Bible study is one of those things that can be awesome when it’s done right, and EXTREMELY confusing when done wrong. I know that when I’m not sure what I’m doing, I feel sort of guilty; like I’m fudging my way through. Most days, I’m positive that I’m making all the Bible study mistakes there are. I wonder if I’m hurting myself more than helping. Doctors warn against self-diagnosing, so am I doing the same thing to myself spiritually?
2016 has been a big year for me, especially in the area of Bible study. I’ve learned a lot, realized what I was doing wrong, and taken steps to correct it. As I thought about it, I wondered if maybe other people struggled with studying the Bible too. I certainly don’t want you to have to learn everything on your own if I can help you out a bit.
Here are a few common Bible study mistakes that people make so you can be sure you’re not blundering into them yourself:
Bible study mistake #1: They don’t do it.
Duh. But seriously. If you never even try, you won’t learn anything at all. Maybe you won’t be amazing the first couple times, but that’s ok. If you start, God will help you get better. You just have to take the first step. Confucius said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” You may feel like Bible study is definitely one of those thousand-mile deals, but you still need to take the first step and try.
Bible study mistake #2: They study the way they watch TV.
TV is great for flipping channels. The Bible is not. When you’re studying, you need to stick with something long enough to get the main themes and ideas. Don’t skip around, and please don’t pick a random verse. If you get bored quickly and flip over to a book written in an entirely different time period, of course it won’t make any sense! Hang out on the same passage for a while (like a month at a time) and dig around. Treasure is buried deep.
Bible study mistake #3: They take it out of context.
Urrgh! This drives me crazy! How in the world are you supposed to know what a verse means if you have no idea where it came from? Studying single verses isn’t a great idea because it doesn’t take into account the context around it. If you are going to focus on a single verse, at least read the chapters around it several times first. Context can also be found by reading a summary of the book, looking up the social customs of that time period, or reading other books by that author (if he wrote any other parts of the Bible).
Bible study mistake #4: They don’t ask God for wisdom.
James 1:5 says “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” It’s ok if you don’t know everything right now. Nobody does. Except God, that is. 😉 All you have to do is ask, and God Himself will help you understand what you’re studying. That’s why it’s called studying… because you’re learnin’ stuff. Ask God to teach you: He’s the one who knows what it’s all about in the first place.
Bible study mistake #5: They get distracted by shiny stuff.
Studying the Bible really doesn’t take all that much: just a Bible, a notebook, and a pen to begin with. But there are so many helpful things that totally distract us from what we’re trying to do. Whether it’s a “new” method of Bible journaling or a special new notebook (not that there’s anything wrong with notebooks… I have several 😉 ), there’s just a lot of potential for procrastination. You have to stick with the point. If you’re being wishy-washy and don’t really know for sure what you’re trying to do, it will be easy to get distracted by the shiny stuff. But if you know for sure what you’re after, those tools can be helpful instead of distracting. It just has to do with your focus.
Your Bible study will be a whole lot more effective if you are not making these mistakes. Take stock of your Bible study habits. You need to check up on yourself regularly to make sure that you’re still headed in the right direction. Once you cut out all the extra stuff, you can have effective Bible study: you just have to be honest with yourself.
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