Today is going to be different.
How many times have you said that when you opened your Bible? Today will be different. I am going to start my day with God, I will find an amazing verse that speaks to me, and I will feel myself growing deeper in my faith! Then reality hits. We have no idea where to start! Old Testament? New Testament? The Gospels? Maybe I’ll just start thumbing through the pages and stop randomly on a page. Hey, it’s all good, right? I think we’ve all tried that method. And it never works out that well. Unless you like Habakkuk. Why do we always seem to land in Habakkuk?
As Christians, we know we’re supposed to spend time with God- Prayer and Bible study. We’ve heard it since our Sunday school days. Even if you’re new to Christianity, you know the importance of prayer and reading your Bible. Why is it, then, that reading the Bible is so hard? We treat it like we’re Nick Cage in National Treasure. We need to find the code to unlock this secret message.
And after trying and trying some more, we finally give up. It may be a few days, weeks, or even months before we have the thought, again: Today is going to be different.
There is no secret message
You don’t have to be a pastor to understand God’s Word. That’s the good news! God sent it to all of us, and He didn’t reveal its meaning to only a select few. There are no gatekeepers when it comes to the Bible. Did you know that in the time of Jesus, there were two types of the Greek language (most of the New Testament is written in Greek)? One language was formal, the language of dignitaries. This was the language you would learn in the best schools. The language of the rich. But there was another language. It was the common language of the people. It didn’t have as many rules, and everyone spoke the Common Greek.
Can you guess which language the New Testament is mostly written in? Yep. The Common language of the people!
God wants you to read His Word and understand its meaning. You don’t need a pastor. You don’t need a priest. And you (for sure!) don’t need any special degrees!
What you do need is a strategy. Thankfully, there is an easy one that works like gangbusters!
A simple strategy for reading the Bible: S.O.A.P.
When you have a difficult problem to solve, you need to develop (or find) a strategy that works. Make a plan, work the plan. This works in just about every areas of life, from starting a business to online social marketing to selling houses to working out. Create or find a strategy that works. Adopt the strategy. Use the strategy until you find success.
The same holds true for your spiritual life. If you want to find success when it comes to reading your Bible, you need to find, adopt, and use a strategy that works. Fortunately, there is a strategy that has been around for years that is simple and easy to remember. S.O.A.P.
S.O.A.P. is a Bible study method that takes the confusion out of reading God’s Word. It’s an acronym, with each letter representing a step in the process. Simply remember the word, soap, and you’ll have an awesome strategy for getting the most out of your Bible reading.
S = Scripture
The first step in the S.O.A.P. strategy is the Bible. But I’ll be honest, this still doesn’t solve the “Where do I begin?” dilema. That’s ok. I will give you some places to start. But the great thing about the S.O.A.P. method is that it will help you get the most out of any passage. You simply need to start with Scripture. Open your Bible.
Bible reading doesn’t have to take long. The S.O.A.P. method works the best anywhere from 5-20 minutes a day. Yes, it only takes 5 minutes a day! Consistency trumps intensity. You will grow deeper in your spiritual life with 5 minutes a day versus 30 minutes once a week. I promise you. Use the right strategy, and it helps you even more!
So, where should you start? I like the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These contain the life and times of Jesus. Mark is the quickest read. If you are new to reading your Bible or have never experienced a lot of success in your devotional life, start with the Book of Mark. John is excellent, too. Beyong the Gospels, just remember God Eats Potato Chips! Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. I LOVE these letters from Paul. Start at Galatians and just keep going! Between reading 1 or 2 Gospels and these 4 books, you will have months of your Bible study planned out. Read a verse, a paragraph or a chapter. But I wouldn’t go beyone that. It isn’t a race. We want the Bible to get inside of your brain and heart. That takes time. Don’t rush it. It’s an investment.
O = Observation
The next step in the S.O.A.P. strategy is Observation. What is this verse or passage saying? Don’t overthink it. We aren’t trying to develop a theological stance. Observe what is going on, like you’re an eye witness. What is being said? Done?
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. -Galatians 5:16
What is going on in this verse? The closer you get to God, the more you will be able to resist temptation. This all it takes to make an observation about a verse. Simply restate what the verse means in your own words. Don’t make it personal, yet. That comes in the next step. For now, make sure you understand what the verse is saying. Don’t move on to the next step until you have a good understanding of the verse. If you need help, do a quick Google search of the verse. A lot of good resources are available. Once you have a good snapshot of the verse or passage, move on to step 3.
A = Application
This is where spiritual growth gets a turbo boost. There’s a difference between simply reading the Bible and engaging with Scripture. This is what the writer, James, says:
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. -James 1:22-25
When you combine reading the Bible with doing what it says, get ready to experience a level of spiritual growth that you have only hoped for. Like James says, it would be odd for someone to see a large smudge on their face in the mirror but leave the house without doing anything about it. The same is true for reading the Bible. If we stop after Step 2 (Observation), we are only allowing God’s Word to get into our minds, not into our hearts.
The Application step asks: “How can I live out this verse?” In our previous example from Galatians 5:16, the application could be:
- I will spend time every day in Bible study and prayer, growing closer to God in the process.
- Through my relationship with God, I will have the strength I need to say no to life’s temptations.
Your application doesn’t need to be long or complicated. It just needs to be personal. Make it about you. What can you do? This is how you will grow in your faith.
P = Prayer
This is the final step. But it is a critical one! Our faith is a conversation. The Bible is God speaking to us. Prayer is the other side of the conversation. It is us talking back to God. Don’t have a 1-sided conversation with God. He wants to hear from you. Finish your time in prayer. Tell God your thoughts about His verses that you read. Let Him know how you plan to live it out. Ask Him for help in following through. Pray for others.
S.O.A.P. is a simple, yet proven strategy to help you read, understand, and apply God’s Word to your life. It’s not a magic pill. Your spiritual life will still take time to grow. You will still have days where you’re frustrated and the Bible is confusing. But stick with it. Work the plan. Like any relationship, it takes time. But you will experience growth.