How do you decide what to study?

Have you ever wondered, “What should I study in the Bible? Where do I even begin?”

We recently had this question from a member of myOneThingAlone. Dawne says, “Sometimes I’m not sure what to study. Do you choose particular books or a certain Scripture? How do you go about deciding? I pray for guidance, but I still have doubts as to whether I’m studying what I ought to.”

Dawne, thank you so much for sharing that question. I think this is such a great topic to discuss, and I applaud you for wanting to study Scripture. I think that is fantastic.

A few ideas that I had with this: First of all, you can choose a book of the Bible to study and just spend time going through it chapter by chapter, verse by verse and kind of doing an inductive study that way, where you spend a day on a few verses and write it out in your journal. You can use the FEAST method to do that. You can just look up whatever book catches your interest and stick with it in the long term, or you can go through and start with the Gospel of John and then move on to maybe an epistle, like Ephesians, Galatians, Colossians, Philippians — those are just so rich with application. Then you could switch to the Old Testament and pick a book from there. That is one way of doing it, just picking a book to study.

Another way is to kind of read through the Bible and you can do that by doing like Genesis and then New Testament, Matthew, and then Exodus and Mark, and kind of going back and forth that way as you work your way through Scripture. There are so many different ways to do it, but you can just read through a book at a time.

Another way to study Scripture is to read through themes. Spend some time praying and considering, “What is the Lord convicting me of, and what is something specific that I want to learn more about?” So it might be that you’re going through a season where you think to yourself, “I need to learn what Scripture says about anger and how to deal with my anger.” And so you go to the Bible and you look at all the different verses about anger and read one verse each day or a couple of verses each day on that topic. Then over the course of a few weeks, you can get a holistic view of what the Bible says about that topic. So that’s more of a thematical way to study Scripture.

It’s great when you want to learn more about a specific topic that you feel that God is working on in your life. We have thematic reading plans in myOneThingAlone — you can search the archives for that. You can also use something like the YouVersion Bible app and find a reading plan on a certain theme.

I also have free reading plans on OneThingAlone.com so you can find them there. If you just search “reading plans” you can find that resource.

A third idea and this is something that I really really like — I should probably do better at doing this, but it’s to read whatever your pastor is preaching through.

So if your church is going through a particular series, like right now my church is going through Isaiah, you can take time in your own personal quiet time to read that passage beforehand to spend time studying it yourself so that when you sit in church Sunday morning, what the pastor preaches won’t be a completely new and foreign text to you. You’ll be like, “Oh yeah, I read that too!” and you’ll be like, “I got that out of the passage, too!” or you might say, “You know what? I never thought about that. I studied that and it’s so cool to see how  it comes out differently when someone else teaches on it.”

So that’s the third idea. So you can read a book at a time, you can read on a theme at a time, or you can read on whatever your pastor is preaching on in church. But whatever you do, I encourage you to trust that God’s Spirit will lead you and that He will use His word. There isn’t just one right thing to study and if you don’t study that thing, you miss out on God’s blessings. God will use whatever you read to minister into your life.

I just love this passage from Isaiah 55, where he says, “the Word of God will not return to Him void. It will set out and accomplish the work that He has sent it to do, just like the waters from heaven, the rain showers the earth and grows up the crops — so the Word of God in our lives when we read it and meditate on it, it will accomplish His work. So let that encourage you that whatever you study, God will use it in your life.