Do you have to force yourself to study the Bible? Does your mind wander because the material is no longer as new and exciting to you as it was when God first opened your mind to understand? Have you set and failed to keep rigid schedules to make yourself get in your Bible study? Bible study can be an interesting and exciting part of your day, but it takes effort and planning. Seven basic steps are outlined here to help you make your study of the Bible a scintillating, profitable adventure as well as a quest for knowledge. Try applying these principles.
Think in spiritual terms
The first step is to ask yourself: "What is my life all about? Where am I going?" Recognize the fleeting vanity and futility of this life 's pursuits. The book of Ecclesiastes has much to say along these lines. Perhaps you have begun to become entangled again in worldly desires (II Tim. 2:4). Satan is diligently seeking to get you in his clutches. His greatest weapons are the lusts of the flesh and the vanity of the mind. He has already deceived the whole world with these tactics (Rev. 12:9) Mankind is caught up in the quest for materialistic goals, grasping at the elusive momentary pleasures of this life. Instead of following after worldly pursuits, follow the admonition of Jesus Christ: "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink, or Wherewithal shall we be clothed?.... But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt 6:31-33). God's Kingdom is spiritual. It takes God's Holy Spirit to understand His mind and His plan (I Cor. 2:9-16). So we need to do what Paul admonished Timothy to do, "Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands" (II Tim. 1:6). Think spiritually in studying the Bible.
Ask God for help
The second step to profitable Bible study is to ask God daily — and especially before every study period — to give you more of His Spirit and to increase your understanding from His Word. Christ promised, "When... the Spirit of truth, is come [it] will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13). Without God's Spirit we are none of his. "For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh ; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit" (Rom. 8:5).
Set definite goals
"Where there is no vision [hope, dream or desire] the people perish" (Prov. 29:18). It's hard to get excited about taking a trip if you have no destination in mind. Bible study is no different You need definite purposes and objectives to stir up your interest if you expect to get anywhere. Empty goals such as the common, "I've got to get in 30 minutes of Bible study every day, come what may," or, "I'm going to read the Bible through once every year, " do little to motivate or spark your desire. You may accomplish the particular objective and possibly even gain a small-measure of self-discipline, but seldom much more. Goals need to be challenging and satisfying, and they •should stimulate personal growth. They should be practical — seeking answers to basic questions and problems of everyday life, seeking vision into the higher-goals and purposes God has for man. Why have you been called now? How can you honor God in your family life and on the job? How is God dealing with you to perfect His character in you? How can you help others? As Paul wrote to Timothy: "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness" (II Tim. 2:15- 16). Why study the Bible? Because "the holy scriptures... are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (II Tim. 3:15-17). Avoid vain, philosophical questions that do not profit, because "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of His law" (Deut 29:29). The Bible provides the foundation for understanding all knowledge, and it gives the keys to solving all problems. It's all there: the knowledge of creation, the purpose of human life, God's spiritual laws — these basics foster a right understanding of the past, the present and the future, and serve as foundations for all other branches of knowledge. Take any subject and view it from the biblical foundation, and you will have a much better understanding of the secular knowledge man has been able to generate — you will have it in proper perspective. Write your Bible study goals in a notebook so you won't forget them. Your Bible study will accomplish much if you have clear, definite objectives when you begin.
Plan your Bible studies
Organize your goals and objectives into related subjects and set up priorities, with the most important subjects first. Avoid the mistake of the scribes and Pharisees, who put the little things first (Matt. 23:23). Organize your time. Set aside a specific period every day to allow yourself the opportunity to accomplish the goals you have established. Be flexible, of course, when you're pinched for time, and adjust your schedule or adapt your study to fit the time — but don't just skip it. Bible studies can vary from regular personal studies to occasional family or group studies, depending on the subjects 'and need. Take notes. What you learn from a particular study may be quickly forgotten if you don't write it down. You can review written notes occasionally and add to them in future studies. You may also want to cross-reference your Bible. God's Word was inspired and written according to a definite overall plan, but the knowledge of any particular subject is usually scattered throughout its contents. As it is written, "Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line, here a little, and there a little" (Isa. 28:9-10).
Use reference materials
Bible dictionaries, concordances, commentaries, as well as books on history, science and other fields, can give helpful background information and better Bible insight, if properly used. Remember that you should use them only to supplement and magnify the Bible's meaning. They should never replace the Bible, which is the only source of true understanding. Don't give up if understanding the Bible is still difficult. Keep your inspiration up by discussing your Bible studies with others of like mind. God will add to your understanding if you are in the proper attitude and are truly seeking to know God's mind and how He would have you serve, Him. Some have allowed themselves to lose interest in the Bible after years of reading and studying God's Word, the " Bible Correspondence Course" and a continuous stream of articles in The Good News and The Plain Truth. Don't let familiarity turn you off. When you review familiar subjects, seek to make them more relevant. Try to gain a deeper understanding of God's Word and how current events tie in with His plan and Bible prophecies. With a little effort and a constant awareness of world conditions, you can be a self-starter. You can motivate yourself and have the drive to succeed. As you realize how badly you and this world need God's help and understanding, stir up the Spirit that is in you. Remember Satan is out to discourage you by every means possible.
Meditate on what you study
Meditation, an important but often overlooked tool, is one of the most helpful ways to add new life and meaning to your Bible study. David was inspired to write: "O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day. Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my med1tation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts" (Ps. 119:97-100). Meditation — concentrated reflective thought and mental dissection of a topic — can increase your grasp and memory of the Bible.
Put the Bible into practice
When you have applied the above principles and developed real interest and zeal in Bible study, don't forget to act on what you learn from the Holy Scriptures! We are to prove what is acceptable to God and then hold fast to it (Eph. 5:10, I Thess. 5:21). God gives a good understanding to all those who keep His commandments (Ps. 111:10). Christ said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). Bible study will take on a whole new meaning as you reap the fruits of righteousness and grow in grace and in the knowledge of God. You will be a living example of what the Bible teaches. Then you will really "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear" (I Pet. 3:15).