Great Preparation for Ministry: A Strong Curiosity

I came by it honestly. My dad, a coal miner with a 7th grade education, was interested in everything. He read and learned and talked to us of all kinds of subjects.

In college, I changed my major from science (physics) to history because the professors in the science building were focusing more and more on tinier and tinier segments of the universe. But history deals with it all, every person who ever lived, every civilization, every lesson learned. Nothing is off limits to history.

That did it for me.

As I write–on a Saturday morning–I’m reflecting on the week just ended. Last Monday afternoon, I was among a busload of preachers and spouses from across Europe who spent several hours touring the ruins of Pompeii, the Italian city devastated by the eruption of Vesuvius in August of A.D. 79. It was truly unforgettable. So much so, that….

After my arrival home in New Orleans Tuesday night, the next afternoon I was in our public library reading up on Pompeii. I checked out a Robert Harris novel titled “Pompeii,” and finished it last night.

I feel like I’ve been living in Pompeii this week.

In my next trip to the library, I plan to see what is available on the Roman aqueducts, which was a major theme of the novel.

Why? Of what possible use is this in my ministry?

Answer: I have no idea. Maybe no use at all, maybe a lot.

A great curiosity is a wonderful thing for any Christian to have, but particularly for preachers. Why?

Curiosity makes you a better Bible student.

Ask any mother of a three-old-child. All day long the toddler follows her around the house asking, “Why?”

The curious student of God’s Word will bring three questions to his study of Scripture:

1. Why did this happen?

Or, stated another way, why was this story/teaching included in Holy Scripture?

2. What does it mean?

We may safely conclude that God has not included extraneous material in the Word, although much of it is different from the rest and not all will have identical values for us. But, studying a passage, asking “what does it mean?” is good.

3. How does this occur?

Using our imagination, we try to envision the scene Scripture describes.

Curiosity takes Scripture seriously.

Case in point. Look at a minor detail in the healing of the blind beggar of Jericho, Bartimaeus, as recorded in Mark 10.

They called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Be of good cheer. Rise. He’s calling you.’

And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. (Mark 10:49-50)

When Luke tells the same story (Lk. 18:35ff), he leaves out several details, such as the name of the beggar, some of the conversation, and the way Bartimaeus cast aside his garment (some translations say “mantle” and others “coat”). What are we to make of this?

–Mark’s was an eyewitness account. The earliest records indicate the Apostle Peter told his story to John Mark who wrote it down. Therefore, we could expect to find telling insights here not found in Luke, since we are told specifically that Luke researched his account from various sources (Lk. 1:2).

Personally, I read Mark’s gospel with more energy and fascination from knowing we’re hearing Peter’s account.

–And the business about the garment, what of that? We’re not told. It’s a detail such as an eyewitness would give. But I’ll give you my opinion, for whatever that’s worth.

I wonder how often the blind beggar of Jericho had fought off the dogs for his coat. It could not have been clean, and probably was not in very good condition. I suspect that “rags” is a better description than “mantle” or “coat.”

This treasured garment which the beggar had fought for, now he throws aside as though it is nothing. He is about to meet Jesus and he will not be a blind man any longer. He will not be a beggar any more. And he will not be needing that rag.

Life was about to get infinitely better for Bartimaeus.

Imagination now intact here. I find myself wondering also, if when Bartimaeus–now healed and seeing clearly, jumping up and rejoicing and following Jesus down the road into the city–when Bartimaeus walked past his former begging spot beside the road, did he know that’s where he had sat day after day? And did he look down at the despicable rag laying there and think, “Someone ought to pick up their trash”?

All of that would be a simple reminder of what we give up when we come to Jesus: nothing but rags. Trash. (See Philippians 3:8)

A healthy curiosity is always under the control of the Holy Spirit and instructed by Scripture.

Novelist Anne Rice wrote a story from her active imagination on the boyhood of Jesus in Nazareth. As soon as I saw in a review that she had the Lord performing childish miracles, that did it for me. He did no such thing.

Scripture says plainly that the miracle at the wedding of Cana was His first miracle (John 2:11). There is no record anywhere of a previous miracle. In fact, I’m one who believes boyhood miracles (as though Jesus were Superboy of Smallville) would have been detrimental to His later work for many reasons, chief among them that Satan would have been able to identify Him and would have done all in his power to destroy Him as a child. God let Jesus grow up a normal Jewish boy, not unlike the adolescents all across that country.

That’s why–still on the same point–Jesus’ neighbors were amazed when He began preaching and working miracles (see Luke 4:28-29 and Mark 6:1-6). Had they seen Him do wonders for many years as a teenager, some would have been saying, “Yes sir, I told you that boy was bound for bigger things!” But no one thought it and no one said it because Jesus didn’t do it.

Your curiosity can get you in big trouble–off on strange tangents, into doctrinal trouble–unless it is consecrated to the Lord Jesus Christ and subjected to God’s Word.

The enemy will attack you at the point of your curiosity and imagination.

First, Satan will want to bore you with the Word. “There’s nothing there. You have been there and done that, friend.”

Second, he will excite your curiosity and imagination over forbidden fruits, into more exotic fields. I once knew a couple who decided our church was too boring because they had discovered the occult.

Third, if you insist on bringing your curiosity to Scriptures and employ your imagination in the service of the Savior, the devil will attempt to divert it into meaningless pursuits. You will end up devoting hours, weeks, even years, looking into something that ends up yielding no fruit and having no meaning.

You have come to the kingdom at a great time, friend.

This is a great day for a teacher or preacher who is in love with God’s creation, who is excited about God’s Word, and is thrilled to be preaching His message. The resources seem to be without limit today.

You can get on a plane and be in Israel within 24 hours. You walk where Jesus walked and see the very things His eyes took in. When you return home, your approach to Holy Scripture is transformed forever.

You can go online and hear many of the best preachers in the world with very little effort. And if you have a question about something you heard–a historical event, a person, a fact–well, that’s all at your fingertips too.

There is no place for dullness in the Kingdom of God or in His work.

It is the work of the devil to a) make his followers dull-minded and b) hoodwink them into believing that they are the ones living exciting lives and that to follow Jesus would require them to check their brains at the door. The opposite is the case.

So, bring your brain, bring your energy and imagination, your curiosity and your love for learning and growing, bring it all into the Kingdom with you. Put them under the daily lordship of Jesus Christ and see what He wants to do with them.

After all, this message was brought to you by a Christian cartoonist.

2 thoughts on “Great Preparation for Ministry: A Strong Curiosity

  1. I have been sing for the Jewish temple in our town for about five years now. At a recent service “the Jewish edited New Testament” was mentioned. What a new light has been shed for me on the importance of things that I previously saw as inconsequential. How thankful I am for a healthy curiosity! How much I have ro learn from the Jewish people!

  2. Joe: If you will check on the Infancy Gospel of Thomas you will find the reference where Anne Rice probably is referring. It is one of the books that was debatedd as to whether or not to put it in the Canon of scripture. You can find it on Google and it will refer you to Wikipedia.

    Have a good day! Watch the wildcats that are in your town. I hope they behave better than the people did in Lexington after the team won the last ball game. That is what alcohol will do for you.

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