My wife, Grace, and I met when we were 17 years old in 1988. We married at the age of 21 in 1992. We are best friends, love one another, do life together, do ministry together, and raise five kids together. Nonetheless, even the best relationships hit rough patches and dry spells where it feels like the routine of life has overtaken the life-giving relationship.
The same thing that is true of our human relationships is also true of our relationship with God. Even our Bible study time to hear from God, learn about God, and grow in relationship with God can turn into just another thing we do that isn’t really changing who we are. It’s not that routine is bad, but that routine can become bad when it is not deepening the relationship.
A man named Habakkuk serves as a great example of how to maintain a life-giving habit of Bible reading. He was by all accounts a mature believer who knew the Bible. When a crisis hit his life, he needed a word from God, so he opened up the Word of God. There, he did a deep-dive Bible study in the book Exodus to see how God can rescue His people from a crisis. He pens his own summary of his findings in Habakkuk 3:2–16, which is essentially a page from his personal Bible study journal.
How can you improve your Bible study? How can you get out of the rut of a routine and into a real relationship? Entire books have been written on this subject, but the following suggestions might be a simple and helpful place to begin.
Three Keys to Better Bible Study
- Decide between a book study or a burden study.
A book study means choosing a book of the Bible—or section of a book of the Bible—and spending weeks or months reading it, studying it, memorizing portions of it, and becoming so familiar with it that it becomes a helpful friend. A burden study is when something in your life becomes a burden and God the Holy Spirit presses you to study it in great depth. So, you trace that theme through the Bible seeking to get God’s wisdom for your burden. Examples would include: healing from a broken heart, being a good friend, or reigning in your tongue.
- Don’t keep plowing the same field over and over.
Sometimes we enjoy a specific genre of literature in the Bible, author, or section of Scripture so much that we don’t much venture out from that place. When that happens, we can become like someone who eats their favorite food for every meal rather than eating a balanced diet of various nutrients. We constantly need to go to new places in Scripture to get new nourishment from God for our soul.
- It’s less about how much you read and more about how much you retain.
Think of a lifetime of Bible study as a cross-country road trip adventure. The goal should not be to drive as fast as you possibly can. Instead, slow down, pull over, see sights, explore some back roads, get out and take some hikes, and appreciate all that is available. Similarly, just reading the Bible as fast as you can may not be the most helpful if you do not retain what you are reading. For this reason, it is often good to focus more on how much you are retaining than on how much you are reading.
Is any one of these three areas one where you could make improvements? What would those improvements look like?