Does this sound familiar to you? In the middle of December, you start reflecting on your year and thinking to yourself, “I wish I would have spent more time with the Lord and His Word.” As the New Year barrels your way, you resolve to spend 20 minutes a day reading your Bible. On January 1 through 3, you delight yourself in a psalm here, a proverb there, and let Philippians tickle your ears. But by the time January 10-13 roll around, you are stuck wandering in Numbers and looking through the genealogies for a cool name for your new pet. You have lost some steam and are unsure where to go next. If this sounds even vaguely familiar, you are not alone.
As someone who teaches the Bible for a living, I love asking people about their Bible study plan. Over the years I have learned a few things: 1) most folks do not have a plan, 2) most folks have never been taught how to study their Bible, and 3) most folks wish they spent more time studying the Scriptures. If you identify with “most folks,” may I suggest a few ways to study?
If you are planning to read through any of the epistles—a fancy word for the letters written in the New Testament (think Romans, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Peter, etc.), look for the SPECS in the text.
- Sins to avoid
- Promises to believe
- Examples to follow
- Commands to keep
- Stumbling blocks to avoid
Grab your Bible, a journal, and your pen and write down any SPECS you see. As you do, you will see things like the theme of the book, major teaching points, and the purpose for writing jump off the page at you.
Journaling the Big Idea
Certain books of the Bible contain key themes threaded throughout each passage. For example, in the book of Acts the Church takes center stage, in Romans we see the righteousness of God, and in Proverbs we learn about wisdom. A great way to spend your quiet time is to make observations about the key theme in the book you are studying. Grab your favorite Moleskine journal and take note of all the ways Proverbs presents wisdom. Ask yourself, “What is it?,” “How do I obtain it?,” “How do I lose it?,” and “What does this reveal about God?” As you make these observations, you will grow in your understanding of the book as well as how God desires for you to live in light of its teaching.
Use a Great Curriculum
Certainly as a student and teacher of the Bible, I love to see people studying God’s Word on their own. Yet, “on their own” does not mean without help. God gave gifts of writing and teaching to people in the Church, and some of those people write incredible books to aid in our understanding of Scripture. If you get stuck when you are studying God’s Word, allow Sandra Glahn, Warren Wiersbe, Tim Keller, and **shameless plug** the Watermark Women’s study to help you. These authors, and many more, produce trustworthy Bible study guides to walk their readers through the passages, showing them how to observe, interpret, and apply the text to their own lives.
Ask Avid Bible Readers What They Do
This blog barely scratches the surface of the many ways people can study the Bible. So I would encourage you to ask people you admire who regularly spend time in the Word how they study the Scriptures. Not only might their ideas resonate well with your preferred style of study, but also you will have a Bible Sherpa to guide you through difficult passages or offer encouragement when you get stuck.
In the end, there are many ways to study God’s Word effectively. I have found that those with a plan are more consistent in the Word than those who bounce from passage to passage. I have also observed that those who have accountability in studying the Bible tend to get in the Word more often. Pick a book, pick a plan, pick a time, and pick a friend to encourage you along the way.
Finally, the goal in Bible study is to know God in a way that leads to life transformation. As you try some of these plans, remember your reason for studying in the first place: you find God in the pages of Scripture. As you read, look for God. He’s all over the place. Close your time in prayer by asking God, “How would you have me respond today?” Then, try to summarize whatever He reveals to you in a sentence or two.