Spiritual growth is impossible without God’s word (1 Pet. 2:2). The bible tells us to study (2 Tim. 2:15) and meditate (Ps. 1) on God’s Word on a regular basis. David said, “Your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Ps. 119:11). Because bible study is so important, it is also important that we know how to study effectively. Here are some suggestions that may help your personal bible study in the year(s) to come.
Utilize a bible-reading plan. It is true that there is a difference between reading and studying but it is also true that the two depend greatly upon one another. The benefits of reading the bible are many and Christians should dedicate time to read God’s revealed will daily (c.f. Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; John 20:31;
Ps. 119:97-104). There are a number of systematic bible-reading plans available. Some take you through the Bible chronologically and others topically. Consider contacting WVBS to ask about their yearly bible-reading plan or accessing one through the bible app on your smartphone.
Be convinced of the need to study. It is possible for us to spend time in God’s Word that is completely fruitless. If our heart is not in it then it will be completely unprofitable. We must be convinced and convicted that studying God’s Word is vital to spiritual success; otherwise, we will never devote ourselves to it as we should. We must remember what God told Israel in Deuteronomy 6:6-15. We must be like Ezra, who “prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10).
Make it a daily habit. Those in Berea were nobler than those in Thessalonica because they “received the word with all readiness, and searched the scriptures daily, to find out whether these things were so”
(Acts 17:11). In order to truly be a diligent Bible student, we must invest ourselves in studying it every day. Designate a time during your day to open the scripture to read and meditate. Turn off the TV, silence your cell phone, and concentrate on God’s Word. Make it a non-negotiable priority. One who is truly blessed is one who “meditates on God’s word both day and night” (Ps. 1).
Memorize scripture. The only way to truly hide God’s word in our hearts is to memorize it. Admittedly, memorization is easier for some than others, but everyone can do it. Start by memorizing one passage per day. Write it down on a piece of paper or an index card and take it with you wherever you go throughout the day. Read it routinely and recite it aloud. There are a number of different methods and even websites and phone apps that will help with this process. Remember, the key to memorization is repetition.
Emphasize meditation. Bible meditation is defined beautifully in Psalm 1. There are two parts. First, chew on the passage. Memorize it, read it, and think about it over and over again. Ask questions about the passage, look up the definition of words, and see how it fits in context. Second, actively look for ways to make an application. For example, if you’re studying a passage about the proper use of the tongue, look for opportunities during the day to use your tongue for good, like expressing thanks to someone or offering a word of encouragement. The key to proper meditation is answering two questions: “What does it mean?” and “How do I apply it?”
Study topically. Choose a topic like love, joy, or peace. Get out a pen and a notepad, then open up the bible and look for passages that deal with that topic. Write the passages down and categorize them. Once you have finished that step, organize your notes to see the full picture of how the bible discusses the topic. Then commence meditation.
Study textually. Choose a text. It can be a small section, like a parable, or an entire chapter, or a book. Read it several times (preferably aloud). Look for keywords and phrases. Look for passages to memorize. Look for transition words like “therefore,” and petition verbs like “urge” and “beg.” Ask questions about the text. What is the historical background? What is the main idea of the text? What is the main point being emphasized?
Add variety. Consider devoting each month to a new study. Chose topics, themes, or books to work through. Utilize sound brotherhood study resources like The Christian Courier, WVBS, The Gospel Journal, Sain Publications, Plain Simple Faith, Seek the Old Paths, and others to help you along the way. Keep study notes and refer back to them throughout the year. You may be surprised to see how much your bible knowledge can grow.
The New Year is now upon us, which means new goals, plans, and ambitions. But, the most important thing to consider this year, and every year, is spiritual growth. Therefore, these suggestions are offered humbly in hope that they will help each of us to be the people God would have us to be.