Perhaps you have heard this much overused saying: “What’s the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” I’m not sure what sort of negative childhood experience with Dumbo caused the originator of this quote to choose an elephant as the large creature of choice, but this quote does contain some wisdom.
When we’re faced with a task that seems insurmountable and makes us feel unqualified or even scared, often the hardest thing to do is to just get started! For many, approaching God’s Word can feel this way. We feel confused as to where to start, and how to understand what we have read.
What should I read?
Often the tendency for someone new to Bible study is jump in and read it cover to cover. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach (after all as 2 Timothy 3:16 reminds us all Scripture is from God, and profitable for us), it may not be the easiest place to start reading. An easier place to start is the book of John. John’s Gospel, which is the fourth book in the New Testament, is a great starting place because it is both manageable in length and sets up the reader with a good theological foundation. Most importantly the book gives a great overview of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
How do I understand what I have read?
One of the most amazing things about the Bible is how rich its content is no matter how “skilled” of an interpreter you are. While there is much to be gained from deep inductive Bible study, there is also plenty of benefit for a person with less experience, training, and tools. An old pastor of mine, Dr. Erwin Lutzer suggests approaching the Bible with three simple questions.
What does this passage teach me about God (the Gospel, His love, His sovereignty)?
Is there a promise I must believe?
Is there a command I must obey or a sin I should avoid?
While we can always dig deeper into the Word of God, and find more truth for our lives, we should not avoid spending time in God’s Word from fear of not being able to understand. There will always be things in the Bible that are hard for us to understand, no matter how long you’ve been reading the Bible. When you come across these text and topics, seek out your Life Group or other friends and mentors that you trust who are students of the Bible. Or shoot an email to your Venue Pastor/Director asking them to give you a hand in understanding something that is difficult for you.
It’s helpful to remember that the Bible is a gift to us. How amazing is it that the God who created everything, who sent Jesus to die and pay for our sin, and who rose from the dead offering us through faith eternal life, has communicated with us through the Bible. We should be encouraged that God will help us to understand and believe in His Word as He continues to transform our lives to look more and more like Jesus.