Have you ever felt stuck in your daily Bible reading? Maybe you are overwhelmed by how many books are in the Bible and are unsure of what to be reading? If you just finished a study, how do you know where to go next? Are you tired of using a short devotion that tells you what a passage means instead of asking God to teach you?
I have been in this place many times. Sometimes it has led me to just simply start reading wherever the Bible pages fall open, as I had no specific direction or purpose for study. Or our go-to when we are stuck is often to read a Psalm or Proverb. There is nothing wrong with any of this, but there are some methods for profitable Bible study we don’t always think about. We can be more intentional about how we approach God’s word.
Bible study tip #1
A couple of weeks ago, I posted a video on my Instagram feed and Facebook page about one way to approach Bible study when we feel stuck. I suggested that we stop to consider and meditate on something we have been taught recently. Perhaps a Sunday School lesson or recent sermon can be chewed on past its delivery time. I think that believers, particularly American Christians, have an abundance of teaching at our fingertips through apps, YouTube, IGTV, television, podcasts, and online and in-person services, and we can become so overloaded with information that we never actually put the teaching into practice. Instead of starting a new book or study, maybe God would like us to really think about what His word is telling us so that it moves from our heads to our hearts and changes us from being hearers to doers of the Word.
“Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
The point of spending time reading Scripture is not merely to obtain knowledge, though knowledge is good. Our goal is to grow in the image of Christ and be transformed into His likeness through the renewing of our minds with truth. His truth. Without disciplining ourselves to be in His word, we won’t know what this looks like and will form our own ideas of how to please God and interact with the world. This does not lead to holiness. It more often leads to self-righteousness.
Bible study tip #2
Today I would like to suggest another way to delve deeper into truth through putting familiar Scripture into context. For many of us, there are certain passages that have almost become cliché and not always used in the way God intended. Or, we are so familiar with these passages that they lose their significance and power in our lives.
Stop and think for a moment about a verse that you hear often but are unfamiliar with the surrounding verses in the passage or how it fits into the whole chapter and book. There will be much to learn from this exercise and at times can clarify how we are to rightly discern the teachings of Christ.
Here are some passages that are used in isolation that could be revisited to look further at the intended message. You may not have any misconceptions about the verse’s message, but you will still gain fresh insight from this exercise if you ask the Spirit to guide you as you study.
John 3:16 “For God so loved…”
Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things…”
Proverbs 3:5,6 “Trust in the Lord…”
James 1:22 “But be doers of the Word…”
Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned…”
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans…”
2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people who are called by my name…”
This list could go on and on, and chances are you are thinking of one right now that often comes to mind but you don’t know the full context of the verse. I would challenge you to take one of these passages and revisit it with these things in mind:
Who is saying this?
Who is it being said to?
What are the circumstances surrounding these words? (Paul in prison, Jesus after being seen after raising from the dead, David being chased by Saul, etc.)
Is this a principle or promise of God?
Are there any tricky words that you might need to look up or define? blueletterbible.com is a great resource for this.
Spend time meditating and thinking on the truths being conveyed through the whole passage. This goes back to Bible study tip #1 of not rushing through study in a quest to move on to the next thing. Abide with Christ through His word. Spend time memorizing other portions of the passage. Ask God to move you from hearing these words to living them out in your day to day life. What would that look like? Once you discern this, make every effort to implement this truth. If it is changing your perspective on how God can do anything on your behalf and believing nothing is impossible for Him, when you start to doubt, how will you go to battle over that lie with the truths you have learned? Be intentional with a plan.
I think that if you are stuck and feeling overwhelmed with how to study Scripture or just choosing what to read, this will move you up a level from reading to hearing and from hearing to doing. If you try this and God gives you clarity or a new insight into the truth He wants you to know and practice, I would love to hear from you. Don’t grow weary in pursuing Christ. It takes work on our part. It takes time and a humble and willing spirit. But you will be blessed in the doing as James 1:25 says.
So, what will you be reading next? I would love to hear and encourage one another in our faith journeys!