The Bible is an awesome book but actually reading it can be quite challenging. Some of the obstacles are the differences between the stories told in the Gospels, or perhaps the teaching in Romans and Galatians can be hard to comprehend, and Revelation too many is just one big mystery.
That’s ok. Men and women have been studying God’s word for thousands of years and still have not plumbed the depths of its knowledge. On the other hand, there are parts of the Bible that are very simple to understand and the struggle is not understanding it, but obeying it.
What options do you have when you have questions about what you are reading in the Bible? Here are six strategies that will make reading your Bible easier.
- Pray before you read the Bible. As a Christ follower you have been the gift of the Holy Spirit and another name for the Holy Spirit is counselor. Right before you read the Bible simply pray that the Holy Spirit will guide your thoughts and understanding of the passage you are going to read. You never read the Bible alone.
- Use a good study Bible. I personally like the NIV Study Bible because it gives a solid introduction to each book. Plus, the verse by verse commentary does a good job of explaining the history and culture pertaining to the passage.
- Evaluate the context. If you don’t read the Bible in context you can get some off the wall theology and thoughts about God and life. How do you get the proper context? Simply ask the basic questions. Who is speaking? Who is listening? Who wrote this passage? What kind of people was this written too? When was it written or said? How did he or she say it? By the way, a good study Bible will answer most of these kinds of questions.
- Write down the overall intention. I have found it helpful to write down in a full sentence what I am supposed to learn, know, or do from what I read. Sometimes we can get so caught up in our questions about the Bible that we forget the overall message that is there in plain sight. We may not understand everything in the Bible perfectly, but you can understand it sufficiently. For example, we can get caught up in the difference of details in the story of Jesus walking on water and miss the lesson of faith the author intended. That’s why I always write down the commanders intent.
- Understand the genre’ of what you are reading. The Bible is not a book. It is a collection of several different kinds of books. Some books are history books, others are eyewitness accounts, still others are prose. Again, a good study Bible will tell you what kind of book you are reading.
- Pray after you read the Bible. When you close the book give thanks to God for his word. It is his gift to you! He didn’t write it for himself! Also, pray that God will hide his word in your heart so that later He can bring back into your mind and spirit.
And as with any other discipline, the more you read the Bible the easier it gets.