One of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned came from a discipleship course I took in my church back home. The topic? How to read the Bible.
It changed my life.
Even though I grew up in the Church, it was incredible how I had never truly learned one of the most basic yet crucial parts of the Christian life. I had always read the Bible, but there was a problem: I read it just as I read any other book.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” – Psalms 23:1
I saw the Bible as a way for me to only know about God’s goodness and attributes, but not a way to “see“ or “taste” His goodness.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! – Psalm 34:8
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! – Psalm 119:103
Yes, I was faithful in reading it. But I didn’t let it in me, I didn’t measure my life against it, and I – most definitely – did not actively seek how I could change because of it.
Without realizing it, I approached God’s Word as static. Informational. Passive.
Yet, Scripture is clear:
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. – Hebrews 4:12
Transformational. Impactful. Powerful. Active.
THAT’S the Word of God.
Like I mentioned, learning how to approach God’s Word changed my life. And it’s not overly hard or complicated. It comes down to four simple steps:
- Read it.
- Think it.
- Pray it.
- Live it.
That’s it! Read the explanations below.
You know this one. This is perhaps the way you have been reading the Bible so far: reading each sentence and moving on.
However, for now, try to focus on a small portion — if in the Gospels, it could be a story or teaching of Jesus; if in a Proverbs or a Psalm, it could be just one line or verse…you decide! I will take the same Psalms 23:1 as an example:
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” – Psalms 23:1
Read it again if you have to. Make sure you capture each word in your mind.
Instead of moving on to the next verse, stop and think for a moment about this verse.
What is the verse saying?
Who wrote it? Under what circumstances? (Hint: David. If there was a person who knew and experienced intense ups and downs in life, it was David)
What do you think it means?
What does a shepherd do?
What does it mean to “not want”?
What does this say about God? About people?
Does this reflect His character?
Don’t rush. Meditate on this. If there are any words you don’t understand, you can take a second to look them up. It’s also beneficial to look at other translations. For example, the New Living Translation puts it this way:
The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
and the New International Version:
The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
Guess what? God is in the room with you! And there is no one else more suited to teach about the Word than the Author Himself.
You see, we can very easily come up with our own meaning for Scripture, and we can be very right…or very wrong.
After you’ve thought about the verse, talk to God about it.
Ask Him to show you what He means by it.
Ask Him to show you how it applies to you here, now.
Wait. Be still before Him. He might give you new insight during this time.
This part is crucial, and yet I feel like it’s the one we ignore the most.
God says that if we only read and hear the Word, we are deceiving ourselves — this is not how He intends us to approach His word.
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. – James 1:22
God’s Word is not only knowledge to store up for tomorrow, but it’s wisdom to apply TODAY. Here. Now.
I used to be in the “storing up knowledge” camp, and man, was I missing out!
This is where you answer questions like this (again, I’m using the example of Proverbs 23:1):
How does this apply to me today?
What thoughts/actions do I have/take that reject the truth that God is my Shepherd? What things need to change in me so I can reflect this truth?
What can I do to remind myself that He cares for me and my needs?
What things do I feel like I lack? If God is all I need, how should that change how I think and live?
What can I do today to live in the light of this passage?
How can I encourage others with this?
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Some practical things include writing notes on your workplace with this verse as a reminder, consciously making the decision to read this passage whenever you feel discouraged, worried, or unsatisfied; sending and explaining this verse to a person who needs it, among others.
Guys, we have to let God’s Word have an effect on us. We can’t reduce it to a nice or mandatory read so we meet some sort of checklist. The power of the Word of God is that it reveals things in us, helps us, trains us and encourages us. But if we reject its part in doing so, we won’t reap the blessings and growth that is available to us.
Trust me on this: if you take the time to ask, God will reveal which areas in your life need growth. Not only will He do this, but if you recognize and repent (which literally means, to turn back, go the opposite direction — again, all actions), He Himself gives you the power to do it. However, if we are not intentional to act on what we learn, there is no true repentance.
Let’s not be like those 2 Timothy 3:5 describes, who have “the appearance of godliness, but deny its power.”
Once you start reading, thinking, praying and, most importantly, living God’s word, your life will change.
And God will help you every step of the way.
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. – Matthew 7:24