It’s easy to grow disheartened when studying Scripture becomes difficult. But it is the merciful means by which God reveals His mysterious character and ways, and it is the tool the Holy Spirit uses to recreate us (2 Tim. 3:16–17). So, any time you sit down to study, rejoice that God is for you and will use this living and active creation to change you (Heb. 4:12). Your faithful effort is not in vain. I find the following helpful:
Recall the Big Picture
The Bible is one true, detailed story of God saving a people and giving them a place to worship Him. Understanding this big picture and a passage’s place in this story can bring great understanding. The following resources can teach you to read in light of the big picture: Gospel and Kingdom by Graeme Goldsworthy; God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Storyline of the Bible by Vaughn Roberts.
Consistency is perhaps more important than length. Even if you are only reading one to two verses per day it is far better to have your heart and mind renewed daily by God’s Word. Consistency will enable you to more easily recall the stream of God’s work in the text.
Remember Breadth and Depth
The average person cannot consistently read large volumes of Scripture in-depth. Yet both disciplines (breadth and depth) are helpful, and you can strive for improvement in both. Switch approaches from time to time. When reading for breadth focus on seeing the overall story versus the details. When aiming for detail, read smaller portions of Scripture, focusing on the words and sentences to grasp the richer meaning.
Retrieve a Plan
There are many Bible reading plans available today. You can Google “year-long Bible reading plan” for an assortment of options. Or, select a book of the Bible to read from beginning to end varying Old Testament and New Testament selections. Much like going to the store without a shopping list, trying to read Scripture without a plan is usually less efficient.
It is important to know what the Scripture is saying before applying it to your life. The 5W’s can be helpful to understanding the facts: Who, What, When, Where, and Why? Other helpful questions to ask are: What is one aspect of God that is revealed in this passage? How should I relate to God in light of this character quality? Where is the hope of the Gospel in this passage?
Remember Your Context
Learning about God in solo fashion is dangerous. God’s Word is clear that we need the church to fully mature in Christ (Eph. 4:1–16). And we need our church body to help us understand God’s Word so we don’t veer off into false beliefs. Listening to biblically grounded teaching from your pastors or teachers and bringing your questions to trusted church members are wise practices.
Rest in Prayer
Prayer is vital to reading Scripture in a faithful, transforming manner. The Spirit alone convicts of sin and teaches us all things (Jn. 16:7–13). Begin and end your Scripture reading with prayer, asking God’s Spirit to teach you, renew your heart and mind, and bring repentance where needed.
In all of your efforts allow Peter’s exhortation to spur you on:
“We have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Pet. 1:19)