This is the third part of the series on the Bible Toolbox. Today we will consider one tool that contains many components: Have a plan.
In order to understand such a large book that covers so many topics, it is important to have a plan: a systematic approach to reading the Bible. This means that you need to: prepare; set some time aside on a regular (we suggest a daily) basis; know what portions of the Bible you are going to read; know what you are prepared to do for further investigation; and what you intend on doing with the information you glean.
The following are some suggestions for a planned approach to successful Bible reading:
It is important to ask God’s blessing on your reading. It is His book and He can help us understand it.
To properly concentrate on the Bible, you will need to find a comfortable, quiet place in which to read. Try to avoid places where there is a lot of background noise from the television or other people talking. In the Bible, God speaks to us. It is worthwhile to listen carefully.
Bible reading is most effective if you are not rushed. Set aside 20–30 minutes each day to read the passage and think about what it means. It also takes time to become familiar with the Bible message and the background in which it is set. Be patient, and over time it will all start to fit together.
Use a Bible reading planner
There are a number of different Bible reading plans available. As was stated in previous suggestions, you should use a plan that starts at the beginning of the Bible and works its way through it in the course of a year. You could try the reading plan offered here: 20 Day Challenge.
Be open to new ideas
If we are to gain as much as we can from Bible reading, we need to approach the Bible with the right attitude. The people from Berea (in Greece) are described as being of more noble character than the people in Thessalonica (also in Greece), for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11).
We need openness to new ideas. If we approach all ideas thinking that our main job is to defend our existing beliefs, then we have very little room for growth. The Bible is a book of strength that has withstood all kinds of attacks during its history. We need not fear examining new ideas and evaluating them carefully in the light of all the teachings of the Bible.
Think about it
God told Joshua, in the Old Testament, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8).
To successfully understand the message of the Bible, we must spend time thinking about it carefully. This is so important that God said to the nation of Israel, “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:18-21).
You will inevitably have questions about what you read. Write them down. You might discover the answers through further reading. You can also take your questions to a more experienced Bible reader to see if he or she can help. There may be questions that do not have a clear right or wrong answer. Bring your questions along to a Bible reading group and see if anyone can answer them.
Share your ideas
We need an attitude of willingness to meditate on what we are learning and to think through for ourselves how our learning should be applied in our own lives. To do this, it is usually helpful to share your ideas and interpretations with other Bible readers for discussion and evaluation. We can learn from each other. Bible reading and study can be difficult work. It is also exciting and life changing.
Reading and studying the Bible can enrich us as no other study can. You will experience a new energy as you learn to make your own judgements based on firm principles, and the Bible will become more alive and powerful in your life. Remember, you are intended to understand this remarkable book and to meet God in its pages.