My heart constantly breaks at the amount of people that struggle with their Bible or flat out give up on reading it. When I have taught classes on how to read scripture more effectively, many people assume that truly understanding the Bible is only for “trained theologians,” and I can attest that is absolutely not the case. God gave His word to provide peace, joy, and understanding – not to be a burden; however, the Bible is a special book that requires active reading. In a world full of passive readers, here is 5 sure-fire ways to supercharge your Bible study.
- Stop Expecting and Start Experiencing
To put it plain and simple, making assumptions is the single most destructive thing we can do during any type of study. We all have expectations. It’s in our nature. In many ways, everything we do comes from some sort of expectation. I eat dinner expecting nutrients to power my body, I say, “I love you” to my wife, expecting the same back, I go to my job expecting to get a paycheck, I say a word expecting others to understand what I mean by it; however, in reading the Bible, assumptions play a hazardous role in our interpretation.
Most of the population are familiar with Biblical themes, either through personal study, sermons, or what our culture has said about it. For many, when they read scripture they simply verify what someone else has already taught them, so often, we end up reading what we expect the text to say instead of letting scripture speak for itself. For instance, when we read angels declaring God, “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3), we will often remember that one popular hymn, the phrase, “holier than thou,” or maybe even “holy guacamole;” however, we rarely ask the arduous question, “what does the Bible say about holiness?” The sooner you learn to ask the Bible what it is saying, instead of making it verify what your expectations want it to say, the sooner your Bible study will become profitable.
- Understand the Point of the Book
Similar to the previous point, when we read a book of the Bible, we either assume the intention or pay no attention to the reason it was written. Essentially, the Bible is a library made up of many different pieces of literature, such as letters, poems, histories, epics, and, according to some, even fictions; however, no matter the type of literature, each individual book was written for a purpose. Whether to elicit some sort of response, speak a truth about God, explain an important event, etc., it is important to identify the important themes and, at your best, try to read it as if you were looking over the author’s shoulder. As an example, when reading 2 Timothy, it is crucial to have some sort of understanding of the political turmoil the Church was causing during its authorship, who Timothy is and why Paul is instructing him, and why Paul seems to be suffering. Without these simple foundations, the book will simply be mistreated. Always make sure to ask these simple questions before styudying: why was this book written, who was it intended for, and how does it fit into the story of the Bible?
- Read Different Translations
This has become a total trope, one that makes many immediately roll their eyes when they hear people suggest it, but this is often because this is the piece of advice people want to follow least. All translations are interpretations. That’s simply how it has to work. Translating a word, thought, or phrase from one language to another simply cannot be done with an equals sign because all words have some range of meaning, not to mention how the meanings of words change over time and through dialects. Nothing beats reading scripture in its original language; however, studying different translations gives you a greater awareness of the original language.
- Take Time for Theology and Worship
While conquering one’s assumptions is the most important advice I can give you, this point has been, by far, the most valuable to me personally. Many who devote themselves to the world of theology and study complain about a “dryness” in their faith. For years, I struggled with this exact thing and felt my career path had hurt my personal faith. After maturing, I found that there was a place in theology and for worship when studying the Bible. For those of us seeking to learn more and more, there is often a pressure to become a master; however, no amount of knowledge can replace a meaningful relationship. In fact, Jesus died for us to know Him, not to just have knowledge of Him.
- Don’t be Afraid
Finally, don’t be afraid to open your Bible. I love helping people to see that their Bible isn’t as intimidating as they had once thought. Don’t get me wrong, understanding the Bible requires active reading and a lifetime of study. Most people get discouraged by this; however, it was designed to work in just this way. Psalm 1:2 shows the joy of “meditating” on scripture, consistently, over time, contemplating what is written. The more you read and become familiar with all of the Bible, the more connections and depth of study you will find. Being afraid to open your Bible is simply a ploy of the enemy to diminish your effectiveness for the Kingdom and closeness to your savior.