There are many different ways to go about spending time in the Word: Some seasons of life we are able to spend an extended period of time digging into a passage, using word studies and commentaries. During other seasons, we may barely even be able to squeeze in five minutes before being interrupted by a fussy child or a diaper blowout.
I’d like to share a few approaches to being in the Word that have helped me to be intentional with the time I spend in the Word, whether it be for an hour or for just a few minutes.
I. Ask the questions “What do I learn about________ from this passage?”
Here are two questions to help guide your thoughts as you read the Word:
Question #1: What do I learn about God in this passage?
Because Scripture is God’s divine revelation of Himself to mankind, no matter what passage we read, there is something we can learn about God and His character. So before you even start reading, mentally ask yourself or write in your journal:
“What do I learn about God in this passage?”
(To keep it simple, I usually just write About God.)
Your answer to this question could be something that God declares to be true about Himself in the passage.
For example, in Psalms 118:29 it says “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!”
This verse clearly states that He is good and “His steadfast love endures forever.”
Or it could be more like a conclusion.
Take, for instance, Ephesians 3:20-21 when it tells us, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
We can learn from these verses that His plan is infinitely greater and more incredible than anything we could ever imagine.
The beauty of this exercise is it’s simplicity: Look for just one thing.
There is no pressure to write out a summary paragraph or draft an outline of the entire passage you just read or do more research somewhere else. Rather, simply focus on the verses you are reading and seek to single out just one thing you learn about God, His character, His ways, or His plan.
And if you don’t find something the first time you read the passage, go back and read it again, and again, until you do learn something.
Because if God’s Word is for us, and His Word is about Himself, then His Word will reveal Him to us. Yes, He wants us to know Him!
What a marvelous and humbling thought!
Once you have singled out one observation—not two, not five—just one observation about what you learn about God, write it down.
Writing it down will help solidify that one point about God in your heart and mind.
Question #2: What do I learn about myself in this passage?
After asking what you learn about God in the passage, ask yourself,
“What do I learn about myself in this passage?”
(Or I just write About Me.)
In other words, what does the passage have to say about a believer? Or about man’s state before God? Is there a command He has given for me to obey? Is there a response I should have toward God? Is there a sin I need to repent of?
As with question #1, these observations can be simple and straightforward.
For example, if you were to study Philippians 2:1-10, when it says “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (verse 3), one answer to the question What do I learn about myself? could be “I am to count others as more significant than myself.”
Your observation could also be a form of a personal response to a statement about God, as in Psalm 69:13, where it says “But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.”
When I read this verse not too long ago, I jotted down the thought that “I need to remember that God answers in His timing and according to His character, not in my timing or according to my desires.”
The answer to this second guiding question often helps move beyond the observation and interpretation steps of Bible study to the application step of “How does this affect my life?”
Incorporating these two questions into my time in the Word has been immensely rewarding!
A comparatively more complicated, yet still quite straightforward approach to Bible study, I came across Phrasing a few years ago. It is helpful in breaking down a passage and digging into it without getting overwhelmed with all the details.
This approach is most beneficial when working with a short passage or even just a few verses. (However, if you are ambitious, you can always do this with a larger portion of Scripture as well!) Phrasing is also helpful if you’re trying to understand tricky wording in a particular verse.
You could call Phrasing a form of “diagramming for Bible Study” (but don’t let that scare you!)
When you phrase a verse, just subordinate (indent) each phrase underneath the word that it is referring to.
So for example, take 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14:
Can you see how breaking the verses down into phrases helps to clarify God’s purpose in calling us to salvation? In phrasing these verses, it becomes clear that “…to this he called you…so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Phrasing approach helps us think through how a sentence is structured (without the complicated technicalities of diagramming) and helps clarify what the verse is saying.
III. Repeated Readings in One Sitting
This is exactly what it sounds like: just read a particular passage over and over again. The more times you read it, the better!
To start, choose a large portion of verses, a few chapters, or even a short book of the Bible. Simply read the same chunk of Scripture every day for several weeks, a month, or longer!
To become familiar with the passage. So read and re-read and re-read the passage.
It is surprising how simply reading a Scripture passage over and over again helps you become more familiar with the passage, and in turn, have a better understanding of it!
I hope this quick overview of some more Bible study approaches, as well as Rachel’s post last week on three ways that have been helpful to her, has given you fresh motivation and encouragement to be focused and intentional with the time you spend in the Word this year, even if it is only for a few minutes at a time!
(All verses are quoted from the ESV)