Author Jerry Bridges popularized the Navigator Discipleship tool called “The Word Hand”, which highlights five methods of learning from the Bible. The five methods are Hearing God’s Word, Reading God’s Word, Studying God’s Word, Memorizing God’s Word and Meditating God’s Word. Each of these methods is helpful in strengthening our understanding of Scripture and knowing God better. What I’ve found helpful is to practice each of these methods through the week. Yes, it’s not always possible with our busy schedules, but I want to highlight some practical suggestions from my ongoing journey.
Hearing God’s Word preached Sunday after Sunday and through the week via audio or video sermons often provides a fresh understanding into Scripture and keeps us encouraged through the week. Spurgeon once commented on the arrogance of certain men who spoke out against using commentaries, but this could be equally said against those who take the preaching of God’s Word lightly. He said, “It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others”. We often want God to speak to us directly and ignore God’s illumination to other people, especially pastors/teachers trained in handling God’s Word better than most of us. This ought not to be so. If the Spirit can illumine our minds, He can do the same to others, especially those called and trained in handling God’s Word well. We must be willing to hear God’s Word preached! It is a great idea to schedule weekly time to listen to God’s Word (apart from the weekly Sunday sermon). Yes, we don’t do what we don’t plan to do! Let us also remember Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
Jerry Bridges once memorably said, “Reading gives us breadth, but study gives us depth.” Reading the Bible through the year will help us understand the big picture or the storyline of the Bible. There are a number of Bible reading plans available, but I use this one.
Studying specific passages of Scripture deepens our understanding of the heart of God. During the week, we could take one or two passages of Scripture for study and deep-dive into the meaning, context and application of the text to our lives. As we study or after our study, it is helpful to refer to commentaries for additional insights. I’d also encourage taking notes during the study. Another important way I’ve found helpful is to study the Bible with another brother or sister from church. Not only will this help with additional insights into God’s Word, but it helps deepen the bond between the two. Digging deep into God’s Word with community spurs spiritual growth like nothing else does!
Andrew M. Davis wrote a short little book titled “An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture” to show us that it is possible to memorize not just short passages of Scripture, but even books of the Bible. Piper says about this mini-book, “This very helpful little book inspired me to tackle the memorizing of Romans 1-8. By God’s grace, I made it. Oh, how sweet and how terrible to live so intimately with the greatest truth in the world!” If God’s Word is the greatest truth in the world, then we must strive to keep it close to our hearts. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” As the devil tempts us to sin or act in unbelief, we have the Word as our defense! We could start with short verses, proceed to bigger passages and then even memorize an entire chapter. Difficult task (for me certainly), but not impossible!
Christian meditation is unlike eastern forms of meditation. We don’t empty our minds but fill our minds with truth! Meditating on God’s Word is ‘thinking over’ the hearing, reading, studying and memorizing we’ve done through the day or week. As we meditate on God’s Word during the day, we keep God at the center of everything we say or do through the day. Such a man or woman who meditates on God’s Word day and night is called “blessed” (Psalm 1:2). Such meditation on God’s Word is not always possible with our hectic schedules, but it is possible to schedule specific times of the day to meditate on truths we have heard, read, studied or memorized during the day or week.
God’s Word is precious. It is the most precious truth in the world. As God makes us more like Christ each passing day, let us be Bible-people! Let us be people who love the Word with our entire being! I hope these practical strategies help on this journey.