We once attended a church where the pastor encouraged us to read our Bibles through each year. For two to three years, I went through the Chronological One-Year Bible each year. I enjoyed how this Bible broke up the loooong genealogies, but I felt ashamed as I became bored. While this marathon Bible-reading was incredibly valuable for giving me an overview of the Bible, it fell short in depth and “meat”. Even I switched to reading smaller devotions on a phone app, I still felt uninspired.
The bland quiet time reminded me of our kids as babies and toddlers. They were completely fed up with boring baby food, but they still didn’t have teeth for the exciting food on our plates. Like my babies, I was bored with the Bible. Even though I knew there was more to it, I just didn’t know how to access it.
Why does Bible study seem hard?
It sometimes seems that true in-depth Bible study is reserved for heroes like Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, and Lisa TerKeurst. We believe the lie that we are incapable of mining the depths of God’s riches in His Word unless we attend a Bible study written by someone else. In between studies, we waste away in a famine of truth, unable to feed ourselves from God’s Word.
One of the speakers at Lifeway’s Women’s Forum exposed this assumption as a lie from the enemy. She pointed out how Satan used this tactic in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3). First, the serpent questioned God’s Word, implying that the Creator’s commands were unreasonable and too difficult to obey. Then he cast doubt on the truth of God’s Word and suggested that a loving safeguard was actually a plot to keep Adam and Eve from wonderful knowledge.
Isn’t that what Satan still does today? He whispers that Bible study is boring, that it’s too hard, and that we will never understand God’s Words. He suggests that since we will ultimately fail, we should not even bother to start in the first place.
How long will we believe these lies?
A couple years ago, I finally learned how to study the Bible, thanks to a book recommended by a friend. I’m nobody special, but I don’t have to be extraordinary to take lessons in Bible study from the Holy Spirit. The methods are simple. You probably already know them, but have been afraid to put them to use because the enemy has convinced you that it’s too hard. Are you ready to break free from those lies?
1. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you understanding.
Jesus promised that when He ascended into heaven after His resurrection, He would send the Holy Spirit to personally teach and equip His followers. When Jesus was on earth, He was able to teach and disciple the people He could humanly reach. But after His ascension, His Spirit entered believers so that His presence could be with each one individually, no matter where they are.
And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive [and take to its heart] because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He (the Holy Spirit) remains with you continually and will be in you.John 14:16-17 AMP
We don’t have to be a great Bible-teaching celebrity to “get something” from personal Bible study. The same Holy Spirit who resides in them resides in us, too. We just have to ask for guidance and wisdom! (James 1:5-8)
2. Ask questions.
Child Evangelism Fellowship has a little song they use to teach kids the foundations of Bible study. It’s a bit corny, but learning the lyrics has helped me focus when studying the Bible for myself. This little song encourages us to ask three questions about a passage of Scripture:
- What does it say?
- What does it mean?
- What is God saying to me?
The first question calls on the reading comprehension skills we learned in elementary school. No seminary degree required! There are many ways to answer this question. Precepts Bible studies are known for their use of colored pencils, underlining, circling, etc. This can be a great tool. Their method is a little confusing for me, so I prefer to use pen and paper. Here is what I do…
I ask myself key questions and write the answers in a journal. Some questions I might not be able to answer, but they still get my brain working. Using a good study Bible can make the process much smoother. If you don’t have one, use BibleGateway.com as a free, convenient resource.
- Who is writing or speaking in this Bible passage? What is his/her background? What caused him/her to write?
- Who is the passage written to? Why do they need this message?
- What is the main point? What are the secondary points?
- Is there a particular truth revealed?
- Are there any instructions on how to live/behave?
- If the passage is telling a story, what are the key characters and main points?
- How does the time period/culture affect how the audience would receive the message?
You do not have to have all these answers. This is just a list to help you get started. You can form your own questions as the Holy Spirit leads you. Remember, even the tiniest progress made today leaves you better off than you were yesterday!
The second question digs a little deeper into the meaning of a passage. Because we do not read the Bible in its original languages, subtle messages can be overlooked. BlueLetterBible.org is my favorite source for digging into Greek and Hebrew. (No, I do not have special training in these languages!) If you look up a Bible verse, a little button labelled “Tools” will appear. Clicking on that will reveal all the Greek and Hebrew words in that passage. Click on one of those to reveal that word’s meaning, other appearances in the Bible, its origin, and more. Suddenly, you have a deeper look at the meaning of the passage! If you can click a mouse, you can use this tool.
The third question helps us surrender our wills to God as we seek to obey the truth He has revealed to us. THIS is where real life-change happens! As we obey God’s Word by faith, He cleanses and purifies us. His Words transform our minds so that we can live out His calling in our lives. By His truth, the Holy Spirit empowers us to overcome bad habits and tough circumstances so that we can live victoriously.
No wonder why the enemy doesn’t want us studying God’s Word…he doesn’t want us to be transformed by its incredible power!
(Stay tuned for Friday Bible studies!)