Why is it that most Christians do not study the Word of God? Probably many reasons could be given, but three seem to be most common. The first reason is that people don’t know how. This was my situation for many years. I would go to a Bible conference, retreat, or revival and hear great preaching. I would often leave the meeting amazed at the scriptural insight the various speakers possessed. Then I would think, Why didn’t I see that? and I would try to study on my own. But because no one had shown me how to study the Bible by myself, I was unable to do it and felt frustrated. I knew God wanted me to study his Word, so I committed myself to learning how and to teaching others how it could be done.
If I were to meet a starving man by the side of a river, lake, or ocean, I could do one of two things: I could get my fishing rod and catch him a fish, thus satisfying his hunger for a few hours; or I could teach him how to fish, thus satisfying his hunger for his lifetime. The second option is obviously the best way to help that man. In the same way, hungry Christians need to be taught how to feed themselves from the Word of God.
The second reason why people don’t study their Bibles is that they are not motivated. This is because they have not experienced the joy that comes from personally discovering truths from the Word of God. Past efforts at Bible study have been unfruitful, so they have given up. They have become satisfied with getting all they need for their Christian lives from somebody else rather than finding it out on their own. At this point, I must warn you about this book: If you get serious about studying the Bible on your own, you will never again be satisfied with a mere secondhand knowledge of the Scriptures. Dr. Paul Little once compared personal Bible study to eating peanuts. Once you get started doing it, you’re hooked! When you discover how good Bible study “tastes,” you will find yourself going back for more and more. Personal Bible study can be habit-forming!
The third reason why people don’t study the Scriptures is that they are lazy. Bible study is hard work, and there are no shortcuts to it. It is just like anything else in life that is truly worthwhile: it takes time, effort, concentration, and persistence. Most great truths of the Word of God do not lie on the surface; we have to dig for them. Just as gold might be found at the bottom of a mine or a pearl at the bottom of the sea, so the deeper truths of God must be searched out with great diligence.
Howard G. Hendricks, well-known conference speaker and Christian education expert, has spoken of three stages of attitudes toward Bible study:
- The “castor oil” stage — when we study the Bible because we know it is good for us, but it is not too enjoyable.
- The “cereal” stage — when our Bible study is dry and uninteresting, but we know it is nourishing.
- The “peaches and cream” stage — when we are really feasting on the Word of God.
In the Western world we live in a society that prefers to have other people do our thinking for us. That’s why TV and other forms of entertainment, including professional sports, are so popular. We want to relax and be entertained without having to think or exert any effort. In Bible study, however, we have to learn some techniques, some methods, and then concentrate on digging out the messages God has for us.