If you clicked on this article because the title either spoke to you or sparked something in your heart, it’s OK! There’s a reason we might feel less than enthusiastic about spending time in God’s Word and it doesn’t have to be a permanent feeling. LaDonna Slade, speaker, coach, and small groups coordinator for 4word: Austin, shares a simple four-step fix to studying the Bible in a way that makes it easy to keep going!
You have a great acronym for planning how to study the Bible. Would you walk through that?
Certainly! The acronym is P.R.E.P. It comes out of the phase, Preparation for Life which is one of the many things the Bible helps us do.
Here are the definitions of the letters:
- Pick Up the Bible
I know this may sound obvious and almost insulting but it’s such an easy step to overlook. We can get so busy with life’s stuff that the simple act of taking the Bible in hand, whether it’s electronic or putting fingers to pages, is a task that requires intentionality.
Now, there is a bit more behind picking up the Bible than just the physical act. It also becomes an act of the heart. We normally don’t pick up the Bible just to browse through it like a fashion magazine. Honestly, unless you are a frequent reader of the Bible and find the events in it interesting, something in your life has literally driven you to read the Bible. Some life event or situation has caused your heart to desire answers and someone told you the answers you are seeking is in the Bible. Otherwise, intentionally picking up the Bible is likely one of the last things on your to-do list. If this is you, don’t beat yourself up about where it falls on your list. At this point, let’s just praise God that it is on the list! You are working on it!
- Read It
I love a great Christian bookstore. Mardel’s is my current favorite. It has so many great Christian education resources and reference books. I’m starting to feel a little giddy just thinking about it. It’s the Bible nerd in me.
The questions I hear most often when it comes to studying the Bible are, ‘Where do I start?’ and ‘How do I find the answers I am seeking?’
- Where do I start? – I recommend starting in the books of Ephesians and the Gospels. Starting with the book of Ephesians will help you understand your identity in Christ. Then head over to the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) to walk alongside Jesus and witness His life first-hand.
- How do I find the answers I am seeking? – You can actually look up answers based on the problem. Let’s say you are looking for answers in a situation related to fear. Look up the Scriptures that have the word ‘fear’ in them or you want to know more about what the Bible says about ‘love,’ then look through the Scriptures for the word, ‘love.’
There is a reference book called a concordance that makes this process very easy. Pick up a copy of the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Again, look up a word and it tells you all the places in the Bible where that word is used. Now, I must warn you, the book looks like a huge dictionary (it comes in an app as well), but don’t get intimidated. Just like the dictionary, you only read the pages or sections you need at the time.
- Equipped for action
You will never read a word in the Bible that does not have some sort of action tied to it. Whether the action is physical or meditative (causes you to think about what you read), it will cause you to do something.
As the acronym above states, it’s preparing you. Studying the Bible equips you with wisdom, knowledge, understanding, insight, ideas and, concepts to walk out the life God has purposed for you.
As you read, ask these questions:
- Do I understand the meaning of that word or phrase I just read?
- Why did it happen that way?
- Is this event or principle found anywhere else in the Bible?
After you read, ask these questions:
- How does this apply to my life?
- How do YOU (God) want this Word to apply to my life?
- Practice what you’ve read
I know when I first discover a life-changing truth or Word in the Bible, I am so fired up to do it. I feel like a football player taking the field after getting all pumped up in the locker room by the coach before the game. I just want to run on to the field screaming, ‘Let’s goooo!’
Then reality kicks in: I am not a football player. Also, the football game only lasts for a few hours. The revelation or understanding I received from the Word was phenomenal but the excitement and drive to continue to use it daily only lasts for a limited period of time. Ugh! I know I am not the only one who’s had this experience.
Have you seen those popular t-shirts with the ‘repeat’ slogans? The slogan lists several action words with the final word being ‘repeat.’ I recently saw one on a workout shirt that caught my eye. It read, ‘Pray, Train, Conquer, Repeat.’ Interestingly, I discovered that in addition to those slogans being clever, the principal of it is biblical. In Joshua 1:8, God says to meditate on the Word day and night. It is a life-giving source to us.
So we must practice, practice, practice! We know that practice is important to develop proficiency in anything. The same holds true for studying the Bible. You’ve got to continually practice what you read, in word and deed.
Should studying the Bible be viewed as a requirement of Christianity or is it more of a desire?
Think of studying the Bible like an automobile and fuel. In order to make the car operational, it requires more than just having the correct working components. It must have an element to ignite and make all of those parts go. It requires fuel.
The same is true when it comes to studying the Bible. It’s a requirement of Christianity; however, if not coupled with desire, you won’t get very far much like the car without fuel. You’ll end up stranded on the side of the road, or in a life situation, frustrated.
One thing that helps to stir-up the zeal in reading the Bible is to make the decision that the Word of God has final authority in our lives. It is the source from which we make every decision. It is our first responder. This decision will stabilize and give us the strength to overcome all the feelings of ‘whether I want to or not.’ It becomes an imperative and not an aperitif. This decision helps us get over ourselves and into that place with God with a little less kicking and screaming.
Instead of solely focusing on the desire to study the Bible, look for the delight in studying it. Delight means to ‘be attracted to.’ I see you raising your eyebrows. I know that term coincides primarily with dating or marriage; however, at its core, the term speaks to relationship building. “Delight yourself also in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4
Is it wrong to feel bored when studying the Bible?
I can almost hear you whispering that question, meaning that the word ‘bored’ can be seen as disrespectful when referring to the Bible. The two just don’t mix. However, with that being said, how else would you describe the less-than-excited feeling you might experience when it comes to studying the Bible? I’m sure there are more diplomatic words to use, however, at the end of the day, it feels like boredom.
I’m reminded of Hebrews 4:12, where it states the characteristics and nature of the Word of God. It says, ‘For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.’ Again, you think, ‘How in the world could I be bored with studying something like that in my life?’
This bored feeling could easily cause panic in your heart and make you question, ‘Oh no, am I getting bored with God?’ Let me tell you, I believe that is the farthest from the truth. It’s not God you are bored with; it’s your relationship with His Word that is giving you a hard time.
Some of us have been reading the Bible since we were children. We know the core scriptures, we’ve read the same ones year after year, in study after study, and now when we hear them, we will unintentionally turn a deaf ear. We say to ourselves, ‘I know that one already,’ which can drown out any revelation that could reignite our hearts for the Word.
Did you know that boredom is a close cousin with familiarity and restlessness? They actually fuel each other. We get bored because we are so familiar and become disenchanted with a thing. This in turn causes restlessness because we are still searching for something to replace that bored feeling. When these feelings come as it relates to the Bible, it must be dealt with or it will give opportunity for doubt and unbelief.
When my reading slows or the temptation to say, ‘I’ve heard that one before or I know that already,’ red flags go up and I know it’s time to get my spirit stirred up again. I know it’s not the Word or God trying to cause restlessness or boredom. It’s me. I still trust God, He never changes. I have to fight to get the fire blazing for the Word in my heart.
I mentioned earlier about changing our relationship with the Word. Let’s walk through what I meant by that. When these feelings try to take hold of us, our defense cannot be Bible study as usual. We have to aggressively seek and depend on the Word to be the discerner of the thoughts and intents of (our) heart. Here is a strategy to use:
- Run to the very thing that appears to be boring you (the Word of God).
- Be intentional.
- Schedule a time and place to get into the Word.
- Pray and repent.
- Seek in the Word. Literally, search for the words ‘stirred up.’
- Pray the Scripture.
The first time I did this, I was led to a passage of Scripture that taught me how to pray to stoke up the fire in my heart for the Word. This was my prayer based on Haggai 1:14:
“Father, forgive me for my slothfulness in my relationship with Your Word. I ask You to stir up the spirit in me to do all that you have called me to do. Take me deeper than I was before, open the eyes of my understand in the knowledge of You. Thank you for your mercy and lovingkindness. In Jesus Name! Amen!”
Is only reading the Bible effective, or should there be other steps in your Bible studying practice?
There are times when reading the Bible, you’ll say, ‘What in the world does that mean?’ It’s okay and important to ask that very question.
There are books and articles that can help provide prospective, insight, and background on certain Biblical stories and events. However, I’m a strong believer in reading the Bible first. Keeping it as the foundation or point of reference to any additional study material is crucial. For example, if I’m reading additional Bible study material, I am always asking the question, ‘How does what I just read lineup with what the Bible says?’ I do this because it helps me anchor that information in the Word, so I don’t drift off onto my own girly-mind course.
There are some wonderful and impacting materials that can make a difference in the ease of studying the Bible. I’d recommend two of my favorites, a good dictionary and a concordance. I talked about the concordance earlier as part of the P.R.E.P. approach to studying the Bible.
What are some tips you have for ensuring you have quality time in God’s Word?
Think of it like eating slices of a delicious cake. You want to savor each slice over time, not rushed. You normally wouldn’t eat an entire cake in one sitting. Well, I can hear someone saying, ‘It depends on the type of day I had.’ I get it!
One key to the quality time with God’s Word check is to be open to what the Word is actually saying about you. We can sometimes read the Bible with extended arms as if it does not apply to us but is solely about someone else and we happen to be reading THEIR story. It’s about you, too!
Quality time in God’s Word is to approach with relationship in mind. Ask questions after reading a passage of Scripture, chapter, or book.
For example, you’ve just read Psalm 23 verse 1 (Psalm 23:1). It says, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Stop right there. Think about what you’ve just read, then start asking questions like:
- Do I understand what I just read?
- Do I understand the Biblical definition of the words I just read? (reference your concordance)
- Why did it happen that way?
- How does this apply to my life?
- Lord, how do You want this to apply to my life?
Here are some additional tips:
- Honor God. Remember who you are getting to know more intimately.
- Be intentional and protective of the time you set aside for just you and God.
- Be present during your time with Him. Avoid any distractions. This can at times include worship music.
- Expect to receive answers, comfort, joy, peace, insights, ideas, concepts and hope.
- Read with the intent to obey.
- Respect yourself. You have set aside this time to be with God and His Word so honor your commitment to yourself.
- Don’t treat this time as if it were forced upon you.
- Spend time with an ‘I want to know You’ attitude and an expectant heart.
Remember to always honor God and respect yourself.
How can you make sure that your definition of “time with God” is correct?
We are always in a ‘time with God;’ we just don’t always recognize it. We tend to be more aware of His presence during our times of Bible study.
This one is hard to apply bullet points to because it is so close to the heart. He loves us so much that I believe He gets so much joy out of the mere fact that we intentionally turn our hearts and time to listen to Him only. He is the Lover of our souls and we’ve decided to love on Him and live our lives for Him. Oh boy, I’m getting a little teary-eyed, right now. Thank you, Jesus!
Okay, I’ve got my Kleenex.
We can enter the time yielded by saying, ‘Here I am. Here is my heart. I trust You. How can I be Your instrument today?’
I’d suggest coming into those times with God expectant and full of faith. Remember you are spending time with the Creator of the Universe and you bear His image. Nothing is impossible for Him and you are His daughter!
You may also find that although this time is consumed with you and Him, it’s not always about you. Actually, most of the time it’s going to be about Him and His desire to bless you by using you to be a blessing to someone else. Don’t worry, He has equipped and gifted you for that specific blessing task. That’s why it’s so important to spend time listening to Him with the intent to obey.
Time with God can be in the form of prayer, meditating on His Word, pondering questions to Him, and worship. What’s wonderful about spending time with God is that it can happen anywhere, like work, during vacation, or shopping. However, the best time with God comes in the quiet times, when we position ourselves to say, ‘You’re the only One my heart beats for!’
LaDonna has over 25 years of management consulting experience in the technology, training and change management industries. She also has experience in the entrepreneurial space, through her business, Velvet Leaf. She is a speaker and a coach. She works with solopreneurs, small businesses and non-profits to organize their businesses to be more productive and profitable.
Over the past two years, LaDonna has been involved in her passion project called, ‘Traction In Heels’. She produces pop-up empowerment events to creatively help women take that next step towards their dreams and goals. (www.tractioninheels.com).
To get more of the 411 on LaDonna checkout: www.411-4women.com.