When I was 16 years old, God gave me an insatiable desire to study His Word.
I remember reading through the pages of Scripture daily—always seeking, always hungry for more. I would pray for wisdom, knowledge, and understanding continually and constantly ask the Lord to illuminate His Word so I could know Him better.
Over time, this desire was overcome by other desires (empty wells) that shifted my attention away from Jesus —the well of living water that would never leave me thirsty and never run dry. Throughout this period, I would often pray that the Lord would give me the same passionate desire I had in my teens—when I had first come to tangibly know of His love.
I remember pleading with God to help me refocus my attentions on HIM— but every time I sought to open my Bible I found myself completely overwhelmed by Scripture.
Yes, overwhelmed and honestly, exhausted.
I would read three verses, pause at the magnificence (or complexity) of what I just read, and close the Bible.
My anxiety would quickly flare up and produce thoughts of defeat.
“I can’t process ALL of that.”
“I won’t remember ANY of this.”
“What’s the point of trying?”
“What does ‘that’ word mean?”
“What was Paul even talking about?!”
“I don’t think my brain can take in any more information today.”
“Maybe ‘next’ time.”
This became the extent of my Bible-reading for a while.
A few passages.
Wallowing in anxiety.
Closing my Bible.
And doing it all over again the next time I opened the Bible… which would often be a few days later due to anxiety and disappointment over the previous attempt.
Eventually, I cried out to God for help instead of floundering helplessly.
I couldn’t seem to open my Bible without giving up within moments, and the enemy was doing all He could to hinder me further, but I knew I couldn’t live without the operating and empowering Word of God in my life.
So after some research, much prayer, and pushing through my anxious thoughts by the power of the Holy Spirit (there was no way I could this on my own), I’ve finally come to a place where I can read a passage of Scripture without freaking out and shutting down.
As a systematic individual, I love order, organization, RULES, and reasoning (I know this sounds absolutely terrible for some of you, but stick with me 😀 ) so when I came across various Inductive Bible Study resources I knew that they would work incredibly well for me.
and I was right!
Learning how to study the Bible inductively and methodically has revolutionized my time with God and had enabled me to actually read and retain what the Lord has spoken. Inductive Bible Study focuses on Observation, Interpretation, and Application so I’ve pulled together five steps below to help you overcome any bouts of anxiety and equip you to study the Word with confidence and excitement!
Btw, if you’re an out-of-the-box thinker and/or super creative, feel free to express your creativity throughout these steps (I love to doodle and write words in script lettering as I journal)!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Study Bible
- Notebook or Journal
- Colorful Pens and/or Pencils
- Highlighters (if you choose to highlight in your Bible)
- Access to the Internet or bookstore for additional resources
1. First Things First, Background.
When studying the Bible, it’s imperative that you engage in a basic background study. In most Study Bibles, you will find an overview of the book you’re about to read before the chapter begins. This overview includes historical background information, the author if known, the purpose of the book, dates, timelines, and key people.
Take out time to write down basic information so you can start with a firm foundation. Bible dictionaries and commentaries are extremely helpful in diving deeper into historical context and background information if your study Bible has minimal content. Check out my last post for some of my favorite bible study resources found here.
2. Write It Out.
Several studies have shown that using pen and paper versus a laptop to take notes boosts memory and the ability to retain and understand concepts.
With that being said, DON’T just read Scripture, WRITE IT OUT!
That’s right. Verse by verse. Or at least the verses that stand out to you.
After you write them out verbatim, write out each verse of the passage in your own words. This will help you better grasp what you are reading because it is now written in your own lingo.
3. Ask and Answer!
As you’re reading and writing down verses, include questions that arise in the midst of your study. For example, if you come across the word justification in the Bible. Write down, “What is justification?” Then use the footnotes in your Study Bible and information in a Bible dictionary/ concordance/and/or commentary to receive answers to the question you just posed.
Instead of coming across something you don’t understand and breezing by it or ignoring it, get into the habit of pausing, praying for revelation, and using trusted resources to obtain clarification.
Side-note: It may also be beneficial to cross references during this step. i.e. –> Take note of other Scriptures that are similar, related, or use the same wording, and take out time to read those as well for a broader understanding.
4. Jot Down Insights & Application Points.
As you continue studying, jot down ANYand ALL observations. If the Lord speaks specifically to you through His Word, write that down too. It can be simple or profound!
Simply put: If you think it, write it!
After you’ve written down insights and observations, add application points. What good is it for us to gain knowledge and wisdom from the Word, but refuse to apply it to our daily lives? This is madness!
Hebrews 4:12 states:
“For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.”
Simply put, the Word of God is living.
It awakens you.
And energizes you in your pursuit of Christ.
We don’t study the Word for head knowledge.
It’s God’s tool to change our hearts.
It’s God’s tool to change us.
So here’s a quick example of this process:
Verse: “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” –Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)
Insight: Forgiveness has no limits—it’s boundlessness. Christ forgave us of our great debts and we should extend this same forgiveness to others who wrong us.
Application: Reach out to the friend you’ve been harboring bitterness towards. Seek peace and extend to them the same forgiveness you’ve been given.
P.S: AFTER, you’ve made your OWN observations and application points, consult other resources for additional insight.
5. It’s A Wrap. Let’s Summarize!
By this point you’ve written and analyzed several verses, paraphrased them in your own words, asked and received answers to your questions, listed observations and insights, made application points, and consulted other biblical resources along the way!
You’re definitely full and your brain is probably on overload! But there’s one more step if you want to take your Bible Study to the next level and ensure you comprehend what you read.
It’s called: Summarizing.
After you’ve made it through a complete passage, choose a key verse that highlights what you just read, then summarize the entire passage and title it. This will equip you to solidify your grasp on the message and main points of the chapter.
Pro-tip: After you’ve summarized, go and share what you’ve learned with someone else! Being able to communicate Scripture to a friend is just an additional way to ensure that you know and understand what you’ve read. PLUS, it gives you the opportunity to further breakdown and discuss what you’ve learned with other people and receive insight…AND most importantly, the Word goes forth. #TripleWinning
I truly hope these steps help you as you pursue the Lord through His Word!
If you have any Bible Study tips or methods that I didn’t list above, please drop them in the comment box below 🙂 I would love to hear how you study and I’m sure others would too. We can all learn from one another!
Grace & peace my friends!
“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” -Matthew 4:4 (ESV)
Danielle Sarbo is an alumni of Liberty University. She received her Master of Arts in Religion: Leadership Studies and is passionate about teaching, equipping, and empowering the Body of Christ. When she is not reading or writing, you will find her preparing for her next weekend get-away to a new city or coffeeshop hopping around her hometown. She would love to connect with you!