Does the idea of studying Scripture independently make you nervous? Have you ever thought, "I wish I could approach the Bible with confidence, but I am truly confused when I pick up this precious Book"?
Let's take the confusion out of Bible study and build a habit of studying Scripture regularly, independently, and confidently.
Not yet reading Scripture regularly? Don't look back, just make plans to get into a Bible study habit going forward. We all start somewhere.
I am using the phrase "studying regularly" because the idea of "daily Bible study" - while ideal - can leave some of us ladies too intimidated to try or obsessing over not missing a single day. We don't want Bible study to become a chore or a missed day turn into a source of false guilt.
Strive to be intentional about studying Scripture as many days as possible. Take my fitness goal as an example: I want to work out daily, but I know life happens and may force me to miss a day. I know I'll be back at it tomorrow.
Regular Bible study is an essential foundation when we want to move from "confused about the Bible" to "approaching it confidently". We are building a foundation. Repetition, intentionality, and a certain amount of effort are going to be a part of that process.
You envision yourself holding this big Book and feeling confident that you know what it says. Well, that means you have to read a lot of it, and that takes time. You know it's all worth it, because every day, you are spending valuable time in God's Word and getting to know Him on a deeper level.
The Keys to Independent Bible Study
First of all, let me clarify that studying the Bible "independently" doesn't mean you have to study "on your own". Studying Scripture within a group or consulting outside sources can be beneficial.
Studying Scripture independently means that you are no longer relying on other people to study the Bible for you. Instead, you are becoming a good steward of God's Word, studying it for yourself to test the world's messages against Scripture.
1. Always Begin With Prayer.
We are dependent on the Holy Spirit when we study the Bible. He opens our minds to understanding and our hearts to conviction. The Holy Spirit is an active participant in your Bible study, and you invite Him into the process with prayer.
2. Make Your Own Observations.
Independent Bible study does not skip this step! Before you find an application or consult a commentary or Bible study guide for fun facts, make your own observations.
Read the passage carefully, phrase by phrase, and always read the surrounding context. Ask good questions - who, what, where, when, why, how? Ask yourself, "What else does the Bible say about this topic?"
Gather as many observations as you can find because the following steps - interpretation and application - are all based on this exercise. With time, this step will become second nature and really fun. Trust me!
To help you get there, consider the Scripture Confident through the Bible course. You have the option of enrolling in the first two modules only. That's where you'll start with that regular habit of prayerful Bible study and then venture into the details of making good textual observations.
3. Build Your Interpretation on Your Observations.
Now that you've done the hard work of making good observations, you are ready to interpret. Honestly, there are many portions of Scripture that are very straight-forward and require much less interpretation than you may think.
Of course, other times, you are scratching your head, wondering what's even going on. That's a great time to ask questions such as, "Does anything seem to not mean what it literally says? Does something sound confusing? Did the character's reaction reflect God's desire? Are there words that I don't understand?"
Interpreting Scripture takes some critical thinking and, of course, great observation skills. I dare say, nothing boosts your Scripture confidence than making a difficult interpretation decision based on your own observations. You'll love the feeling.
If, after doing your best to answer your interpretation questions on your own, you are still left wondering about some of them, consult some outside sources. One of the best places to start is biblestudytools.com. Just enter the passage you are studying, then scroll down to find a number of related commentaries and cross-references.
Still unclear about the meaning of a particular passage? Contact your pastor or Christian mentor and ask them to go over the passage with you.
4. Let It Change Your Life.
We don't study the Bible to share fun facts at our next church event. We study to know God and live a life that honors Him. We need to apply what we read.
After you have made your own observations and interpretations, ask yourself, "How should I respond? Does this passage say something about how I should live? Am I currently in compliance?"
Ask the Holy Spirit to convict you and to help you follow God's will for you! Bible study is life-changing.
The keys to studying the Bible with confidence are to do it well and with dependence on God.
Confidence without skill is false confidence. It may feel good but has no foundation. The type of Scripture confidence I desire for you is based on a strong Bible study foundation.
Beware of the "confidence" that claims, "I got this - all on my own!" It's the Holy Spirit who truly gives understanding and certainly the One who enables us to apply God's Word. Stay reliant on Him!
Confidence in your Bible study abilities will grow over time, the more you practice, the further you read, and the more life change you see. Don't get overwhelmed at the thought of mastering it all in one day - or even one month. Just get started!
Check out the Scripture Confident through the Bible online course. It breaks down all of the steps of Bible study into manageable pieces and allows you to journey through the Bible on hand-picked passages that you will study in-depth with increasing independence.
This course truly takes the guesswork out of Bible study!
Bible study lessons, downloadable study guides, and video tutorials will take you all the way from confused to confident. This course requires no background knowledge and will teach you how to study the Bible independently.
Find more information here.
Now tell me, what's the next step you will take towards Scripture confidence.
Whatever it is, may God grant you success and insight as you study His Word.