Have you ever fallen asleep in your Bible, read the same paragraph 10 times, or wondered if youre the only one in your Bible study who is completely bored by what you read? If so, youre not alone.
Far too many Christians struggle through the pages of their Bible like lost sheep trying to find direction or inspiration. If youre one of them, dont give up. There really is a method to the madness. In their book, Living by the Book, Howard Hendricks and William Hendricks outline three basic steps to developing Bible study habits that will bring the Scriptures to life:
Ask yourself the question, What do I see? Approach the Scriptures like a detective digging for facts. No detail is trivial.
Look for four things:
A term is more than just a word. Its a key word that is crucial to what an author has to say. In the gospel by John, the word believe appears 79 times and is used as a verb. John uses the word very purposefully. Pay close attention to terms; they are the basic building blocks with which you construct meaning.
The Bible is a library of carefully constructed books that display grammatical and literary stucture. Knowing how an author uses subjects, verbs, climax, and resolution in his writings will enhance your understanding of what you read.
There is a vast difference between the Hebrew poetry of the Psalms and the tightly argued epistles of Paul; between the grand, sweeping narrative of Genesis and Exodus, and the simple, poignant stories of the parables. There is allegory and love poetry, satire and apocalyptic, comedy and tragedy, and much more. If you want to grasp the message, you must read each kind accordingly.
Reading for atmosphere involves picking up the setting and feelings from the biblical text. If there is a sunset, see it. If there is an odor, smell it. If there is a cry of anguish, feel it. When you study the book of Ephesians, join the church at Ephesus, and listen to Paul as he goes down on his knees to pray.
Remember, you are searching for meaning. We frequently begin our Bible study trying to analyze and interpret the Scriptures and, hence, dont learn anything from them. Before you understand, you have to learn to see:
The Bible is never embarrassed to be asked questions. Dont hinder yourself from asking anything and everything of the text you are reading.
Expect to find the answers to your questions directly in the text. Familiarize yourself with your Bible by using cross-references. Some Bibles have verses to cross-reference in the margins. If your Bible doesnt have this feature, you might want to check out a concordance from the library. As you study Bible passages more deeply, you will begin seeing answers to your questions.
Once you have asked questions and found answers, you must put the answers together into a meaningful whole.
Ask yourself, How does it work? Remember, the Bible is relevant to your life because it is true reality. If you read it and heed it, it will change your life.
How does it work for me?
You will learn a great deal from your Bible, but dont forget to apply it to your own personal situation.
How does it work for others?
Once you have allowed the Bible to work in your own life, you can begin to share it with others.
Now that you have a few tips for reading your Bible, its time to stop procrastinating and get started!