Personal Growth

Three Battles to Fight for Personal Bible Study

by Caleb French

man writing down something in a notebook

We often see products—toothpaste, bandages, vitamins—labeled for “double” or “triple protection.” This claim, even if it seems gimmicky, is founded on the truth that damage can come from multiple sources. In fact, the most deceptive forms of decay come from multiple sources, incrementally and simultaneously engaged.

Spiritual disciplines similarly suffer when multiple challenges converge on the same habit. I asked a group of young adults recently, “If we don’t spend focused time studying God’s Word as we should, why not?” I heard many insightful answers, but they boiled down to three general categories:1

  1. We don’t want to. Our desire for God and His Word has waned, and we aren’t deeply, desperately motivated to pursue Him in His Word. This is a motivation problem. And if we are honest, we have all cycled through this condition in life more than once.

  2. We are “too busy.” Our hectic lives and urgent work always seem to edge out our quiet time with God. Or sometimes that life chaos follows us into our time with God so that we can’t focus on His Word when we want to. This is essentially a schedule problem; we haven’t structurally protected our time with God, even if we have good intentions.

  3. We don’t quite know how. Some believers haven’t developed the skills of personal Bible study and prayer. Even seasoned saints can let their skills atrophy. What should I be looking for, and how do I find it? How do I know I’m “done” with a passage? As eager as our hearts might be to benefit from God’s Word, we struggle at times with method.

Most of the particular enemies in the “fight for devotions” fit into one of these major categories. But which of these problems need the most attention? On which “front” should we do battle if we want to protect our communion time with God in an ever-shifting and unpredictable life?

The answer is, “Yes.”

What if your life schedule has ticked up a notch and your desire for the Word has cooled and you’re rusty on your Bible study methods? If we hope to protect our daily time with God, we must keep up the fight on all three fronts. We must get “triple protection” for our time with God if we hope the habit will last.

Front 1: Guard Your Heart

This front is deliberately listed first. While we’ll talk soon about scheduling and methodology, I do believe our biggest problems in the struggle to study the Bible are “desire problems.” We lack the motivation that will drive us to form (or reform) the habit or learn (or relearn) the skill. Scripture says the “issues of life” rise up from “the heart,” the center of our core desires and loves (Proverbs 4:23). The heart leads the will. We always do what we desire most.

So what does it look like to “guard our heart” from a decreased desire for the Word? Or, positively, how do we increase our motivation to study the Bible?

First, ask God to deepen your desire for Him in His Word. Psalm 119:36 contains such a prayer: “Turn my heart to your decrees.” If you want to want God’s Word more, ask your Lord to change your heart!

But second, consider what God has said directly and repeatedly about the uniqueness, power, and benefit of His Word. God does invite us into His Word with a spiritual logic of benefit. Here are a few of the reasons God invites us to meditate on His Word:

  • It is His direct, complete message to man (1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20–21).
  • It speaks of Jesus, our Savior and Model (2 Timothy 3:15).
  • It is the Spirit’s agent of supernatural growth in good works (Psalm 1:1–3; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Timothy 3:15–17).

Is your desire for God’s Word waning? Is your motivation low? Ask Him, again and again, for an increased hunger for the Bible! Then deliberately meditate on its wonders and benefits–and do it often! Keep your desires for God’s Word well-nurtured.

Front 2: Plan Your Time

But actually, we have another kind of influence over our hearts as well—and it has a lot to do with scheduling. One of the most common reasons we cite for our minimal focused time in God’s Word is that we can’t seem to find the time. Maybe you’ve had this inner dialogue with yourself: “When in my crazy-busy day does Bible study fit? Where in my house is it actually quiet enough and distraction-free for real meditation on the Bible? Where in my life is there room for Bible study?”

This front in the fight is significant, since the functional structure of our daily lives will always win out over our best intentions. Our habits do shape our hearts! That means the less we get of the Word, the less we’ll want of it. We have to carve out the time.

Remember as you pull out your schedule that our God promises we always have everything we need in order to do what He would have us to do (Matthew 6:33; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 4:19). Know that, as a norm, God has given you all the time (and the place) you need to meet Him in His Word.

Then get practical! How have you been doing with your bedtime? How much time do you want to plan for in the Word? Do you need to get up earlier to avoid distraction? Is your alarm too easy to turn off? What other time commitments (or “time guzzlers”) will have to shrink in order for your time with God to thrive?

Have a gameplan. Move whatever needs to move. Give place to the Word in your schedule. As life responsibilities shift, keep fighting on Front 2.

Front 3: Sharpen Your Skills

But Front 3 might need a refresh, as well. Life-change through Bible study is both a miracle of illumination and a skill we can hone. The Holy Spirit is the essential Agent of the Scriptures for spiritual understanding (1 Corinthians 2:12–14). And yet we can and should grow in our skill with the Scriptures.

The author of Hebrews assumes this when he reprimands believers who have not developed the skill of understanding and applying God’s Truth to life (Hebrews 5:11–14). God is also telling us some important principles about the role of skill in studying the Bible:

  1. Skill with God’s Word is possible. If the writer says they should have a skill they do not already possess, developing that skill is possible. We are not hopelessly bound to lack of skill with the Scriptures; it’s something we can develop.

  2. Skill with God’s Word develops over time. The author is reprimanding these believers for not having this skill yet. There was a time when these believers weren’t expected to have a teacher-worthy handle on the Scriptures. Skill with God’s Word is not immediate or automatic. Bible study takes time to learn. But it’s something we can—and should—develop as a part of our growth in Christ.

  3. Skill with God’s Word comes with practice. How do you develop the skill of studying the Bible and applying it with discernment to your choices? Well, you study the Bible and apply it with discernment to your choices. You learn the skill by doing it.

We won’t delve here into specific skills for personal Bible study. Those resources are easy to come by, if you decide to seek them out. Ask a seasoned believer, a friend, or a pastor, “What are some ways you interact with God’s Word that help you understand and apply it?” Get a book on personal Bible study. Better yet, get together with a brother (or older brother, or father) in Christ to brush the dust off of your Bible study techniques. Once you know what you’re doing, you’ll be much more likely to keep your daily appointment with God’s Word. Hone your skills. Re-hone your skills. Fight on Front 3.


If we hope to be godly leaders, we must be men of the Book. Do you have triple protection for your time in God’s Word? If we hope to win this battle, we’ll need to fight on three fronts. Let’s continually submit our hearts and schedules to the Lord, and continue to gear up with the right tools and techniques to profit from His Word (2 Timothy 3:16). And God’s Spirit will do His work in us through the Scriptures!


  1. A fourth category given was that known sin can keep us from God’s Word, which we know would be a source of conviction. That’s true! This article assumes we are walking in repentance and obedience.

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