As of today, I am now 2 weeks into the Fall semester at my new institution and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. For the first time in many years, I’ve been given the opportunity to teach physics and I’m simply relishing the opportunity. Even though my research is more related to atmospheric science, the foundation of my work is based on the physics education that I’ve developed over time so it’s exciting to get back to my first academic love. Moreover, many of the textbooks and research monographs that I ordered this semester have arrived in my office. The topics of the books range from classical mechanics to mesoscale meteorological forecasting to statistical mechanics to vortex dynamics.
After the excitement of seeing the books, the next immediate thought in my mind was: how am I going to thoroughly process of all these books? Just the sheer magnitude of the information found in these resources can be overwhelming. However, I remind myself again that I’m not studying these texts and doing research simply for the sake of my career. Rather, I’m dedicating myself to this field for the glory and purpose of God. This is something that I have to remind myself of frequently: studying the natural sciences are not an ends to themselves. Since everything that has value derives its value from God, the study of the natural sciences is no different. Scientific research is valuable, meaningful, and coherent only when it finds its purpose in the glory of God. The harmony and consistency in scientific research only makes sense because the created universe reflects the nature and wisdom of God.
That being said, it takes substantial discipline, motivation, and work to see this harmony and consistency. A person doesn’t simply sit down and look outside of their window and come to rich understanding of God as reflected in the natural world. It requires substantial work because scientific knowledge is rapidly increasing in such a way that people come to two basic conclusions: (1) the universe is too complex for us to ever have a coherent understanding of it (i.e. the God of the gaps), or (2) “scientific laws” have answered enough questions about the universe currently that we can reasonably expect to understand it fully in the future without having any knowledge of God. It requires substantial work to push beyond these two positions and to see the glory of God in scientific endeavors. Yet we also know that the Holy Spirit drives us in these pursuits because it finds its appropriate end in the glory of God
After pondering this, I realize that this concept of Spirit-empowered work is true concerning our Christian walk as well. Colossians 2:2-3 states
That their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
In this passage, we see that a person becomes spiritual rich when he develops a full assurance of understanding. A person with a full assurance of understanding is one who has a true knowledge of Christ. We do not expect for God to suddenly zap us with this full assurance of understanding, but the Holy Spirit will drive us back to His Word to enlighten our minds and fill us with the love for the truths that we discover through diligent work. To be honest, it’s easy for us to say “doing in-depth and diligent study of the scriptures is for cold-hearted Pharisees. We just need to listen to the voice of God.” because it enables us to avoid the work, effort, and time necessary to develop true spirituality with a true knowledge of God. In other words, there is no shortcut in this process. In order to develop the true knowledge and full assurance that Paul spoke of in Colossians, we must be prepared to labor diligently to obtain it (cf. Philippians 3:13-14; Proverbs 13:4; Luke 13:23-24; John 6:27-29; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Hebrews 4:11; 2 Peter 1:5-10; and 2 Peter 3:18). However, this work isn’t driven by our own self-effort, but it’s driven by the work of the Spirit within us. Consider Paul’s other statements about our diligent work and the working of the grace of God
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 1 Corinthians 15:10
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13
Again, there’s no shortcut given. If we honestly desire to know God’s truth, to develop true knowledge of God, and have a full, robust understanding of God, we must work. There are many sermons that emphasize these points, but the one below suffices.
As the Psalmist says, great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them (cf. Psalm 111:2). The works of God, both in creation as studied scientifically and in redemption, are great in and of themselves, but they are diligently studied and pursued by those who love God. May we apply diligent study to grow in our knowledge and understanding of the works of God.