Twenty plus years ago, I sat in my first Biblical Languages class at LIFE Bible College in San Dimas, CA. I was fascinated by what I was learning. Every morning the Professor would begin our class with a devotional drawn from a word study of the original languages. This particular day, the Greek word was spoudazo and the Bible verse was 2 Timothy 2:15: Study (spoudason) to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (KJV). Back then, the King James Version was the translation of choice but I highly recommend that when we study the Bible today, that we consult various translations that use various techniques. I recommend a literal translation, a dynamic equivalent and one that balances both approaches. When you do this with this Bible verse you will immediately notice that they start differently. The KJV starts with “Study…,” the ESV says “Do your best…,” the NASB says “Be diligent…,” and the NET says “Make every effort…” The fact that these translations use a different word or phrase at the beginning of the sentence, points to the fact that there is no English word or phrase that can easily or completely capture the essence of the Greek word; spoudazo.
So, let’s use an illustration from everyday life to explain what spoudazo means in this verse: I have a friend who was unhappy with his body. He was flabby and out of shape. After years of complaining, he finally went to the local gym and hired a personal trainer. The trainer put him on a diet and gave him a lifestyle regiment that included stretching, weight training and even a new way of eating. Today, that friend is in great shape because he made every effort to follow the trainer’s plan and change his life. This is spoudazo; however, we are not talking about a change in our physique but a total transformation of the person centered on the Word of God.
To apply the illustration; every one of us needs to address the spiritual flabbiness caused by complacency and apathy. We do this by signing up to the spiritual gym through prayer. We are assigned a personal trainer (the Holy Spirit) who leads and guides us daily in a regiment meant to help us grow and mature. The regiment includes daily workouts in the Word, which necessitates us getting intimately involved in the Word to the point of sweating. This will take us much deeper than just reading a quick verse as if it were a Christian fortune cookie. Instead, we will grapple with the Word and this exercise will build our muscles.
Now with that understanding take another look at 2 Timothy 2:15: Do your best (spoudason) to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (ESV). I encourage you to study/sweat/do your best in the work that God has called you to which includes maturing in Him and is facilitated by the Word.
 A literal translation (also called Formal Equivalence) attempts to give a word for word translation, whereas a Dynamic Equivalence attempts to give the idea being conveyed by the original. There is value in both types of translations; therefore, it is my opinion that you become familiar with both types and incorporate several translations into your study time if possible. I use the NET, the ESV, and the NIV. I will also supplement with the KJV because I like the flavor and sometimes I even consult the NLT when ministering to youth or the unchurched. For more info on this topic, I recommend From God to Us by Norman Geisler and William Nix.