What would happen if the only thing you ate all day, every day was candy? “I would be a blimp or a zit-faced pig,” you might say. What if you never ate anything at all? “I’d die,” you could brilliantly deduce! What if you only ate regurgitated food? You might say, “Yuck! That is gross!” You wouldn’t survive for very long if you ate like this.
The idea of living every day with a poor diet is not something we would want to do. Yet, every day many Christians are living malnourished lives. They fill themselves with “spiritual junk food” like TV, movies and music that talk about things which go against what God wants for us. Or, their only food is what they get from a pastor or other Christian leader. While listening to sermons is great, they are not enough to keep you spiritually nourished. You need to chew the food yourself, getting your nourishment directly from God’s Word.
One of the most important things you can do for the students you are leading is to help them get hungry for God’s Word. What you really need to do is teach them to eat for themselves! Just like a baby needs to learn how to eat in order to survive, Christians need to learn to study God’s Word on their own. Otherwise, they will just be “big babies.”
Five Steps to Dining on God’s Word
Let’s take a look at five steps to dining on God’s Word and a simple plan for studying the Bible that can help you get the most out of it.
1. You need to hear.
This means to put yourself in places where you will be able to listen to others teach about the Bible. While the description above may lead you to think listening to preaching is bad, nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone can benefit from good Bible teaching.
2. Read the Bible on a regular basis.
Beginning in the book of John is a good idea. As you may know, the Bible has 66 books (39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament). Try to finish one book before you move on to another.
3. Study it.
You need to do more than hear and read God’s Word. You need to mine the treasure through studying the Bible. Have you ever seen someone “wolf down” a steak so fast you wondered if they had even tasted it? That’s what life would be like if you never studied God’s Word. You would get nourished but would miss out on the pleasure of truly knowing God by studying His love-letter to His people. (We will take a look at a three-step plan for studying the Bible after we complete our discussion on the five ways to get the Word into your life.)
4. Memorize it.
When you memorize portions of the Bible, it’s like making it part of yourself. A good way to memorize scripture is to pick verses, write them on 3″ x 5″ cards and review them often. A good verse to start with is Jeremiah 15:16: “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty.” After all, it does talk about eating God’s Word! More good verses to start with are Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:1-3, Psalm 119:9-11, and Hebrews 4:12.
5. The dessert of this meal is meditation.
To meditate means to sit back and enjoy what God is teaching you in His Word. It’s like taking a big bite of chocolate cake and taking your sweet time eating it. Meditating on God’s Word means reflecting on it, thinking about it and turning it over in your mind. Often, it is only when you meditate that you realize the full meaning of a passage.
A great way to picture these five steps or courses of a spiritual meal is to look at your hand. Each finger could represent a different course. As you look at your hand, imagine the names of each course written on one of your fingers. Start with your pinkie for “hear” and finish with your thumb for “meditation.” Taking all five steps for dining on God’s Word will help you get a grip on living the Christian life.
The O-I-A Process
“Okay, but how do I study the Word in order to get more out of it?” Since study is a very important step in deepening your understanding of the Bible, it’s critical that you use a good process for digging into God’s Word so you can digest it properly. One simple process for study could be remembered with the letters O-I-A: Observation, Interpretation and Application.
1. Begin by Observing.
Get a general feel for the portion of the Bible you are reading. Read the passage several times to become familiar with it. As you observe a part of the Bible, ask the question, “What does it say?”
This step also requires that you ask other good questions: “Who is involved? What has happened? When did it happen? Where did these events take place?” These are all good questions to ask when you observe a portion of the Bible.
2. Next, Interpret the passage.
Here you try to find out what the Scripture means. Interpretation involves asking other questions such as: “Why did it happen? How did this happen? What does it mean?” You are seeking to dig into why God included the passage in His Word.
3. Finally, Apply what you have learned.
When you read the Bible, it should motivate you to change, but you need to put forth effort to follow what it says. James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
A good way to apply what a passage teaches you is to remember the word “SPACE.” Look for:
- Sins to confess P - Promises to claim A - Attitudes to have or avoid C - Commands to obey E - Examples to follow
When you study a part of the Bible using O-I-A, it is a good idea to have a pen and paper handy. Even better, keep a notebook you can use as a journal to write down things you have learned and how you have grown through your studies.
A good format for taking notes would be to write down the key words, Observation, Interpretation, and
Application. Allow space for writing after each word. Also, at the top of the page, write the reference you
are studying then the SPACE acrostic at the bottom. Your notes might look like this:
As you begin to deepen your commitment to reading and digesting what God has to say through His Word, you will begin to enjoy some fine dining. Bon appetit!