One of the questions that I'm blessed to receive more often than others is: "How do you study the Bible?"
Nine times out of ten, the people asking know much more about Scripture than I do. The question that they are really asking is what techniques I use when studying Scripture.
I cannot tell you how many times I have asked others that very same question. When I sit under a teacher's excellent Bible exegesis and learn nuances within the text that I have never seen before, I love to ask about that teacher's study methodology. Yes, the Holy Spirit is the one who brings forth what we need to hear exactly when we need to hear it, but how those truths are taught makes a difference.
I have tried numerous Bible study methods, but the most basic, invaluable tool (following prayer) is simply this: Read the text in its entirety and read it repeatedly.
Let's say you're studying the book of Philippians. There are four chapters and a little over 1,600 words in the entire book. The average person can read approximately 300 words per minute. That means you can easily read through the entire epistle in five to six minutes.
So, why is that important?
Reading the text in its entirety and reading it repeatedly provides a "helicopter" ride over the book to get a sense of its landscape. Then, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we begin to hike through the peaks and valleys in the book, discerning the overarching theme, the main character(s), and the setting.
Once we grasp those basics, then we can pause to examine every word and phrase, the culture, and the book's author, among other things. What I find consistently is that when I have invested time grasping the landscape, digging deeper impacts my faith walk more powerfully.
For instance, when we dig deep into the background of the book of Philippians, we learn that it's also known as the "Book of Joy." Researching even further reveals that the Apostle Paul (who authored Philippians) was in prison when he wrote this epistle. And our natural question is: "How can a person write a book of joy whilst imprisoned?" Paul provides the answer in the book's last chapter:
"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:11-13
That's where God uses the life application of Paul's words to hits us squarely between our spiritual eyes: If God allowed Paul to experience joy and contentment in such desperate circumstances, God can and will do the same in mine.
Another helpful tool is to read the text ALOUD. Yes, that may feel strange at first. But remember the culture into which this book was given? People did not have paper and pens handy. The Old Testament scrolls and letters such as Paul's were read ALOUD to the people gathered. When we read the text aloud, we can hear the story that it conveys.
Though there are many wonderful techniques in studying God's Word, this one basic skill cannot be neglected: Read the book in its entirety and read it repeatedly.
Try it! I'd love to hear how God uses it in your study time.
What are some of your go-to Bible study skills that you can share with us?