…hold fast to the word I preached to you… (1 Corinthians 15:2b) A good sermon exhorts us to grapple with God’s Word preached, hold fast to its truth, and do what it commands. A preacher who places himself under Holy Scripture will present his teaching in a way the congregation...
If you clicked on this article, you’re likely struggling with consistent time in God’s Word.
In any given season, a myriad of factors can keep us from reading the Bible: limited time, guilt, a lack of discipline, a lack of desire, unrealistic expectations of what time in the Word should look like, a lack of mental energy, or utter exhaustion.
What is it for you?
- Maybe you’ve never really read the Bible, and the idea of starting is intimidating.
- Maybe you’re a young adult transitioning out of a flexible season, and your former Bible study method isn’t working anymore.
- Maybe you’re a young mom whose mental energy and time are limited by a lack of sleep and an unpredictable schedule.
- Maybe your New Year’s resolutions included completing a Bible reading plan that you now feel completely overwhelmed by.
- Maybe you are grieving or hurting and feel like you can only swallow Scripture in small doses.
Whoever and wherever you are, be encouraged, my weary friend, that the Word of God has something for you in this season and your unique circumstances and limited abilities don’t disqualify you from accessing it. Regardless of the amount of time and energy you have or the amount of guilt or shame you feel, you can consistently engage with and be nourished by the Bible.
The 3-5 Method
The method below is one that I’ve found to be practical, doable, and sustainable during seasons where my time and mental energy have been scant. My prayer is that it might help you open God’s Word consistently and grow in your faith and knowledge, even though that may currently feel like an impossibility to you. I call it “The 3-5 Method.”
Let go of your expectations.
While we may be fully aware of our need for God’s Word, some of us are guilty of pursuing an ideal image of what we believe engagement with the Bible should look like, rather than seeking God himself within it. At best, clinging to this ideal will leave us frustrated with ourselves and with any interruptions we experience as we approach Scripture; at worst, we will walk away from Bible study altogether because it can’t look the way we want it to.
You don’t need an hour alone, a journal, a micron pen, and a steaming pourover coffee in an Anthropology mug to grow in your knowledge of Scripture. God will meet you where you are as you seek him with what you have.
Let go of your guilt.
Your right standing with God is not obtained by how deeply, how consistently, or how slowly you study the Bible. Christ offered himself as a sacrifice on the cross and rose from the dead to be your righteousness.
Your failure to observe your own quiet time standards does not disqualify you from meeting with him or enjoying his Word. He doesn’t need you to read the Bible to justify yourself. Don’t diminish his sacrifice by letting your guilt keep you from meeting with him and letting his words dwell in you.
Choose a book of the Bible.
Learn the context, author, and audience of this book. This way, all of the verses you study using this method will be read within that framework.
I recommend starting with one of the Gospels or an Epistle (because, let’s be honest, if you’re using this method it’s probably not the season to dive into Numbers or Leviticus).
Find 3-5 minutes.
Find a time in your day (and maybe some back-ups) where you can expect to have 3-5 available minutes. If you have trouble identifying a time, think about when you usually scroll through social media, or set aside 3-5 minutes before an activity you do every day (like taking a shower, reading the news, exercising, eating lunch, driving home, or getting ready for bed).
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It may be a good idea to set a timer if you’d like to ensure your focus for this small chunk of time, especially if you’re doubting that you do indeed have the time.
Begin this 3-5 minutes with a simple prayer that God would bless your time in his Word. Pray for the ability to focus, and that the Holy Spirit would give you wisdom, understanding, and patience.
Start with context.
Use the first day to study the context, author, intended audience, and themes of the book you’ve chosen. You can use a study Bible to do this, download a version of the Logos app for free, or watch The Bible Project video for your chosen book of the Bible.
Study 3-5 verses for 3-5 minutes.
After the initial day, devote this 3-5 minutes to the reading and study of 3-5 verses at a time. If it needs to be two or six, that’s okay. This isn’t meant to be rigid, just realistic.
It may be helpful to re-read the verses from the day before for context. If you are having trouble focusing, simply read the same verses again.
Look up words you don’t know or read a different translation using Bible Gateway if something seems confusing. Jot down any questions you might have or things you want to think about more.
- Observe. Make observations about what you’ve read. Try to comprehend what the verses are saying.
- Interpret. Try to interpret what the verse means within its context. What did the original author intend to communicate? How would the original audience have heard it?
- Apply. Then apply what this collection of verses reveals about God, humanity, or the subject it addresses to your own life.
You can use a commentary, study Bible, or the Logos app to learn more or delve deeper if you have extra time.
When your 3-5 minutes are up, you can go about your day, having nourished your soul and gleaned something to chew and meditate on. If another pocket of time emerges, feel free to do another 3-5 minutes and 3-5 more verses.
A True Place of Rest
Focusing on smaller chunks of Scripture at a time can actually be just as fruitful, if not more fruitful, than studying a chapter or longer passage in one sitting. In fact, not only did my time using “The 3-5 Method” lead to more concentrated meditation and poignant application, but it inadvertently gave way to a great deal of Scripture memorization.
I hope that you, like me, will find this method to be a practical, possible, and sustainable approach to the study of God’s Word so that the Bible might become a true place of rest for you, rather than another place you feel behind or overwhelmed.