Before thinking about study plans or anything like that, let’s talk about the mindset that we have coming into reading God’s word. Do you expect to talk to God about what you’re reading, or do you just read what’s on the page and move on? Do you expect to find treasures that will help and support you through the day, or is it just a task to get through? Expecting to get value from reading the Bible will make a huge difference in what you take out of it.
The most important part of our approach should involve talking to God about what we’re reading. If we don’t feel like we can be open with Him about it, it can stifle our ability to learn from the passage or hear what He’s teaching us. It might be easy to talk to Him about passages we like or our favorite verses. But, what about passages we don’t like? What about passages we don’t understand? Are we just as likely to go to Him and talk to him about those?
One temptation that many of us fall into is the idea that we have to either understand or love every passage that we read. There are passages that I read that I don’t love. There are stories that I wonder about and struggle through. I don’t feel bad about that; I acknowledge it to God and we talk about it. Just because I don’t understand it or like it doesn’t change that it’s scripture and that it’s good for instruction (2 Timothy 3:16).
If there’s something I struggle with, I talk to God about it. In some cases, He’s opened my understanding to see what amazing truths there are to apply to my life. Other times, I leave it with a prayer for understanding and trust that His plan for His word is beyond me and good for all of humankind. That’s OK, too.
Worse than pretending we understand or that we like a passage is our tendency to ignore what we don’t understand. We quote what we know and stand behind what we understand and we don’t try to include anything other than that. All of God’s word is valuable for us. Yes, all of it. Maybe not in the same way, but we can’t ignore what we don’t understand. Trying to work through difficult passages is important to deepening our relationship with the Lord, no matter how difficult it can feel at times.
Reading the scriptures for ourselves is vital. It is so easy to fall into the habit of letting someone else do the work of digging into the scriptures and telling us how it is. There are many amazing teachers and preachers who are very good at this and bring amazing insight into God’s word. We need to be able to have a handle on what the Bible teaches for ourselves. The more you lean on someone else’s insight, the more of a copy of them you become. That may be a good thing in that they are a good starting point, but we are trying to be made into the image of God, not the image of your favorite Bible teacher.
Keep the power of the Word of God close by, doing your own reading of it. Talk to God about it and find your own understanding. Then, the insights brought by others’ teaching will confirm, support and build up the understanding God is working in your heart.