living room closet. On more than one occasion, it was my task to climb down into the cellar, a cramped dirt-floored crawl space, in order to repair the pump. Each time the breakdown occurred, I ventured into the dark crawl space with flashlight and tools in hand. But I never relished the task. Beyond the fact that the faulty pump was an annoyance, I have this major phobia when it comes to spiders, and that cellar was just the place to find those little critters.
One day when the pump broke down for what was probably the sixth time since moving in, I finally had a brilliant idea. I decided that it would be wise to install an electric light in the cellar to make my repair task a bit easier, reasoning that if I had to do this repair every few weeks, I might as well have some light to do the work by. So, taking my flashlight in hand, I shone the light around the cellar in search of an appropriate place to hang the light fixture. As I moved the beam, something caught my eye. It was a clump of spiderwebs. Something was hanging from the ceiling, almost totally encased in webs. Slowly I pushed away the webs discovering that they hid – a lightbulb! Apparently my predecessor had the same idea. I pulled the string and the entire cellar was illuminated. I was unnerved to discover that spiders were all around me. Hundreds of them. Well, I did what any wise person in such situation would do: I extinguished the light, finished the pump repair, and quickly got out of that cellar.
As the light illuminated that cellar of our mountain home, exposing the webs and the spiders, so too does the light of Scripture, when studied faithfully, illumine the cellar of our lives. And too often, we simply choose to extinguish the light rather than clear the cellar. One of the functions of the Bible is that it exposes sin in our lives. In its exposing comes a clear need to change. Ezra had set his heart to practice the Word of God. That meant letting it shape his life. He was unwilling to be like the man James describes in James 1:22-25 (NASB):
But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
Over the years, as I have seen students go into service for Christ, several have succeeded and some have failed. More often than not, failure was not due to a lack of skill, but from a lack of application of the Word of God to the student’s own life. Sometimes that lack of application came as moral failure. Other times, it was simply a lack of credibility needed to minister the Word effectively. Credibility comes from living out what we study. You will never be perfect, but you must honestly and fervently strive to live that Word you study. The hand of God was upon Ezra because he set his heart to study the Word of God and to practice the Word of God.” (42-44)