Have you ever sat down to study the Bible but finished feeling like you didn’t get anything out of it?
Yeah, me too.
It’s so discouraging to want a personal encounter with God, yet feel stuck with non-personal, surface level reading.
The thing is, God’s words are timeless. They will always be fresh and relevant.
But for them to personally feel relevant, we need to learn how to unpack them. Because when we dig deeper into His word, we will have a personal connection with His words.
But don’t be intimidated or overwhelmed…
Digging deeper into God’s word doesn’t necessarily require more time. It just requires us to be more intentional with the time we have.
I’m not going to pretend to be an expert, but my favorite way to intentionally study the Bible is to ask these six questions:
1. What does this piece of scripture actually say?
I start with this question for a few reasons.
First, it helps me refresh everything I just read. Most importantly, it helps me avoid misinterpreting scripture.
Because even if we do it on accident, misinterpreting God’s word is serious. Everything within the Bible is God’s perfect word and our final authority. That’s why we need to do our best to understand what He actually said.
But we don’t need any special qualifications to accurately understand the Bible. We simply need a love for truth, and the diligence to search for it.
The most important part of understanding is to start with prayer. When we pray, we should ask God for wisdom, discernment, and a heart willing to process even difficult parts of scripture.
2. How is God’s character and glory on display here?
It’s so easy to make Bible study all about myself.
What I mean is that often, I only care about what the Bible has to say to me, and I ignore how everything in scripture points to God and displays aspects of His character.
I care more about what I can get out of my Bible, then I do about worshiping God through the process of reading my Bible.
Now, personal application is important, and personal benefit will come from spending time in God’s word. But our primary purpose is to exalt God in everything we do… even when reading His Word.
So let’s read to see God on display before reading to see how we can benefit.
3. Are there any specific words, verses, or themes which spike my interest, or I can’t quite shake?
If there’s a word that sticks out to you, do a little digging on it.
If there’s a verse that keeps popping up in your mind or that your eyes just seem drawn to, take time to process it. You may even want to write it down or memorize it.
It doesn’t matter exactly what you do, or how you do it. Just take time to look beneath the surface.
Often, going further and following our natural curiosity leads to amazing discoveries! In fact, those little details that stick out to you, or resonate with your soul are likely the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
4. Is God trying to use this passage to speak to me in any way?
With this question, pause. Don’t rush.
We need to pray that God will show us the things we need to hear, and open our ears to what He says. Then, we need to listen.
Now, some mornings God is silent. At least in the sense that He doesn’t speak to us through what we read.
I’m not exactly sure why, but my guess is that sometimes it’s more important to focus on glorifying God or remembering the things He already told us. But whatever the reason, we need remember that sometimes silence is okay.
5. Does this verse bring up any unanswered questions?
God wants us to be confidant in our faith, so when questions pop up (and they will), we need to seek answers.
Occasionally, we will just have to be satisfied saying “I don’t know”. But most of the time we will find an answer if we diligently look.
When searching for an answer we should always start by praying for wisdom (John 16:13).
Next, we need to dig into the Bible.
Unless a specific passage is coming to mind, I usually google lists of Bible verses on that topic (so fancy, right? 😉 ). If I’m still not finding an answer I’ll look up the cross references for those verses.
Another option is to get advice from someone who has a solid grasp on the Bible.
However you choose to find answers, remember that the Bible is our final authority. Any view or answer we accept needs to perfectly align with it.
6. What is my “take-away” for today?
Those other five questions don’t have much practical impact unless we have something to take away from our Bible study.
This part is fairly simple: pick one key theme, verse, or concept that really stuck out to you, and find a way to remind yourself of it throughout the day.
So let’s dig into God’s word with purpose. Let’s lay aside expectations of what time with God should look like. Let’s ask questions that will prompt us to unpack what we read. Let’s be responsive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
And when we do that, we will encounter God’s word in a completely different light.
Suddenly, we won’t constantly struggle with disappointing Bible studies, and disconnected moments with God. Instead, we will feel a personal connection with Him and His word!
Keep it up!