You have created a workspace for study. You have your notebook at hand. The Bible lies before you. You have set your mind and heart to know God’s word. Now, where do you start? An instructor once told the class of preaching students that the hardest part of sermon preparation was figuring out what to preach on. It is the same for study. The Bible is so broad and covers so many topics that choosing a place to begin is a challenge. The good news, is that once you get started new topics seem to arise naturally from your studies. We will offer a few suggestions to help you begin.
Bible Study that Focuses on Your Own Needs
What is the current challenge in your life? Are you facing troubles at work? Is there an overbearing boss? Are there problems at home? Are children proving to be a challenge? Are conflicts with a spouse more frequent? Is there an illness or impending death that is pressing down on you? All of these, and more, are excellent starting points for study.
Using your concordance, you might begin by searching for words that describe your problem. For example, search on the word “child” or “children.” My concordance shows 511 instances of the word “children.” Review them and start to dig in.
Bible Study of Characters
The Bible presents a variety of people and shows both good and bad conduct. We can learn from the greats of faith but we also can learn from the villains in the Bible. The most important Bible character is Jesus. It would be useful to narrow down such a study to one aspect of His life. You might study Jesus in prophecy; you could study the miracles of Jesus. Of course, his personal teachings found in the gospels would be very valuable.
It could be that you hear a Bible person mentioned and you realize you know almost nothing about him. What a great place to start. Again, go to your concordance and search on the name. From there, examine the person’s life and take note of things they did that were both pleasing and angering to God. What did they do that brought blessings? Are there things you can do to imitate the good in their lives (1 Corinthians 11:1)? Almost as important is identifying their failures. Ask probing questions of the Bible text. Why did they fail? What led up to their sin? How could that sin have been prevented? You will find a near unending series of studies as you look at Bible characters.
Bible Study of Topics
Studies of particular topics in the Bible is rewarding. When you hear someone say that events in the Middle East are signs of the coming of Christ, go and study what the Bible actually says about His return and the so-called Rapture. What about politics? Should Christians involve themselves in partisan in-fighting? Should we support candidates? Which candidates? The Bible is your source for instruction and teaching.
The most important topic is salvation. In Acts 16:30 the jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved” (Acts 16:30). It is a question we must all ask of God.
There is one warning for topical studies. Many people, including me, have written on many Bible topics. It might be useful to consult our studies. But, let the Bible speak. No preacher, teacher or scholar is worthy of entrusting your soul to them. You are responsible. Do you own study!
Bible Studies of Specific Books
In some ways it might be easier to simply pick a book and begin studying from chapter 1, verse 1. Such studies will cause you to study subjects you might not have thought of. You could begin with the Gospel of John and work all the way through to the end. Along the way stop and study unfamiliar words. If two translations differ on a word, pause and ask why. Translation differences offer a fine “hook” for further study.
Some books are more difficult than others. Apocalyptic books like Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation are very challenging. Romans is perhaps Paul’s most theological book. It is not impossible to study but it will require considerable devotion. Hebrews really necessitates some understanding of the Old Testament and the Levitical priesthood. I do not suggest you avoid these books. Just know that they are challenging.
This little article does not claim to be complete. You will find new and different venues for your study. The important thought here is to study something! Be in the word so that the word will be in you.
Bryant Evans may be reached at bryant at preachersstudyblog.com. You can follow Bryant on Twitter @J_Bryant_Evans.