Monday, April 11, 2011

Reading vs. Studying

I have read hundreds of books in my life, maybe even a thousand. Now, can I remember every book I've read? No. How about the title and author? Nope. Why not? Because all I did was read the book. I didn't study it. I didn't meditate on it. I just read it.

And that's fine. Every book is not meant to change my life. Books can be escapes. They don't always have to be learning experiences. Truth be told, even the Christian help and study books that I've read, I may retain a bit of information, but in the end, I read it and move on.

Is this how we handle the Bible?

Sadly, for most of us, the answer is yes. We read it, check it off our list for the day and move on. Has it changed your life? Has it made you any better for reading it? Are you trying to earn some spiritual brownie points by accomplishing a certain amount of chapters or books within a certain period of time?

Here's a recent conversation that I had:

Me: How's your walk with the Lord?

Her: Fine. I try to read my Bible every day, but I don't always get to it.

Okay, so that is not just one conversation, that is the normal and usual answer when I ask the question.

Is reading the Bible every day what God wants us to do?

This is going to sound wrong, but the answer is no. Reading the Bible just as you read a novel or magazine article will have about the same effect on you - in one ear and out the other. And then there's the issue of understanding. When you read a chapter, do you close the Word and say, "That was nice. Now it's done. On with my day."

That's really sad.

"Study to show yourself approved unto God..." II Timothy 2:15


Stop reading and start studying.

You're not in a race. You don't get extra feather pillows in your mansion in heaven for each time you read through the Bible. You are in this for the long run. So take your time and delve into the Word.

"But how? I don't know where to begin, I don't have the right tools, and I don't understand what I'm reading most of the time."

Bible study is personal and it takes time to figure out exactly what works for you, but here is my suggestion. You have the Holy Spirit. You have the Word of God. And you have a brain. You really don't need much more, except maybe a pen and a notebook. Depending on where you are studying will determine the questions you need to ask and answer, but make up a list of questions and then answer them as best you can while reading a passage. Your list may look like this:

Who wrote this book? (authorship)
Who was he writing to? (audience and circumstance)
What does this passage tell me about God? (Character study)
What does this passage tell me about myself? (personal observation)
Why does God want me to know this? (personal application)

It's just a suggestion, but you have to start somewhere. The Bible must be more than the book sitting on your nightstand. It is your compass for life.

So slow down. Work through a chapter at a slower pace. Don't check off any boxes. Don't worry about speed. Just look for Jesus and draw closer to Him through the study of His Word.

Stop reading and start studying.


  1. Your so right many times I have picked up my Bible and quickly read through a few verses without actually asking, what is it that God wants me to learn? What is He trying to teach me? Reading just to say I did my duty for the day. God left us His word to make us richer and fuller in His wisdom. Its not a contest to get in done in a hurry.

  2. You come up with the prettiest backgrounds! I should let you decorate for me!