Summary: Most people have a Bible. Far less read it. Even fewer benefit from the Bible as much as they could. Let’s do something about that.
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
How to Get the Most Out of Your Bible
In Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith, Kathleen Norris recounts the story of a South Dakota rancher and his bride who received an expensive Bible as a wedding gift from his grandfather. They wrote a thank-you note and stowed the Bible away on a closet shelf.
As time passed, the grandfather repeatedly asked the couple how they liked the Bible. The rancher was confused as to how to respond. Hadn’t he already expressed his appreciation? But the grandfather persisted. Eventually, the young man dug out the gift. As he leafed through it, $20 bills fluttered out, 66 in all—one at the beginning of Genesis and in each succeeding book.
While the rancher had left a monetary treasure waiting to be discovered, he had also left something even more valuable untouched between those pages: spiritual riches. All because he had not opened the Book.
In American homes the Bible has taken on the status of an icon with little practical value. When asked, "What book has most influenced your life?" in a recent Library of Congress survey, respondents awarded the Bible the top position. But only 34 percent of American Christians read God’s Word on their own during the week, and of that group, only 13 percent claim to read it daily.
"Americans revere the Bible," says pollster George Gallup, Jr., "but, by and large, they don’t read it."
Statistics say that 92 percent of all Americans have at least three Bibles in their homes. Perhaps like the South Dakota rancher, yours is secreted away in a closet. And like him, you don’t suspect that there’s a fortune hidden within its pages. Reprinted from Signs of the Times (October 2002), © 2002 Kathy Widenhouse.
I hope we can do something about that . . . .
I. Why Should We Read the Bible: some biblical reminders
What it is: Psalm 19:7-11
What it will do our in our lives:
Ps 119: 9-10, 105
2 Timothy 3;14-17
II. How can we get the most out of God’s Word?
Every follower of Christ can experience a dynamic spiritual life. Veterans of the journey tell us that three regular practices can make all the difference in the world: reading, reflecting, and responding.
1. Understandable reading: Good translation:
a. Two theories: literal and dynamic equivalent
i. Truly literal not possible: when pigs fly ??? how translate
ii. My recommendations: NLT/NASB/NIV
2. Regular reading: time and place; quality and consistency rather than quantity
3. Active reading
Spiritual growth begins with God’s Word. The Bible provides nourishment for the soul. From Scripture, we learn the truths of God. We discover his plan for life and how to put that plan into practice. The daily reading of even a small portion of the Bible will have a dramatic impact on our faith.
Many Bible readers find it helpful to read with a pen in hand and mark key thoughts as they work through a passage. We can develop our own personal system for highlighting ideas that seem important. For example, I might underline key words. I could circle and connect words that outline the train of thought in the passage.
I could draw a star (#) in the margin beside an important verse. I could put a question mark (?) beside something I don’t understand and want to study further. An exclamation point (!) could mark a particularly new idea. A down arrow (\/) might indicate a personal problem area; an up arrow (/\), a cause for praise or thanksgiving. A horizontal arrow (>) could indicate a reminder to pray for someone else.
Marking as we read can keep us focused. Our minds are less apt to drift if we are involved with the reading.
Reflect. To get the maximum benefit, reading should be followed by meditating. This is simply the process of pausing, perhaps closing our eyes, and quietly thinking about what we’ve read. I like to ponder three questions about what I have read:
• What have I learned about the Lord’s ways?
• How can I grow more like Jesus today?
• What can I do to point others to Christ today?
Many find it helpful to write down some of these thoughts in a notebook or in the margin of their Bible.
Respond. The natural next step is to talk to God in prayer. We can pray about anything any time. But the best place to start is to pray about what we learned in our reading and reflecting. Was I reminded of—
• Blessings for which to give thanks?
• Sins to be confessed?
• Commitments to be made?
• Others for whom to seek God’s blessings?