How to Study the Bible: A Master Toolset on Bible Study for Beginners
Studying the Bible can feel overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Use this process to enrich your study of God’s word.
September 2, 2020
One of the most well-rehearsed fights in my marriage is this: what to do on our day off.
This conversation would always stress me out because Hope, my wife, would simply say, “Let’s just relax,” and my wiring means I have no idea how to do that. Thankfully, as Hope began to learn how I function, she began to help me.
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Maybe you’re wondering what to do in your time of not doing? Here are a few ideas.
You need rest—literal, physical rest.
Most of us don’t sleep enough. Whole industries have arisen to solve a problem that most humans in history didn’t struggle with: sleep. The range of pillows, mattresses, drugs, white-noise machines, and therapies just to achieve good sleep is dizzying.
On your day off, sleep. That’s right: take a nap, sleep in, or just go to bed early. The world won’t break just because you’re not awake. In fact, a good nap can be an act of faith in God’s providence. That’s what it seemed to be for David when he wrote, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Ps. 4:8).
My early-morning time with the Lord is good, but it’s never long enough. Kids always wake up, the day always starts, and at some point I have to close my Bible.
When was the last time you gave yourself an hour or two to just sit down and enjoy reading the whole book of, say, Mark? How long has it been since you read the Scriptures not to do the work of study but to enjoy the work of the divine author?
A day of rest is a great time to wander through a book in the Bible in deep interest, allowing yourself to experience it and not just study it.
Just as my daily Bible-reading never feels long enough, so too my daily prayer rarely seems to go deep enough. Sabbath days are wonderful opportunities to talk and listen in prayer more than we are normally able to.
I will often find myself on prayer walks on these days, pouring my mind and heart out to God. Rest allows me to do this, and can allow you to do it too.
Have you ever given yourself time to think? The Scriptures use different words for this activity: meditate, ponder, consider… any of them will do. All of them point to an activity not of hurried decision-making but of thoughtful decision-reviewing.
One way to reflect is through writing. For me, keeping a journal has allowed reflection, and I would commend the practice for helping you to review your thoughts, emotions, and actions. On your day of rest, taking moments to look over your shoulder can both help you adjust and fill you with faith.
The word “avocation” simply describes something one does that isn’t your principle vocation. For me, it’s building stuff with my hands. I’m a pastor, so I spend most of my week building things with my mind, my words, or my faith. But on my day off I often find it very satisfying to build things with my hands.
What do you like to do when you’re not doing what you have to do? That’s what I mean.
God made a great world, and enjoying it is one way we worship him and are moved to praise him (1 Tim. 4: 4-5), and therefore it is something he enjoys watching us do.
Like avocation, recreation is an activity. But unlike avocation, recreation is purely playful. You’re not building, you’re bonding.
While there is some overlap between avocation and recreation, recreation usually describes relief from toil by doing something fun. The word literally means “to make anew.”
Holy rest should do that for us—refresh us enough to get back to work.
I am so glad God made food. Think about how extravagantly good that gift is. God could have created us to eat, but not taste. Or, not taste well. But God gave us this great gift of food.
On your day off, enjoy food. In your times of rest, gather with others around a meal.
Maybe you’re not all that musical, but I bet you sing. Maybe it’s when you’re in the car alone, or when you’re in the shower, or when you’re doing some chores in the house. We all do it, even if not all of us “can sing.”
Once a week, my family gathers around the piano and we sing. Like an old Puritan household, we open hymnals and sing anthems of our faith. At other times we blast the latest worship album as loud as we can and host a noholds-barred dance party (always a hit with the younger kids).
There are, of course, many other activities you could engage in during your rest. That is part of why it is more of an art and less of an injunction. As you start to stop, you find yourself getting better at it, and getting more out of it.
Editor’s Note: This post was adapted from The Art of Rest by Adam Mabry. Used by permission of The Good Book Company.