For many Christians finding the time for personal Bible study is near impossible. Other Christians have all the time in the world, but aren't sure where to start. Today I thought it'd be good to make a list of a few simple actions you can do to make your personal Bible study more fulfilling. None of these steps are complicated, and all of them will aid you in growing in God's word.
The biggest decision every Bible student makes is "where do I start studying?" Some take the "Daily Bible Reading" approach and start their study in Genesis. Most people I've talked to who do this either burn out at the genealogies or push through only to quit by the time they hit Leviticus. Let me suggest starting a bit smaller. Instead of Genesis, start with a Gospel. Yes, I know you've already heard the Gospels a million times, but, if you're really committed to diligent study, I promise you that you'll learn something new. Start with a book that you're familiar with and start studying little sections at a time adding more and more as you become a better student.
Read, Read, Read
Before you start doing anything with a passage you need to read it, and read it again, and read it again, and read it again, and...you get the picture. Understand that reading a passage does not equal studying a passage, but reading is an essential part to study. As you read the passage over and over you'll find different words pop out to you. Try reading the passage with an emphasis on different words within the sentence as well as this may open up new paths for your study.
When reading through a text ask the standard "who, what, when, where, why" questions. It's also good practice to keep a notepad next to you to write down any textual questions you might have (ex. "why did Paul go here?" "why is this event in this gospel and not the others?"). The more you question a text the more you'll learn from it.
Look for Recurring Words and Themes
When reading a text be on the lookout for, and write down, words and themes that pop up over and over again. For example, when reading through Romans chapter 8 you'll see words like "sin," "death," "flesh," "law," and "life" repeated over and over again. You'll also find the theme of "the Spirit" over and over again in this particular chapter. Write these things down and keep a record of how many appearances they make within your section, the chapter, and the book.
Study, Then Apply
Application is an essential part to studying our Bibles. Without application our Bible study is fruitless. That being said, if we fail to study the text before applying our application will be worthless because it will be based on an incomplete knowledge of the text. Be sure to apply the passage to yourself, but do so only after you've devoted ample time to studying it in depth.
Save the Commentaries for Later
If you have a library of any kind at your home it's probably made up mostly of commentaries. It can be very tempting when studying a difficult passage to run to those commentaries and see what they have to say on the text. DON'T do that! Don't get into the habit of going to your favorite commentary set when the study gets tough. When you encounter a difficult passage plow through it. Spend weeks on it if you have to, but don't take the easy way out by opening up a commentary and seeing what brother so-and-so had to say on a particular subject. Are commentaries a good resource to have? Yes, but go to them only after you've formed your own conclusion on a text. The commentary is meant to be used as a guide not as a tool that does the studying for you.
The next time you sit down to study your Bible, try implementing these six simple actions. Regardless of whether you have hours to study or just a few minutes each day, these actions will help you grow in God's word and make your personal Bible study more fulfilling.