I grew up in a household that placed a high value on knowing and studying the Bible. It wasn’t so much in what my parents said as in what they did to show us their priorities. Throughout my childhood I watched my parents devote themselves to participating in weekly Bible studies that required a fair amount of homework. I can remember coming home from school to find my mom at the kitchen table with her papers spread all over as she pored over her enormous “parallel” Bible (four translations in one book). Any time I stayed home sick, I couldn’t watch TV until my mom had finished listening to her favorite Bible teachers on the radio. This was a daily activity for her as she worked in the kitchen or did housework while all of us kids were at school. It seemed boring to me at the time, but her actions influenced me more than I realized.
Looking back, I see my parents treated studying the Bible as a priority in their schedules. It wasn’t drudgery or something they did because the “had” to do it. And it wasn’t a luxury that they did only when they’d finished all of the other “important” tasks that demanded their time. It was just woven into the fabric of their schedules.
When my oldest son was born, one of my goals for my first year at home with him was to find a Bible study. Following my parents’ example, I wanted to immerse myself in God’s word with more discipline and consistency than I had before. It has been fourteen years since I set out to get serious about studying the Bible. I’ve been blessed to see the benefits of pursuing that goal. The more I’ve studied it, the more I’ve realized what a rich and layered book it is. And the more I’ve studied, the more I’ve changed, grown and gained wisdom as God has revealed Himself to me through the pages of His holy word.
Once I started seeing positive results, I was motivated to keep pushing myself further. Old things that used to seem appealing suddenly weren’t as enticing anymore. Each new truth I discovered opened my eyes to God’s character, goodness and grace, causing me to love Him more and to be grateful for all He’d done for me. His word gave me hope and strength in hard times and confidence to be stretched in new ways. Studying with others who had similar goals also helped me on the road to growing deeper.
Making time to study the Bible has not always been easy. Over the years I’ve crossed paths with many people like me who have faced challenges in their quest to know and live God’s word. Here are three of the most prevalent issues students of the Bible face:
Viewing Studying the Bible as Drudgery
Sometimes it’s easy to fall into the mindset of thinking studying scripture is something we “should” do because it’s good for us. Kind of like eating your vegetables when you’re a kid. Yet, in 2 Timothy, Paul says: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) If we dabble in Bible study and view it as drudgery, this makes it difficult to handle the word of truth correctly. If we’re doing it just to check it off our “to do” lists, chances are it’s not really impacting our lives much.
The writer of Hebrews describes it this way: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good from evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14).
Viewing Studying the Bible as a Luxury
Kay Arthur comments in the Session 1 video of Faithful, Abundant, True: Three Lives Going Deeper Still that “we’re so entangled with the affairs of this life that we’re not studying the Word of God as we ought to.” Sometimes we view time studying the Bible as a luxury or a “bonus” that we can indulge once we’ve gotten all of our “important” tasks finished. When I get up in the morning I’m often tempted to check my phone or computer before I open my Bible. However, when I do this I usually get sucked into the day’s events and neglect that quiet time in God’s word I so desperately need. “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4) Just like we need food every day, we need God’s word every day. It’s not a luxury; it’s a necessity.
Losing Focus with Priorities
Sometimes I joke that the problem with America is that we have too many choices. There are so many things vying for our time and attention that seem good, important or just plain fun. We fill our schedules full and then complain that we “don’t have time” for studying the Bible. We’re so busy doing that we’ve forgotten how to be. Many Christians find disciplined study of the Bible infringes on their schedules in light of all their other obligations. When they do find themselves with “down time,” they are too exhausted for the serious study that leads to maturity.
Yet, in Hebrews 2:1, we see an important reminder: “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” Paying careful attention requires time, effort and commitment. Reading, studying and knowing the Bible needs to be woven into the fabric of our daily lives, not something we do haphazardly when we have a few extra minutes. When we let other priorities take precedence over studying God’s word, we don’t grow and mature as we’re meant to and we forego the vital spiritual nutrients we need to survive.
Ideas for Realigning Our Focus
Most of us have probably found ourselves in one or all of the categories above at different points in our lives. Read below to diagnose your current challenge and to get some practical ideas for getting back on track.
Drudgery: It may feel like drudgery when we’re more motivated by outward influences. If you find yourself feeling “guilty” for not studying the Bible more, it might have more to do with worrying what others think than really wanting to know God’s word. Perhaps you are someone who just plain doesn’t like reading, studying and doing homework. If either of these describes you, pray and ask God to increase your desire for His word and to help you see and feel why studying it is beneficial.
Luxury: If your problem is viewing studying the Bible as a luxury, try fasting from food for a day. (I’m serious). Every time your stomach rumbles, you’ll be reminded that food is a necessity, not a luxury, just like God’s word.
Prioritizing Your Time: If you struggle with making time in God’s word a priority, try evaluating your schedule. Take an honest look at how you spent your time in the last week. Are there moments that you could have used more wisely? In my life, screens can often be major time-suckers- whether it is checking e-mail, scanning Facebook, researching something online, relaxing in front of the TV or checking my phone. If you can relate, try to put time studying the Bible before these activities instead of saving it for after. Or, try turning off screens half an hour earlier so you can get up in the morning and start your day in God’s word.
Whatever might be keeping you from delving into the Bible more deeply, I encourage you to seek God’s help and ask a trusted friend to keep you accountable.
“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things” (Philippians 3:13b-15a).
What tips do you have for encouraging others to be disciplined in their study of God’s Word? Take a moment to comment and let us know.