The burden and the joy of studying God’s word

BST alumnus Jimmy Smith-Cottreel with his wife Kirsty.

BST alumnus Jimmy Smith-Cottrell with his wife Kirsty.

Jimmy Smith-Cottrell received his Bachelor of Theology at the BST graduation ceremony on Tuesday, 28 February 2017. He shared with us the challenges and highlights from his time at Bible college…

The first time I received results for my first Greek exam, I was pretty happy with myself getting 85%—that’s a high distinction! But as I looked over the result, one of the lecturers, John Coulson walked by and took a peek at my result, “Ah sorry mate, you’ll have to try harder next time.” Confused, I replied, “What are you talking about?” And John, who was to be my lecturer for second semester replied, “Unless you are getting 97% or more for Greek over the entire year, you are failing in my books.” So I asked what he got when he did Greek, and with that big John Coulson, grin he replied, “97%.”

Of course, you can get less than 97% for the entire year and still pass Greek, but John’s point was clear: Don’t slack off. Don’t take this lightly. You are dealing with God’s word and people will rely on your interpretation of it. Don’t just try and scrape through; treat it with your absolute best. 

Bible college is by no means an easy thing to get through, nor should it be. There is a burden of responsibility attached to reading, interpreting and teaching God’s word accurately and in context. Our lecturers know this and fortunately for us, they don’t try to make it easy for their students. They don’t set us up to fail, but they do require us to take God’s word seriously. The standard is high at BST—there is no compromise on that.

But at the same time, studying at BST was not just an academic exercise, it was also an incredibly enriching experience. There were many times when lecturers would stop the class and not move on until we began applying what we learned to our hearts—sometimes with tears in their eyes, not afraid to acknowledge that they were in just as much need of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The lecturers often demonstrated the need for the gospel with integrity and honesty. We’ve been taught that every Christian, regardless of age, needs to hear the gospel every day.

The people I have met at BST helped to nurture my growth as a disciple of the Lord Jesus. This happened through not only the lecture rooms, but also in chapel, fellowship groups, prayer groups, short-term mission exposure trips across Australia and the world, community lunches, one-on-one mentoring, camps, and through the wonderful relationships formed with fellow students, and the staff and faculty.  One of the important relationships that I formed here at college was with Jonny Lush, BST’s property manager, and his wonderful wife Liz. As residents on campus, they opened their homes to many of us. They made me countless coffees, and dozens of impromptu and unforgettable meals.

Studying at BST could not have been accomplished without the loving support and prayers of family, friends, our pastors and other Christians who walked along side us on this journey. And for that, I believe I echo my fellow graduates in being so thankful for the support and sacrifices of our loved ones.

Finally, I am grateful to our Lord Jesus Christ, who, with the beautiful Godhead saved us from sin and judgment. Lord, we are grateful for your grace and mercy; for your infinite patience and for being eternally faithful to us. Thank you for answering those late-night prayers when we were on the verge of breaking down, thank you for sustaining us when we could not go on. Thank you for revealing yourself to us in your word and for the joy that comes with studying it!