Can you relate? At last the kids are occupied or gone, your husband is off to work and you are alone. You sit down to do your Bible Study. You open your Bible and your brain goes into overdrive recalling everything you need to do for today, this week, next week, even the next six months.
I have great news. While is seems like you are the only one, you aren’t. I think this is a great way for Satan to attack and distract us from spending quality time alone with the Lord. Below, you will find action steps you can take to help set you up for success.
Bible Study Strategy #1 – Pray for clear thought and focus
Think about it, if clear thought and focus are honestly areas you struggle with, have you taken your troubles to the Lord? While it is so easy to pray about problems for other people or big heavy stuff, we often don’t ask the Lord to bless your devotional time with Him? Try asking Him for clear thought and focus. I promise, He is anxiously awaiting time with you. He also wants to help you get the most out of your time with him.
Do you remember that first time you left your baby? Maybe it was the first day of daycare, or an overnight trip. How about a whole week away? How much did you miss the time spent with your baby and couldn’t wait to pick them up? God is no different with His children. He is that anxious, expecting parent that just wants to spend time with His children.
So pray. He will gladly answer that prayer.
Bible Study Strategy #2 – Read the whole text to get the feel of the passage and clear context
When you read, it is critical to start reading the whole passage you have selected. This will give you a feel for the text and also give context which is so important. Picking and choosing verses out of a passage without reading it in context is a fast track to misinterpretation and misunderstanding.
Take Jeremiah 29:11 for example. An awesome verse that we have all heard many times over for encouragement: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” Did you know that this passage was actually talking to the Israelites that had been in exile? God wasn’t talking to one person specifically. He was talking to the nation, to give them hope. Do you see how picking one verse out of context results in us misinterpreting the intent of the verse?
How about Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”? This verse is used over and over to encourage people to reach new heights and challenge themselves. Um, no, Paul was writing to the church in Philippi while he was in prison. He was discussing the times he has had great need and plenty, when he was well fed or hungry and living in plenty or want. His great revelation to the readers of this passage was that he was able to do all of this, no matter the circumstances, with Christ, who was the source of his strength.
Do you see how easy it is to misinterpret the context without reading and understanding the whole passage? Can you also see how dangerous that might be? Many false religions and beliefs have come from context problems.
Bible Study Strategy #3 – Take notes on key phrases, verse, or words
I feel this is important to talk about next. While we shouldn’t take verses out of context, there are verses that are going to speak to us when we read the Bible. Now that you have read a passage and understand the context, it is easier to see how a verse may jump out at you in a way it never had before, or maybe a phrase or word that comes up again and again.
Anything that jumps out at you, write it down. Write your thoughts about it and why it impacted you. Since the Bible is God’s Living Word, a verse may not speak to you the same every time you read it. I remember reading through James when struggling as a single mom trying to do life right. That whole first chapter took on a totally new meaning for me at that time. Verse 12 was my mantra. “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” As a single parent going through a divorce, this verse helped me remember to stay strong and trust God.
The best part of note taking and journaling is being able to go back and read where you were in times of trial and struggle. Looking back, it’s so easy to see where God’s grace entered and how He has carried you through those situations.
Bible Study Strategy #4 – Reread the text and see how it can apply to your circumstances
Not everyone one is a single mom going through a divorce or in over your head due to life circumstances. If you are one of those people, you will not stay there forever, I promise. So while you are reading, verses may not jump off the page at you. You may end up reading a whole passage and feel you have not gotten anything out of what you just read. Just know, not every passage of scripture will speak straight to your heart like an arrow. Trust me, the book of Numbers is coming to mind right now. However, if you read a passage and see any part of it could apply to your current circumstances, you might be surprised what the Lord reveals to you.
Bible Study Strategy #5 – Read the Bible Regularly
This! This is the most important part of everything we have talked about today. Just like exercise, Bible reading is a discipline . You get better, more focused, more energized the more you practice and use your body. Reading and studying the Bible is no different. I remember when I was a teen and 5 minutes of Bible reading seemed like an eternity, but the longer I study God’s Word, the more I want to study and the longer I want to study. To borrow Nike’s phrase, “Just do it!”
Becoming a more focused student of the Bible isn’t impossible. However, it does take effort on your part. God will meet you wherever you are in your walk, you just have to take the first step. With these tips my prayer is that you find your time in the Bible more productive and fulfilling than you ever thought possible.
You can learn more about studying your Bible and finding a plan that fits in my post “I Am Ready to Read My Bible – Now What?”