Studying the Bible can seem daunting. As Christians in today's world, it seems like we're moving more and more away from reading God's word. Our attention spans shorten every year. We currently have the same average attention span as a goldfish. It's a dangerous thing to not have God's word rooted in our hearts. Not for legalistic reasons, but because God's word is a weapon. It's the only truth that can fight the lies of the enemy. It's so important that we find a way to study God's word that works best for our learning style. We also have to develop a discipline to get in God's word daily.
I understand the struggle of finding a way to read the Bible. For myself, I used to struggle because the Bible is so big that I had no clue where to start. I would try the ole flip and point method to see if God would speak to me through whatever I landed on and that got old real quick. I also used to get discouraged if it took longer to find something that "spoke" to me. I was worried that God wasn't speaking to me or that I had broken faith because my bible study wasn't enjoyable and difficult. Everyone learns differently. God also speaks to everyone differently so don't give up or get discouraged. Find what works for you so long as you are still getting in God's word. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you through God's Word to help it come alive to you.
God's Word has so many incredible stories and truths packed into it. Sometimes when I read the Bible, I'm just curious about certain stories and contexts of the scripture. So often scripture gets taken out of context and I want to be sure that I understand it for myself rather than relying on others to tell me. I also like to dive into different books to learn more about each period throughout scripture. Other times, I'm dealing with something in my life and looking for answers. During those times I use my friend Google to narrow down to scriptures around a topic, then I pull out my Bible to dive into those truths. We have so many resources at hand today that make reading the Bible less daunting. Lastly, sometimes I read just to learn more about God's character and my identity. This is incredibly important because we need to know about our Creator and how He created us. Otherwise, the world will tell us who we are instead of the One who made us.
So here are a few ways to study that I would recommend trying out for yourself. These tips may not work for everyone, but they are a few I've tried and switch between to make sure I'm digesting God's truth.:
This is a classic and you may have heard of this through your church. SOAP stands for Scripture, Observation, Application, and Prayer. With this method, you can break down any scripture in a way that you can apply it to your life. It's also important to pray the Word of God because it holds so much power. This works well if you are using a devotional or a one-year Bible reading plan because you can use the scripture given each day to break it down yourself. For this method, just get a journal and write out the scripture you are going to study. Then write down your observations of that scripture (what speaks to you and what stands out to you). Next, you will write down how you can apply it to your life whether it's about identity or strength or something else that stands out. How can this scripture come alive for you where you currently are in life. Finally, write out a prayer and then pray it.
2. Deep Dive
This is when I choose a book of the Bible to study and dive further into the context, history, cross-scriptural references and languages. You don't have to be a bible scholar or pastor to do this. You just need your Bible, a commentary (I use a Life Application Bible or the Blue Letter Bible App), and sometimes a search engine. It's also helpful to know that the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and the New Testament was originally written in Greek. There is a lot of cross-scriptural referencing that happens throughout the Bible. You'll continuously see throughout the Bible where someone is speaking and states a scripture. The greatest example of this is Jesus when He says, "It is written." Most Bibles have notations with a reference at the bottom of the page for where the original scripture is located. I have a journaling Bible and love to make notes in the margins with lines to the scriptures to break down what's happening and the context around it. This can help you learn so much about different themes and stories. You can also learn a lot by picking out words like grace or love or hope and seeing what they mean in Greek or Hebrew. For example love in the New Testament translated into Greek is Agape which holds a deeper meaning than what we normally think of with love.
3. What do I want to know?
I like to ask God the hard questions and one of the biggest ways He speaks to us is through His Word. When I'm dealing with loneliness or my heart is hurting, I search for scripture that will tell me God's truth on the subject. I'll search for scriptures via Google then will get my Bible to dive into those truths. All the answers can be found in God's Word. The reason God's Word is so incredible is that it is alive. That means it's still relevant in today's world. Yes, they didn't have the technology back then, but the principles still hold true. It's important to never take God's word out of context to fit our needs. By studying His Word we learn the best way to do life and we have to trust what God's Word says.
4. Who is God and Who am I?
I learned this way of studying God's word more recently. God's word is filled with His character and filled with our identity. When we begin to doubt or get frustrated in life, it can sometimes relate back to misunderstanding God's character or our own identity. As you read through scripture, intentionally look for God's character. What does the Bible say about who God is? To begin, start in the Psalms. Choose a chapter and read through it slowly. The first time look for words about God's character. Underline those words of God's character and journal about who God is according to the scripture. Next go through the scripture again, this time putting a circle around phrases of what God does for us and write it in your journal. Finally, go through the scripture one last time and highlight any words that speak about who God says you are to Him. Write about this in your journal as well. At the end you should have answered three questions: Who does scripture say God is? What does scripture say God does for His people? Who does scripture say I am? The Psalms are a great starting place for this, but you can find this all throughout scripture. By understanding who God is and your identity in Him, it will begin to strengthen your faith and help you better understand how you hear from God.
I hope these different ways to study the Word will help you fall in love with reading the Bible. If you have other ways that you enjoy reading scripture, please share below in the comments.