I asked Rick Houk, chairman of the Bible department at West Coast Baptist College, to write this guest post. Rick has a genuine love for God’s Word and passion to thoroughly study and rightly divide it.
Nothing is more refreshing in the summer than a dinner with garden-fresh vegetables, freshly-grilled chicken or steak, and freshly picked strawberries with shortcake for dessert.
Just as this appeals to and satisfies our physical appetites, so fresh study in God’s Word will satisfy and even renew our spiritual appetites. We can easily grow weary, apathetic, or disinterested in spiritual things. But the careful study of God’s Word can refresh our hunger for God.
We know that God’s Word has incredible promise and power for our lives and ministries. In fact, we often quote Isaiah 55:10–11:
For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.—Isaiah 55:10–11
But unless we take the effort to expose our hearts to God’s Word, we won’t reap these benefits.
Summer is a great time to plan for specific Bible studies—just to renew your own heart for God and your hunger for God’s Word. You could do a topical study, a word study, or an expository study of a book or portion of Scripture. All of these types of study are rich and deliver tremendous personal benefits in any area you might study.
Once you have determined which type of study you want to begin with, here are some practical steps to make your time in God’s Word more profitable and life-changing.
Steps in a word Study:
- Use a concordance to find where the word is first mentioned in the Bible. This first mention will often give you the general meaning of its use.
- Use a concordance and/or dictionary to look up the meaning of the word. Notice especially if it has more than one meaning (as many of our English words do) based on context. The word meet is a good example of this:
- Geneses 2:18: “I will make him an help meet for him.”
- Genesis 14:17: “And the king of Sodom went out to meet him after his return”
- Luke 15:32: “It was meet that we should make merry,
- Luke 22:10: “when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you,”
- List the verses in which the word occurs and categorize according to the various meanings.
- Determine their importance in the context, and how it applies to other places it is used, and then how it applies to your life.
Steps in a passage or book study:
- Read through the passage or book at least five times to become familiar with the general knowledge and flow. This alone will give you fresh perspective.
- Determine what the main sections are and its kind of literary form (i.e. prose, narrative, conversational, prophetic, poetical, etc.).
- Outline the book so you understand how it breaks down.
- Look for the use of repeated phrases or words, which help to discover the purpose and theme of a section or of the whole book.
- Look for names of people and places that may be important to the book’s context.
- Ask questions—about the book in general and about portions in particular. Use words such as who, what, when, where, why, how, to what extent, which one?
- Apply what you learn to your life. As you gain understanding, ask questions such as: Is this a command, exhortation, promise, warning, introduction of new truth, or encouragement and comfort? These questions will help you apply discoveries to your life.
Tips to keep any kind of Bible study fresh and meaningful
- Keep a notebook (or an electronic document) to record your discoveries, thoughts, and applications. Writing out what you are learning helps you make it specific. It also makes it more memorable and available for later reference.
- When you study God’s Word ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to the understanding of His Word.
Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.—Psalm 119:18
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.—1 Corinthians 2:12–14
- Recognize that the time you put into study will determine the outcome of your results. The purpose of Bible study isn’t just to say you have done it; it is to allow the Holy Spirit to use His Word to change your life!
If you want to be refreshed spiritually, renewed in vibrancy for Christian service, and victorious in your walk with God, then let this summer be a time of rebuilding and exercising your spiritual muscles by making time to study God’s Word!