May 26, 2017

Beginning Personal Bible Study

Linda Hull

“Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart” (Psalm 119:34).

I have learned that the most important aspect of Bible study is to get started! Too often we believers get bogged down in our efforts to read our Bibles by worrying about the superfluous. Fretting about which translation to use, which book to read, how many verses, and even what time of day to read all become hindrances to what should be a rewarding experience.

Personal Testimony

Years ago, as a new believer, I began a serious study of God’s Word. I found that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t understand it. In total frustration, I cried out to my Lord, begging Him to teach me. With a feeling of hopelessness, I laid my King James Bible aside, certain that it was just too hard to grasp.The next day, I mulled over the fact that I had read many books in my life without any trouble. I wondered why I couldn’t just sit down with my Bible and do the same thing. The idea took root, and I resolved to read my Bible cover to cover, just as I would any other book.

As I began, I realized that it wasn’t as hard to understand as I had first thought. Or was it that my Lord had opened my eyes? All I knew was that suddenly the truths of God’s Word were beginning to make sense. In fact, I was soon finding so many important truths that I was afraid they would get lost in that large volume and that I wouldn’t be able to find them again.

On my next trip to the store, I bought a highlighter pen. As I read, I highlighted specific verses. I was amazed at how frequently passages applied to my own life. In time, my Bible became quite colorful. Everything seemed important enough to warrant that yellow highlighter! My original plan was that if I had to thumb through my Bible trying to find a specific verse, the yellow ink would catch my eye and enable me to find quickly the verses that had reached my heart. Now I had the problem of too much yellow highlighting! Yet, the more I studied, the more familiar I became with each book. With delight, I discovered the Bible stories I had heard as a child. Now they were in context, and I understood better how they all fit together to reveal the nature of my Lord.

How to Get Started

Establishing a new habit is difficult. Distractions and disruptions can soon pull us away from our appointed task. When it comes to Bible study, we need to remember that Satan doesn’t want us to learn the truths of God’s Word. Therefore we ought to expect obstacles in accomplishing our daily Bible reading goal. Realizing that I need the power of the Holy Spirit to help me understand and apply the truths of God’s Word to my life, I like to begin my study time with prayer. In addition, prayer serves to clear my mind and heart so I can concentrate better.

When time allows, I enjoy reading five chapters in Psalms, one chapter in Proverbs, and two chapters each in the Old and New Testaments on a daily basis. Consistently following this procedure, I learned that it’s possible to read the books of Proverbs and Psalms monthly, the New Testament in less than a year, and the Old Testament in about a year. By reading Proverbs and Psalms repeatedly, I found that I had begun to memorize bits and pieces of Scriptures without even trying. I had secretly envied believers who could rattle off verses at whim. Now I found that I could too, but only if I kept on reading the Word! Hiding God’s Word in my heart gives me a source of strength and inspiration to draw upon in times of need.

I also learned that it’s best to select a quiet time when I’m at my freshest and most alert. For many people, this is first thing in the morning. The most important item on our daily schedule should be our quiet time with Scripture. Entering it into our daily planners establishes it as a priority and ensures a slot in our busy schedules. If you find that you can’t meet your Bible reading goal, make adjustments. Be flexible. But make it a quality time of fellowship with our Lord. Don’t hurry. The main point is to read your Bible and spend time in prayer on a daily basis.

Often, a particular need in my life guides my Bible study. I use the Scriptures as a sieve through which I sift all the advice and counsel of this world. God’s Word has become my foundation, and my life is based on its truths. It’s now natural for me to seek God’s wisdom when searching for solutions to problems. However, a word of caution is in order: the Bible is not a fortune-telling device. Verses must be understood and applied in context.

Helpful Tools

I have read several different translations; however, I have come to prefer the King James Bible, originally published in 1611. In comparing the various translations, I discovered some discrepancies in newer translations that do alter the meaning. In addition, research seems to indicate that the KJV Bible is actually self-explanatory and is at about a sixthgrade reading level. Many words that seem difficult individually are easily understood in the context of a passage.

As a teen, I was given a King James Bible with proper names broken down into their syllables with stress marks and vowel sounds. This is an invaluable aid to pronunciation. Recently, while I was teaching my Sunday school class of eighth graders, they asked how I knew how to pronounce these strange, foreign names. I was delighted to show them my “self-pronouncing” Bible!

My Bible also includes a brief dictionary, which defines and clarifies unfamiliar terms, and it provides a listing of verses where those words are found. While the language of the King James Version seems archaic today, before long I came to love its richness.

As I study the Bible, I rely on Strong’s Concordance to locate verses and to clarify word meanings in their original language. Strong’s lists each English word and the Scripture verses containing that word. After each Scriptural reference is a number indicating the corresponding Hebrew or Greek word, which can be found in their respective dictionaries, also included in Strong’s.

Closing Thoughts

Many people find commentaries helpful. However, I have not always relied on the thinking of others, because so many people are swayed by new thoughts or trends that come along. My preference is to read the Scripture first, and then to seek answers to my questions with sources that I know are grounded in the truths of the Word. Doctrinal and ideological differences can color a commentator’s perspective and interpretation of Scripture, so it is necessary to choose study aids carefully. As 2 Timothy 2:16, 17a advises, “But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker.”

I’m thankful that the Holy Spirit brings understanding to the seeking heart. My goal of reading the Bible cover to cover was reached long ago. There is great satisfaction in having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and in coming to an understanding of why that is possible. Before I began reading my Bible, I had little knowledge of spiritual truths. Consequently, I was unable to share my faith about Jesus. Just as bad, I had little appreciation for how much I was blessed because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

One of the prerequisites to Bible study is a seeking heart. Our Lord is ready to reveal truth to those who will hear. However, knowledge brings with it a responsibility— one of obedience. When God reveals Himself, we must make a choice to follow or reject Him. I encourage anyone who wants to begin a personal study of the Bible to begin in the book of John in order to learn of Jesus. Start your journey to understanding God’s Word today!

“And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Luke 11:9, 10).


Linda Hull is a freelance writer living in Walden, New York.

(Originally published in FrontLine • May/June 2004. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)


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