After months and months of study, you finally sit down to take the NBB Qualifying Test, and if you’re like most participants, you’re filled with nerves, anxiety, and excitement. After all, in just a few agonizingly long days you’ll find out your score… the number that will determine your fate for the next several months. The test results release date eventually comes, and you wait eagerly at your computer, alternately checking your email and refreshing your dashboard to see if the scores have been posted yet. Finally, you see the number that answers your question: did I qualify for the National Bible Bee Competition? For some of you, that answer was an excited “yes”, but for others, a disappointed “no”. Either way, you have probably found yourself asking “Now what? Where do I go from here?” No matter what your score and ranking, it’s important to remind yourself of the truth and keep your focus on how you can glorify God in all you do, so let’s look at some truths to help you do that, whether you’re currently thrilled or tearful.
Glorifying God in disappointment
Whether you find out that you didn’t qualify by looking at your dashboard and seeing your score, or by waiting on the email inviting you to compete at the National Bible Bee Competition and slowly realizing that you won’t be getting one, it’s tough to face the fact that you didn’t do as well as you wanted to. Finding out that you failed to qualify can be a massive disappointment, especially after spending so many hours studying and memorizing for the test, and it’s hard to glorify God when what you did feels like a failure or a waste. Here are some truths to keep in mind while wrestling through disappointment and sadness…
Give thanks for the greatest blessing that God has given you: the opportunity to know Him through knowing His Word.
Even though it feels hard, as isn’t exactly the first thought in our minds, choosing to give thanks is a great way to focus our hearts and minds on the Lord. In the midst of disappointment, it may seem counterintuitive or fake to be thankful, but by reminding ourselves of the truth that God’s Word, (the revelation of Himself in all His excellency to us) is our greatest blessing, we start to reorient our goals and priorities in approaching Scripture, and eventually our thankfulness becomes deep and heartfelt. Simply by participating in the Summer Study and digging into God’s Word you have received the sweet blessing of growing in your knowledge of the Lord, the Creator of the Universe and loving Savior of your soul. Take a moment to thank Him for some of the specific things that you learned this year and to pray that He uses everything you learned to draw you towards Himself and delight in Him.
“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.” -Psalm 63:5-7 (ESV)
Recognize that not a single minute of the time you spent studying and memorizing was wasted, and God is accomplishing good things in your life through His Word.
It’s tempting to think that because we didn’t reach our personal goals, we’ve failed, but the reality is that our goals are not always God’s goals. In His faithfulness, He uses even the parts of our life that we think “went wrong” or “failed” to work out good things in us and for us, and works all of those situations to accomplish His purposes. Even when our motivations for spending time in Scripture are about the Competition, our studying is about doing well on the Qualifying Test instead of a love for the Lord and desire to know Him more, and our knowledge is all head knowledge and not heart knowledge, Christ is still faithful to bless us and work in us through His Word. The Word of God is more precious than great riches (Psalm 119:72), more powerful than our strongest weapons and defenses (Hebrews 4:12), more nourishing and sustaining than food (Luke 4:4), the basis of our faith and consequently of all the blessings that come with faith (Romans 10:17), able to change our hearts and desires and keep us from sin (Psalm 119:11), able to teach and correct us to prepare and equip us for God’s work (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and will endure and continue to accomplish all God’s purposes forever, far beyond the few weeks of the Summer Study, or the few months of the NBB, or the few years of our lives (Isaiah 40:6-8). At this moment, you may not see or know how God is using Scripture in your life but trust that as the Lord has been steadfastly faithful up until now, He will fulfill His Words to you even in this.
“For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”
-Isaiah 55:10-11 (KJV)
Know that your emotions, rather than preventing you from glorifying God, can lead you to do so. Let your disappointment and sadness point you to and cause you to meditate on the truth.
Even if we recognize the value of God’s Word and know that the true prize is knowing God more, it still doesn’t erase our disappointment and sadness. And that’s okay, because those emotions are good when we allow God to work in us through them. Those feelings of sadness and disappointment testify of greater truths: that our satisfaction cannot come from our own strivings, that we are not ultimately in control of our lives, that earthly blessings are good things but not the best thing, and that this world and everything that happens here is not the end, and that God’s story (the working out of His purposes for us) is not finished yet. Yes, God gives us many good and satisfying blessings here on this earth, but in His goodness, He also gives us disappointments so that we do not forget that He is the source of our satisfaction and that He has made us for more than this world. It’s natural to be disappointed when we recognize the goodness of earthly blessings we don’t have, and that unfulfilled desire should lead us to look beyond the shadow of fulfillment and at the substance of what we long for – Christ.
“Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” -Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NKJV)
Don’t quit studying, memorizing, and being faithful and disciplined with spending time in the Word.
You had this amazing opportunity to learn how to study and memorize God’s Word (and hopefully get into the habit of doing so regularly) this summer – don’t let that go to waste! Just because you didn’t qualify for the National Bible Bee Competition doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t continue to reap the benefits of immersing yourself in the Word. Take the techniques you learned this summer (whether cross-references, looking up words in the original language, looking up definitions and background information, or learning about the literary structure of the passage) and apply them on your own to a passage you’d like to dig into and grow in your understanding of its truth. Find a passage you love – or one you want to learn to love – and memorize it. Look for ways to make Scripture part of your daily life and build a consistent habit of reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on the Bible; the rewards of doing so will bless you long after the time you spend studying or memorizing the Word is passed.
“Let the heart of those who seek the LORD be joyful. Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually. Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done, His marvels and the judgments from His mouth” -1 Chronicles 16:10b-12 (NASB)
Glorifying God in excitement
While it may seem easier to glorify God when we qualify, the fact is that it’s just as easy to shift our focus to ourselves or our circumstances in satisfaction and excitement as it is in disappointment. For those of you who got the eagerly hoped-for email inviting you to compete at the National Bible Bee Competition, it’s important to keep your eyes fixed on the true prize so that you don’t crush yourself under the burden of studying and memorizing just to perform well at the NBBC.
Remind yourself of the true and surpassing worth of the Word, and meditate on what will matter most in 10 years – your test score, or the Word of God in your heart?
Just as it can be hard to appreciate the value of Scripture when we’re disappointed, it might be even harder to appreciate it when we are satisfied, because we easily begin thinking of it as a means to an end (qualifying), and not the end itself. For that reason, it’s vital to take a step back from the excitement of qualifying and put it in perspective; qualifying is a good but temporary blessing that comes through the surpassing and eternal blessing of knowing the Word. Knowing that Scripture will guide you (Psalm 119:105), sanctify you (John 17:17), cause you to grow in Christian maturity (1 Peter 2:2-3), give you hope (Romans 15:4), fill you with wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 2:6), renew your mind (Romans 12:2), and most importantly reveal to us the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:1-5, 20:30-31), rejoice in the reward you have that is most worth celebrating – the knowledge of the Lord.
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ”
-Philippians 3:7-8 (KJV)
Rejoice and be thankful for the opportunity to compete and for the blessings that come with it, recognizing the source of these good gifts.
In the joy of qualifying our thoughts so often turn to what we did well, the study methods and techniques that helped us learn the material, our favorite strategies to memorize and review passages, and all the tips we’ve amassed on how to perform well on the test. None of these things are bad; in fact, they are all very good things. But they’re only part of the story, and focusing too much on those things draws our focus away from the source of all our blessings: Christ. Yes, studying with diligence and using effective methods is a choice we make that increases our chances of doing well on the test, but behind it all is still the goodness of the Lord, providing the opportunity for you to do so. Did you spend lots of time studying? Thank the Lord that He has allowed you to focus so intensely on His Word by removing other distractions and providing for you in other ways so that you’re able to spend so much of your time in the Word – a blessing not everyone has. Did you use great study methods and memorizing techniques? Give thanks for a mind that is able to remember information effectively, and for the God who gives you the desire, the ability, and the resources and opportunities to internalize His truth. The ability and opportunity to do your best is something to praise God for and to pray that He gives you the strength to continue doing so, not something to be shunned as prideful (although it is possible to be prideful and shortsighted enough to believe that we are responsible for our abilities and opportunities) or to despise as worthless (for it is one of His good gifts).
“For who considers you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?…We are fools on account of Christ, but you are prudent in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are without honor!”
-1 Corinthians 4:7, 10 (NASB)
Trust the Lord in this next stage, leaving the results in His hands, and don’t get overwhelmed or bogged down by focusing on performing well.
As an extension of the previous point, if you give yourself credit for doing well, you will become overwhelmed and discouraged when you struggle to perform well (and you will struggle at some point because you’re human). The weight of earning the outcome you desire from the competition by your own strength is a heavy burden that quickly crushes your love for the Word and your desire to study and memorize it. Instead, pray that the Lord shows you how to use the abilities and opportunities He’s given you and that He gives you the strength to do your best and bring Him glory as the source of your motivation. Focus on glorifying Him each day in the mundane moments of study and memorizing and endless review by asking for and relying on His strength to do your best faithfully in the things He wants to do. Leave the outcome of your studies in His hands, knowing that the Lord rewards those who are faithful whether in little or much, and trust that no matter what happens at the NBB Competition, the Lord is good, and He will be with you every step of the way.
“One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.”
-Psalm 27:4-5 (NIV)
Encourage others! Whether fellow contestants, participants who didn’t qualify, or friends and family outside the competition, don’t keep the blessing of Scripture to yourself.
Part of rejoicing in the blessing it is to compete at the NBBC is to share the goodness of Scripture with others. You’ve been gifted with the opportunity and ability to memorize hundreds of verses, and discover beautiful truths by studying the Word – don’t waste that gift! Share with others what you’re learning, ask them to share what they’ve learned, encourage and support them as they study and memorize, boldly proclaim the Scriptures you’ve internalized, and encourage others to proclaim the Word too. It’s important to remember that the reason you share the Word is not to show off your knowledge, and certainly not to have an attitude of superiority, but to be a channel of the good news of the Gospel. The purpose of studying and memorizing Scripture is ultimately to bring glory to God, and we do that by sharing Christ with others, not by seeking honor for ourselves.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”
-Colossians 3:16-17 (KJV)
Whether first or last…
Make it your aim to live your life in a way that causes you to meditate on the Lord more and more, and become more like Him through every circumstance He gives you out of His sovereign love. May He be in all, through all, above all, and the end of all you say or do.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Written by NBB Alumna: Janese Hurst