I spent a semester abroad in Australia during my junior year of college. Our student house was a 45-minute public transport ride from the university, so I often found myself riding the bus. Since I didn’t yet own a mobile phone, I read large portions of the Bible over and over—maybe the book of Colossians on the way to school and half of Romans on the way home. That precious time fostered a love for and appreciation of the Bible I am still benefiting from today. When I was far from home and struggling through a tough academic semester, the God of the Bible became my companion and comfort. And our connection grew because of consistent time spent in the Word.
Do it for Current-You
Hold on to instruction, do not let it go;Proverbs 4:13
guard it well, for it is your life.
The Word is our very life. And we need it daily. For some reason, my day just can’t quite get off to the right start if I don’t begin in the Word. I don’t know about you, but my heart and my mind need a daily “reset,” a daily filling. A few mornings with no Bible study, and I’m feeling pretty lifeless and cranky. Let me be your personal cheerleader: you can do this! Do it for yourself, for current-you. You can open the Bible and read. It’s not for the super-scholar; Bible study is for every believer, every Christ-follower.
Be patient with yourself—if you only have five minutes today, then do that. Yet I have noticed a principle secretly at work in my own life: I somehow always make time for what is most important to me. Desire plus priority usually equals time commitment. This is true in most areas of life, and I believe can be true for your Bible study too. Take a look at your day today: what are you making time for that is important to you? Here’s a challenge: pray for your commitment to time with Jesus to rise to the top of your “heart’s importance list.” My friend, make the choice to give the very best of your day and your time to Jesus.
Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.Romans 10:17
If we want to grow in our faith and to mature in our obedience, we must be in the Word (Romans 15:4, Luke 11:28). If we want to know Jesus, we must be in the Word (Matthew 4:4). If we want to have the words to say in Spirit-led conversation, then we must be in the Word (1 Corinthians 2:10-16, 2 Timothy 2:15). If we want to speak truth to our children, then we must be in the Word (John 14:16-18, Deuteronomy 11:18-19). If we want to know the Bible better in three years than we do today, then we must be in the Word (Psalm 37:31, Psalm 40:8).
We cannot expect truth to flow out of our minds and mouths unless we are intentionally planting it there by consistently reading from the Truth Giver Himself. An “Instagramer” I enjoy following says: “We need to speak truth to ourselves.” Lisa Hensley reminds us our own voice in our head is the voice we hear the most, and we need to check if that voice is influenced by the truth of God’s Word or by our own emotions and feelings. We have to know the truth in order to preach it to ourselves.
In her book Girls’ Club, Sally Clarkson writes, “Do you want your children, friends, neighbors, and husband to draw from the life that is bubbling over from your heart and mind and words and attitudes? Then you must spend day after day with the Word of Life, who will give you the true wisdom you long for. Determine that you will read the Bible every day. Choose to believe in God every day, in every circumstance, because that is the way to please Him. Pray for His guidance, and live with His presence beside you” (italics mine).
Do it for Future-You
Sisters, we can start again,For King and Country, “Priceless”
Give honor to the end,
Love, we can start again.
The refrain quoted above really speaks to me of Bible study and looking toward our future selves (even though I don’t think that’s what the lyric writers exactly had in mind). Sister, you can start again! Give honor to the end—imagine the mature and steadfast Christ-follower you would like to be at the end of your life. And then work with all your might toward that end. You can start again!
Sometimes I imagine myself as an old and infirm Jana, perhaps in my 80’s or early 90’s (there’s longevity in my family, okay?). I long for future-Jana to know the Bible so well that, even if she can’t read anymore and she’s alone, passages of Scripture will come to mind in a steady flow of comfort. I want to read now for future-Jana. As we discussed in Part 1, the Word is alive and will continue to work in our hearts and minds long after we close the book. Here’s a question to ponder: how will your future-self benefit from the way you study the Bible right now?
Every time you open the Bible to study, you sow powerful seeds of encouragement and knowledge for your future-self. Treasures of knowledge and hope are internalized for future uncertainty and hard roads. It’s really incredible how passages of Scripture I studied years ago will “pop” into my mind to haunt me in the best way. As an example, one day I was sitting in the quiet of the morning, feeling overwhelmed about my task list. I prayed out loud: “Jesus, I feel like my lists rule my life.” Immediately a verse popped into my mind: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15, italics mine). It was the exact truth I needed. Thank you, Jesus! A passage from Colossians I studied over and over back in 2006 came to mind at just the right moment in the middle of a 2019 prayer. The power and pervasiveness of Jesus’s Word just astounds me.
I should also note that same passage goes on to say: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). Yes, Jesus, may this be true for us.
Let’s Get Practical
Your time in the Word doesn’t have to be boring or uncomfortable! It’s fun to create a nice space for your time with Jesus. Go ahead and set up a cozy corner for yourself—a Bible, your favorite pens, pretty journal, maybe even candles (or a diffuser), and your favorite mug full of hot coffee. Make it pretty, cozy, and welcoming—your own special space. My kids know mom has a certain spot on the couch in the morning with all of her Bible stuff nearby, a coaster for coffee, and a cozy blanket and tissues (just in case). Having a special space I enjoy helps enhance my commitment to time with Jesus.
Now a few thoughts about staying focused, which is a struggle for even the most committed among us. First, I encourage you not to use your phone for Bible reading; use an actual book. It’s probably best not to have your phone in the same room with you. There are entirely too many distractions calling to us while we’re on or near our phones. Second, keep a blank notepad nearby and jot down any thoughts, grocery list items, etc. as they come to mind. This way you can still remember those to-do items but not sabotage your time in the Word. And third, simply practice self-discipline. It is a practice, a learned skill, a disciplining of self to be able to sit and focus on Jesus and His Word. Don’t give up; keep practicing.
It’s also helpful to have good tools for your time with Jesus, so here are a few ideas. It is not exhaustive, of course. And please remember none of these are truly necessary—your Bible is enough!
- Biblegateway website, YouVersion phone app, and Blue Letter Bible website and app are all good tools for looking up verses, topics, or different Bible versions. The YouVersion app also has excellent Bible reading plans, including audio plans.
- Here is a chronological Bible reading plan. A chronological plan can help you start to grasp the flow and arc of the entire biblical story. Also, here is the 5 day per week Bible reading plan I am currently using. I like how there is a mix of Old and New Testaments, and Psalms every day, along with one gospel every quarter.
- Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin is an excellent resource to enhance your Bible study abilities. “…this book will equip you to engage God’s Word in a way that trains your mind and transforms your heart” (Amazon description).
- If you want more practical help, this course is excellent! Driven Women Bible Study by Phylicia Masonheimer is a free 7-day e-mail course designed to “teach you practical tips for Bible study habits, taking you deeper in the Word than ever before.”
- Compose Prayer Journal (6-Month) by Val Marie Paper. This prayer journal transformed my morning prayer time. It helps me to make a list of prayer points at the beginning of each month and then stay consistent with interceding on behalf of others.
- The CSB Study Bible for Women. I have really enjoyed this Bible over the past few years. The study notes are written by two women theologians with insightful comments and specific application to women.
- Sometimes a commentary can provide more insight on difficult passages. I often reference Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (here’s a concise version) to study a passage in-depth. I have also used a couple of commentaries by F.F. Bruce over the years.
- I’ve read rave reviews about the Give Me Jesus Journal and other Well-Watered Women Bible study resources. These can be used to guide your Bible study time as they encourage you to dig into the Word for yourself. I completed their Redefined study last year and was greatly encouraged.
- My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers is a devotional I have read many times over the years. But remember to use it as a companion to your Bible study, not as a substitute!
- Bible Study Fellowship and Community Bible Study are excellent resources if you enjoy meeting with a community of women to help keep you accountable in your study of the Word.
Read the Bible: for Him. We come because He is worthy.
Read the Bible: for yourself. We come because we need Him.
Will you join me?