Getting the Most Out of the Bible

January 1, 2013

by Jeff Breeding

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So you have decided to seek spiritual vitality in 2013 by reading God’s Word. And you have a reading plan that will work for you. You sit down to read and think, “What do I do now?” Or maybe you even read a couple of chapters but later you can’t remember exactly what you read! I know I have experienced that all too often.

The question then becomes, “How can I get the most out of the Bible?” I want to get God’s Word into my heart and mind so that I am shaped and defined by God’s truth. But how do we do that most effectively? Here are four tips that can help you get the most out of the Bible.

#1 – Read it faithfully

Which situation would be better? To read the Bible for an hour two days a week, or to read the Bible for 10 minutes every day of the week? I think the second option is the better option. When it comes to reading the Scriptures, faithfulness is most important. Read it every day. Listen to it every day. Don’t just grab a little snatch of the Bible every third or fourth day. Live in the Scriptures. Make it a daily priority to read and meditate on God’s Word.

#2 – Read it prayerfully

I am always surprised by how easy it is for me to sit down, start reading the Bible, but never actually pray for God’s help to understand what I read. Prayerlessness is easy; prayerfulness is hard.

When it comes to reading the Scriptures, we need the Holy Spirit’s help. This is part of his job – to illuminate our minds so that we understand what God has written in his word. If you think about it, this only makes sense. The Scriptures were written under the Spirit’s inspiration. If the Spirit inspired the Bible, then the Spirit can help us understand the Bible.

Psalm 119:18 is my favorite verse to pray when I read the Bible – “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Pray that each morning when you read, and stand back to see what God’s Spirit will do.

John Piper preached a wonderful sermon on this very topic. I invite you to listen to it.

#3 – Read it actively

In seminary, I had a professor tell me the reason I didn’t recall more of what I read was because my mind was not engaged in the task. While I was trying to read, I was actually busy thinking about something else. He suggested that I change my reading habits so that my mind was engaged with the words on the page. I followed his suggestions, and it changed my education experience.

I think the same principle applies to reading the Scriptures. Often, we don’t get much out of the Bible because our minds are not engaged in the task of reading it. We’re reading the Scriptures, but we are busy thinking something else – that 10am meeting, or what errands we have to complete before the kids get home from school.

What we need to do, then, is get our brains focused on what we are reading. The best way I have found to get my mind engaged is to read with a pen in hand. Write while I read. Maybe keep a journal, where you can write down your observations from your reading. Maybe begin to ask questions as you read. Why does this happen? What does that mean? How does this paragraph relate to the one before it? Whatever you do, find a way to get your mind engaged in what you are reading. Over time, you will find that you remember more of what you read.

#4 – Read it together with others

The Christian life was never meant to be lived alone. We need other believers. We know this is true in many areas of the Christian life, like discipleship or small groups. But have you ever thought about including others in your Bible reading? Why not ask a friend, spouse, or co-worker to follow the same Bible reading plan? Then, regularly get together to discuss what you have been reading. You’ll be surprised by how much insight you gain from others. There may be a chapter or book that you are struggling to understand, but your friend or spouse can offer great insight.

We want to get the most out of God’s Word in 2013. Why? Because we want our lives to be shaped and defined by God’s truth. I pray that these tips will help you achieve that goal this year, to the glory of God.

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