Seven Steps to Beneficial Bible Reading
“Not only is the Bible the best-selling book of all time, it is the best-selling book of the year every year.”—TIME MAGAZINE.
“I read the Bible sometimes, but I find it deadly boring.”—KEITH, A POPULAR MUSICIAN FROM ENGLAND.
IT IS ironic that many people have a Bible yet seem to gain little value from reading it. Others, though, treasure what they read in the Bible. For example, a woman named Nancy relates: “Since I began reading and meditating on the Bible early each morning, I feel ready to face whatever the day may bring. This routine has done more to relieve my bouts of depression than anything I have tried over the past 35 years.”
Even if you have never read the Bible, does it intrigue you that some have received help from it? If you are already a Bible reader, would you like to benefit more from your reading? If so, try the seven steps described in this article.
Step 1—Read for the Right Reason
▪ You could read the Bible simply as beautiful literature or out of a sense of duty or with the idea that you might find guidance in this troubled world. You will benefit most, though, if your aim is to learn the truth about God. In addition, you will reap rich rewards if your motive is to see how the Bible’s message can affect your life.
The Scriptures highlight the importance of reading for the right reason by comparing the Bible to a mirror: “If anyone is a hearer of the word, and not a doer, this one is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, and off he goes and immediately forgets what sort of man he is. But he who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and who persists in it, this man, because he has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, will be happy in his doing it.”—James 1:23-25.
The man in this example looked at his face in the mirror but failed to adjust his appearance. Perhaps he only glanced at himself, or maybe he lacked the desire to make any changes. Similarly, we will benefit little if we read the Bible haphazardly or fail to apply what we read. In contrast, we can gain true happiness if we peer into the Bible with the idea of becoming “a doer,” allowing God’s thinking to mold our thoughts and actions.
Step 2—Select a Reliable Translation
▪ You may have many Bible translations to choose from in your language. While any translation of God’s Word can benefit you, some use archaic or scholarly language that may be hard to grasp. (Acts 4:13) Certain translations even change the Bible’s pure message by relying on traditions. For example, as we noted in the opening articles of this magazine, some have replaced God’s name, Jehovah, with titles, such as “God” or “Lord.” So when choosing a translation, look for one that accurately renders the Bible into easy-to-understand language that encourages reading.
Millions of readers the world over have found that the New World Translation does just that.* Consider the case of an elderly man in Bulgaria. He attended a meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses and was given a copy of the New World Translation. Afterward, he said, “I have read the Bible for many years, but I have never read a translation that is easier to understand and that goes right to the heart.”
▪ You can gain more Bible understanding by asking the Author for his help, as did the psalmist who said: “Uncover my eyes, that I may look at the wonderful things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18) Pray to God each time you read the Scriptures, asking him to help you to understand his Word. You can also express thanks for the Bible, for without it we would not know God.—Psalm 119:62.
Does God hear such prayers for help? Consider what happened to two teenage sisters in Uruguay. They were puzzled by what the Bible says at Daniel 2:44 and prayed that God send someone to help them understand it. While the girls’ Bible was still open, two of Jehovah’s Witnesses came to their door, read the exact verse the girls had prayed about, and explained that it describes that man-made governments would be replaced by God’s Kingdom.* The teenage sisters were convinced that God had answered their prayer for help.
Step 4—Read Daily
▪ One book publisher noted that “there was an explosion of Bible sales” after the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. Many turn to God’s Word only in times of distress. The Bible, however, encourages us to read it each day, for it says: “This book of the law should not depart from your mouth, and you must in an undertone read in it day and night, in order that you may take care to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way successful and then you will act wisely.”—Joshua 1:8.
The value of regular Bible reading might be illustrated by a man who has had a heart attack and who decides to eat foods that are more nutritious. Would this regimen help him if he followed it only when he felt a sharp pain in his chest? No. He must consistently adhere to a healthy diet to gain the most benefit. Likewise, daily Bible reading will help you to “make your way successful.”
Step 5—Vary Your Approach
▪ Reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation can work well, but you might find other approaches to be refreshing. Here are a few suggestions.
Follow a character. Read all the chapters or books that discuss a particular worshipper of God, such as the following:
• Joseph: Genesis 37-50.
• Ruth: Ruth 1-3.
Focus on a topic. Read the scriptures related to it. For example, research the subject of prayer, and then read the Bible’s counsel on prayer as well as some of the many prayers recorded in the Bible.*
Read aloud. You can benefit greatly by reading the Bible aloud. (Revelation 1:3) You might even read aloud as a family, taking turns reading paragraphs or assigning characters to different family members. Some enjoy listening to a recording of the Bible. “I had a hard time getting started,” said one woman, “so I began by listening to recorded Bible reading. Now I find that the Bible is more exciting than a good novel.”
▪ The pace and distractions of modern-day life are not conducive to meditation. However, just as we have to digest our food in order to be nourished, we must meditate on what we read from the Bible in order to benefit. We do this by mentally reviewing what we read and by asking ourselves such questions as these: ‘What have I learned about Jehovah God? How does this apply to me? How might I use it to help others?’
Such thinking allows the Bible’s message to touch our heart and increases the joy we find in reading God’s Word. Psalm 119:97 says: “How I do love your law! All day long it is my concern.” Through meditation, the psalmist made the Scriptures his concern all day long. Doing so helped him to develop a deep love for what he learned.
Step 7—Get Help to Understand
▪ God does not expect us to grasp his Word fully on our own. Even the Bible acknowledges that it contains “some things hard to understand.” (2 Peter 3:16) The book of Acts describes an Ethiopian official who was perplexed by a portion of the Bible that he read. God sent one of His servants to help him, with the result that the Ethiopian man “kept going on his way rejoicing.”—Acts 8:26-39.
You too can profit more from Bible reading by getting help to understand what you read. Contact Jehovah’s Witnesses in your community, or write to the address on page 4 of this magazine for a free home Bible study.
The New World Translation, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses, has been printed in whole or in part in 83 languages and is also available online in 11 languages at www.watchtower.org.
For more information about God’s Kingdom and what it will do, see chapter 8 of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
If you are new to Bible reading, try starting with the fast-paced record of Jesus’ ministry in the book of Mark.
The book What Does the Bible Really Teach? has helped many in a topical study of the Bible. Chapter 17, for example, discusses what the Scriptures say on the topic of prayer.