I’ve read a lot of how-to articles on how to study the Bible, or how to enjoy your quiet time each day. But most of them focus on everything but the Bible. They talk about what sort of tools you should have on hand, how to avoid distractions, how to spend your time, and the list goes on. Yet, when I first came to Christ, what my quiet time lacked wasn’t tools, dedication, or structure—it was understanding. I would read the Bible and either say, “yep, that sounds about right.” Or “…uh, okay.” I grew up in church, therefore I knew what the Bible said. I knew it was God’s Word and it was all true. I knew the stories. What I didn’t know was how to make it personal. So that’s what I’m going to share in this post.
Step 1: Read a Section of the Word
I’m currently reading through the Sermon on the Mount, so I’ll use the passage I read this morning as an example.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
It’s not a long passage, and I’m certainly not going to read through the Bible in a year at this rate, but by reading just a small segment I can get so much more out of my time with God.
If you don’t feel like you got a whole lot out of that, don’t worry. We’re not done yet.
Step 2: Question the Text
I don’t mean to question whether or not it’s true—all of God’s Word is infallible. What I mean is question what it means.
Q. What does it mean to be the light of the world?
That reminded me that Jesus is the light of the world. In fact, I recently read that after the second coming, the only light in heaven and on the new earth will be the glory of God (Revelation 21:23).
Q. But what does it mean when it says we are the light of the world? What kind of light is it talking about?
If we go back to Jesus being the light of the world, it would mean letting His light shine through us. So reflecting His nature in our lives. Living out the fruit of the Spirit, displaying the beatitudes, living like Christ. That’s where our light comes from. Not from us, but from Him.
Step 3: Question Yourself
The next step is to make it personal by turning your questions inward.
Q. Are you letting your light shine on the world? Can people really see your good deeds—and would they know you do them because of what Christ has done in you?
I’ll let you answer that, but it’s important not to beat yourself up in this stage. We all fall short—that’s why Jesus came to die for us. Even after we accept Christ, we still have to grow—which is why it is important to spend time with God. One of my favorite Bible verses says that Christ will continue His work in us until the day of completion. In other words, we won’t be perfect until we get to heaven, all we can do is love God and let Him continue working in us.
Step 4: Respond
Once you have identified what the Scripture really meant and how it relates to you, the next step is to talk to God about it. Ask for help in this area if needed, or thank Him for the work He has done in your life. Give Him glory and seek His will.
Your prayer doesn’t have to last for 15 minutes. Something short and to the point will be just fine (see Luke 18:10-14).
Here’s an example:
Father God, I’m not really sure how I’m doing in this area. I wouldn’t say I’m hiding my light, but I’m not sure how brightly it’s shining either. I am so thankful for what You have done in my life, and, today, I just ask you to continue. Continue Your work in me so I can reflect Your light to the rest of the world and bring You the glory You already deserve. In Jesus’ name I pray; amen.
Step 5: Live it Out
The final step in getting more out of your quiet time is to not let it end when you’re finished. Take what you have learned or recognized and think on it throughout the day. Keep looking for ways to apply it as the day goes by.
What About the Tools?
You don’t need tools to study the Bible. In fact, I didn’t use any for my study this morning (though while typing this up I did double check a few facts and Scripture references. I don’t always do that for personal study, but when sharing studies with others, I want to make sure I’ve got it right). If you want to use tools, you absolutely can. You may want to keep a journal to write down your questions, Scriptures you want to memorize, or whatever is on your heart. You may want to keep a highlighter to highlight your favorite scriptures, or colored pencils to underline words. You might use some sort of device to access a website or app like Bible Gateway to look up Scriptures, or you may want to look up a definition online or in a dictionary.
There are lots of tools you can use. But you don’t really need anything other than access to Scripture. You don’t even need to carve out a chunk of time. I usually like to sit in the mornings and actually enjoy some quiet time with God, but life happens. There are days when I have to prop my Bible on the kitchen counter and read while I cook. When my kids were little, I would ponder on Scripture while I did the dishes. Sure, it’s easier to think when the house is quiet, but multitasking your quiet time is better than skipping it altogether.