Getting the most out of reading the living book
God gave the Bible for ordinary people, and when you read the text and apply it to your life, God will guide, enrich, and challenge you to fulfill His purpose. The following suggestions will help you get more out of your Bible reading.
Guideline 1: Read with understanding.
Simply put, pay attention to what you are reading. If you are losing the battle of concentration, then do what I have done on occasion—read the Book out loud. Notice geographic locations and historical references. Read as much as you can digest, whether it is a few paragraphs or a few chapters, but no more than you can soak up.
Guideline 2: Read with an awareness of other passages of Scripture.
That’s also where the context comes into the picture. Ask yourself, “Who wrote this?” and “To whom is it directed?” Important? Yes, just as much as the letter that comes to your residence or the e-mail to the inbox of your computer. Some promises are made to specific individuals. Others are generic; they have your name on them.
Guideline 3: Read with intelligence.
Read the Book as you would any other book; at the same time, read the Book as you would read no other book. Ask three questions of what you read:
What does it say? Rephrase the text in your own words.
What does it mean? A rule of thumb is that it means what it says. Remember, God didn’t give the text to confuse you, but to enlighten you.
How can I apply this to my personal life?
Guideline 4: Read with faith.
Expect God to speak to you through His Word. Paul told the Romans, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). In China I have listened to stories of remarkable answers to the prayers of very simple individuals. Lacking medicines, scientific technology, and sophistication, these men and women, who have never seen a seminary, read what God says in His Word, believe it, and ask Him to do what He says He will do. God honors their simple faith in ways that I seldom see in the West. Remember how John wrote, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14–15, NIV).
Guideline 5: Read with consistency.
To the extent that you can, make the reading of Scripture a daily part of your life, whether it is first thing in the morning or the last thing at night. Some people read through the Bible every year. Reading only three chapters every day, which takes the average person about 15 minutes, will allow you to read through the Bible in slightly less than 12 months. However, I am more interested in digging through the text until I sense God has touched my heart, rather than just plowing through so many pages or chapters each day. A good rule of thumb is to stay there until God speaks to your heart through the Word—whether it is in the first 10 verses or several chapters. Then go do what God has for you to do. But more than that, be what He wants you to be—just for today!
Guideline 6: Read with a pen and notebook or journal within your grasp.
While the Bible is considered a holy book, it is also nourishment for your soul, and I’ve learned as a serious student of the Bible for over 60 years that I get the most out of Bible study by underlining or highlighting passages that speak to my heart. I also keep together with my Bible a journal, where I make notes to myself regarding thoughts that the Holy Spirit brings to my mind or items that I pray about. Human nature tends to focus on what we need or want instead of what God has done. It’s good to keep a record of how God answered prayers His way, in His time, and according to His will.