Isn’t it frustrating when you’re watching a movie with a complicated plot line and you’re not sure what’s going on? When my daughter was little and watched a movie with us, she often asked, “Is he good or bad?” Once understanding came, it was as if someone turned on the light. “Ohhh…..” She could then relax and enjoy the show.
Or when you and your husband are having a disagreement, often there is a lack of understanding of the other person’s point of view. There have been times I just could not see my husband’s viewpoint. In my pride, I could only see that I was right and he was wrong. But God is faithful, and finally the light comes on, and I’m able to see things from his point of view. Then when we understand each other, reconciliation can take place. Peace.
This winter, I visited my daughter’s new home in another state. I tried a different way home on unfamiliar roads. Whoa! Was I confused! My lack of familiarity with the area combined with speeding traffic just made me anxious and confused! Even my phone’s GPS was telling me to do some wild things. Ahhh! It wasn’t until I reached the more familiar roads and understood where I was that I finally was encouraged that I’d arrive home in one piece!
An area of frustration to any believer in Christ is when we struggle to understand the Word of God. We’re told that reading the Bible is essential to spiritual growth. It’s God’s way of communicating his love to us. Reading it will make us more like Christ, which fulfills our purpose in life of glorifying God. But how can we understand “the truth about God’s wonderful grace” if we don’t understand what we’re reading?
To many, the words in the Bible can seem like a foreign language. Like trying to drive through heavy rain. We could even listen to sermons on Sunday morning and think, “Is there something wrong with me that I don’t get this? Am I the only one sitting here in church not understanding what I’m reading and hearing?”
No, you’re not alone.
Please Don’t Give Up
With patience, persistence, and the passing of time, understanding will come. I promise.
Keep in mind that the goal isn’t to become a Bible scholar. If you eventually want to do that, that’s wonderful.
Most of us, though, just want to know God. 🙂 Deepen our relationship with Him.
Really know Him.
But knowing God well can’t be done without understanding what He has disclosed to us about Himself through His own words.
The word of truth, the gospel…is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth. Col 1:6 NASB
I like this translation, too:
This same Good News…is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace. Col 1:6 NLT
So then, how do you go from that rudimentary, at-arm’s-length, because-it’s-good-for-me type of reading to a life that’s being changed and bearing fruit because of understanding and believing what’s being read?
Actually, there are many ways to increase understanding, The method can be as simple or as thorough as you want it to be.
We’ll start with simple. 🙂
You see, we all have some knowledge, but it can be like random pieces to a puzzle, scattered all over. You know how when you put a puzzle together, you start with the four corners, then attach the sides, then finally fill in the middle? Well, in our spiritual journey, we can have all these random middle pieces floating around, kind of disjointed, not relating well to each other. A memory of a bit of a sermon here, a quote from a book there. A meaningful proverb on the front of the refrigerator. A section of a psalm over the kitchen sink. A Scripture verse on Pinterest that speaks to our heart.
But when we start reading our Bibles through, all of it, not just bits and pieces here and there but in context, the pieces begin to fit together! A framework for understanding gets built line upon line, precept upon precept.
There will be plenty of time for future topical studies and intensive studies of individual books. But I highly recommend reading through the whole Bible at least once so that you can understand those books in context. See the whole picture of who God is.
Keep the goal in mind – to understand the word of God so that you can know, love, trust, and believe Him more fully. “God, let me know you!”
It’s about a love relationship, not mere knowledge.
Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 1 Cor 8:1b
How to Start
Plan a time every day when you can meet with the Lord. I shared here what my quiet time can be like in the early morning, but your best time of day may be different – after the kids catch the school bus or after your husband leaves for work. Possibly on your lunch hour at work or, if you’re a night person, at night just before you go to bed.
Find a time that works best for you, and then…
- Ask the Lord to give you a hunger for his word and for Him to reveal Himself to you through his word. Ask Him for understanding (James 1:5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.) Let Him know you just want to know Him. He will answer this prayer! 🙂
- Commit to reading a portion of the word every day, and as you read, visit with Jesus. Ask Him questions. Pray through certain parts. Make lists of things you notice. Journal. Suggestion: Start with a gospel (like Mark), and read a chapter or two or five, whatever you desire and have time for. Then the next day, continue where you left off. When you finish Luke, continue the story chronologically through Acts, then the Epistles (Romans, etc.) and finally Revelation. Then you could swing around to the beginning and read through Genesis, Exodus, etc. There is no deadline.
Could it be more simple?
In your Bible, there’s probably an index of the books of the Bible – you may want to use this page to check off each book as you complete it. That way, if you don’t read in order, you’ll know what you’ve read and what you haven’t. (I still do this.)
“But I don’t understand what I’m reading!”
The first time I read through the Bible, I used what they call a “study” Bible, which is one that has explanations of what the Scriptures mean at the bottom of each page. It was a lifesaver for me, because I felt like I understood nothing! It’s kind of like having a private tutor. If you hit a snag while you’re reading, you just look down to the bottom of the page, and there’s usually an explanation for that verse. Some of the study Bibles out there currently:
The MacArthur Study Bible (comes in NKJV, NAS, ESV and NIV)
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This for me was my first step of intentionally setting out to understand what the Bible was all about. I had spent my life reading sporadically, but I really depended more on listening to sermons and attending Bible studies and reading books for my spiritual growth.
Those were all good things, but none of those things changed my life as much as committing to spending a little time every morning reading my whole Bible through.
Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning; For I trust in You; Teach me the way in which I should walk; For to You I lift up my soul. Ps 143:8
The Light Will Come On
Keep in mind that you will not understand everything you read first time through. THAT’S OKAY! You will probably read through your Bible a few times over the years, and each time you read you’ll understand more and more. Relax! Enjoy the process! You may also choose to take a break and spend a season participating in a church Bible study looking more intensively at one book like Ephesians or Luke or Exodus. And after having read most of or all of the Bible, you’ll have context for that particular book you’re studying. You will have so much more understanding then, and you’ll get so much more out of it.
Have you ever looked up your house on Google maps? I have. First you type in your town and state and you see the big picture. Then you zoom in closer and see your neighborhood, your block, and finally your rooftop. You may even see your car in the driveway, your front sidewalk and your garden!
This one simple (but lengthy) step of reading through your whole Bible fairly quickly, only stopping occasionally for a quick peek at a study Bible’s notes, is like the aerial view of your state and town. It helps you to see the big picture of who God is, what life is all about. Then as you zoom in you begin to learn about his plan of redemption through Jesus, and where you fit in.
However you choose to read, the Holy Spirit will lead you along, illuminating his words and revealing new things about God and how He works in our lives. He will give you new insights. He will shine His light on areas of your life that you’re struggling in (and He will provide the help, too!). He will answer questions you’ve been thinking about. He will show you the truth about His wonderful grace and great, great love.
The light will come on, you will understand the gospel of grace, and you will never be the same.
You will flourish. 🙂
If this post has encouraged you, please share!
What is your favorite study Bible? What do you like about it? Please let us know in the comments below – this may help others in their search for a new study Bible of their own!