Inside: One common mistake when it comes to studying the Bible is not knowing what to focus on. Here’s how to overcome that.
There’s a difference between reading your Bible and studying your Bible. They are both equally as important. But they are not the same.
I hear from ladies that are having a hard time with their Bible study or reading their Bible, usually, it’s because they’re trying to do both at the same time. If you’re just reading your Bible, then it’s probably not the time to study your Bible. And if you’re studying your Bible, you don’t want to just read it.
So what do you do when you’re studying your Bible? How do you know if you’re reading the right thing? How do you know what’s important and what needs to be written down?
The Key to Studying Well
When I was in high school, I was in a very strong, stringent academic program where I was basically doing college-level work from freshman year all the way through.
During our freshman year we took a class, and while I can’t remember the name of it, the whole point of the class was to teach us how to study.
We learned note-taking skills. We learned how to read a textbook and take notes. We learned how to listen to a lecture and take notes. We learned how to organize our notes and how to put together notebooks for our different classes.
The big thing that they really focused on, because most of the learning in high school was through textbooks, was how to read your textbook to be able to pull out the important information so that you could study it.
Step #1: Open up the section you’re supposed to be reading and skim it
Read all the bold headlines, look at all the bold words, look for definitions of the bold words, read any captions. Flip to the back where the questions are and look through them.
The reason for doing that was to have an idea of what that particular section was about. Reading all the headings and bold words, along with any captions and definitions gave us a broad understanding of what that chapter was about.
Step #2: Go back to the beginning and actually read through one time
Once you have a basic idea of what the section is about, it’s time to read it through carefully. You know what to look for after skimming it.
The key here is to just focus on reading the material. You are not taking any notes or highlighting things you want to remember. Just read, no studying!
Step #3: Take Notes
Go back through the same section this time and highlight the important parts. Take notes in the margin or on a piece of paper. And see if you can answer the questions you skimmed in the first step.
Applying the Method to Studying your Bible
Those same principles apply to your Bible study and your Bible reading.
Skimming helps introduce you to what you are about to read. The first full read through gives you a basic understanding so that by the third read those important parts jump out at you.
You can read the entire Bible from cover to cover and you’re not going to go deep because you’re not taking the time to study and go into all the meanings and all the words and all the events. But you will have a wide and basic understanding of what the Bible is about.
That’s like skimming the chapter before you read it.
When you get ready to study, you’re not going to study from Genesis to Revelation in one sitting. That’s too much. You’re going to take smaller sections, like maybe one book of the Bible or maybe just one chapter, and you’re going to really go deep when you’re studying.
The inductive Bible study method does a great job of breaking the Bible down like this.
What to Focus on When Studying your Bible?
How do you know what’s important, what to highlight, what to write down, and what to focus on?
That depends on what the Holy Spirit prompts for you. You’ve got to have a purpose.
- Why are you reading?
- Why are you studying?
- Do you want to learn more about something you’re going through?
- Do you just want to have more knowledge about something like what it means to have more peace?
- Are you trying to understand more about an event like the Passover or something like that?
That’s going to help frame what jumps out and is important for you to mark down as you study.
What Jumps Out at You?
When you’re taking the time to read through a passage of Scripture, certain things will jump out at you, depending on what you need.
If you’re going through a financially hard time and you’re reading the Scriptures, then the stories of God providing for His people are what’s going to jump out at you. If you are struggling with fear, then those kinds of things are going to jump out at you.
There’s really no way to determine that ahead of time. You just have to read and see where God leads you. A great way to be able to focus and know what’s going to be important is just to pray and ask God before you even start studying.
Letting God Lead
“Lord, I am reading through the Psalms because it’s what I feel like You are calling me to do.” Or, “I’m not familiar with this book of the Bible, so I’m going to spend my time digging deep into the book of Psalms. What is it that You have for me, that You want me to learn, that you want to reveal to me, while I’m reading or studying this book?”
Just ask Him!
You might not get an answer immediately, but as you continue to read and you notice certain things that are like, “Oh, that fits. Oh, that’s interesting.” Maybe there are points of conviction, where you read something like, “A soft answer turns away wrath”.
And you know you really need to work on that, so you keep reading and even more things about anger or words begin to jump out at you. You know what to focus on then.
Reading for Overall Understanding
When I decided to read through the Bible in 6 months last year, I had to force myself not to highlight and mark and dig deep and ask questions. My purpose was not to dig deep and understand the deep level things about the Bible.
My purpose was to read the whole book, from Genesis to Revelation. I wanted to see the big picture. I wanted to understand how it all connected because I had never done that before. So when you’re reading, even if you’re just reading a small passage as you begin your quiet time, try to focus yourself so that you’re not getting distracted by all the things you want to go really deep on.
Just be there. Just read it. Just read it.
Just read it like you’re reading your newspaper or your favorite book. Just read to have an understanding of what that passage or word of Scripture is about.
Studying your Bible doesn’t have to be difficult!
Bible study and prayer are not meant to be difficult. It’s actually very simple. It’s easy. But we have built it up in our minds into this big mountain that we can’t climb.
That’s a trick from the enemy. He doesn’t want us reading the Bible because that’s how we learn how to find victory in every area of life. He doesn’t want that.
Don’t be intimidated. It’s God’s Word. It’s there for you!