An interesting story from the Bible itself captures the majority of opinions about reading and studying the Bible. Philip comes across a ruler trying to figure out what a part of the Old Testament was talking about. Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” The ruler quickly replies, “How can I unless someone helps me?” (Acts 8:30-31).
Many people approach reading the Bible with some real hesitancy and fear. Even if one begins to read the Bible, is there any chance at all for understanding it? The Barna Group, a religious polling organization headed by former Gallup leader George Barna, recently teamed with American Bible Society to conduct a study about the state of the Bible in America. The 2014 survey found, among other things, that people are reading the Bible less because they don’t have enough time, they have difficulty understanding what they read, and they don’t see a connection between reading the Bible and how they live.
Like many books, the Bible can be as easier to comprehend if a plan is followed. Let’s look at three strategies that can be used to facilitate understanding the Bible and three investments that the reader must make.
The first strategy in Bible study is to decide the purpose in reading? Do you want to get an overview of what is taking place in Biblical history? Do you want to really study and learn facts that you never knew before? Are you seeking to read the Bible to improve your Christian walk or draw you closer to God? Are you looking for some inspirational or devotional words to encourage the day?
Eternal philosopher, and New York Yankee catcher, Yogi Berra is quoted as saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.” If you don’t know what you want from Bible study, you might not get there.
A second strategy for Bible study is to get a grasp on the context of the passage. Discover as much as you can about the author of the book and his perspective and relationship to God. Challenge yourself to find out about the circumstances of the readers. Recognize the type of literature that is being studied – poetry, history, admonition – because the context of each will vary.
The third and final strategy is laser-sharp: focus. What spiritual truths were being taught to the original readers by this Scripture? Are there spiritual truths that can be applied to living today? What does God want to develop or change in your life by the reading of this passage?
Because the book is more than just a record of history, the reader must make an investment if knowledge and application is the goal. The first investment necessary is time. Reading and studying the Bible should be made on a regular basis. The amount of time is not as important as its consistency. Invest time in a regular schedule of reading the Bible, and a sufficient amount of time to allow God to speak through His Word.
Next, one should be willing to invest energy. The Psalmist writes “May I experience your compassion, so I might live! For I find delight in your law” (Psalm 119:77 NIV). If everything in the Scriptures was written for learning and instruction (Romans 15:4 NET), then it makes sense to invest energy into reading in order to have hope.
Finally, understanding the Bible requires an investment of the heart. “With my whole heart I have sought you; oh, let me not wander from your commandments” (Psalm 119:10 NIV). With a simple strategy blended with personal investment, the Bible will come alive and be a lamp to your feet and a light to your path.