Welcome to our series on Bible study myths! This series will give you a glimpse of what we learn in Lifeway Women Academy—online, on-demand courses for women by women to equip them to study and teach the Bible.
During my time in ministry, there are a few misconceptions I routinely hear people share about Bible study. One of them is the belief that studying the Bible should be easy. However, people don’t usually make that exact statement. Instead, they tell me how they skipped over a Bible passage or stopped working through a study book because it was too hard or it took too much time. In their opinion, the amount of effort Bible study required was unreasonable or unnecessary. Rather than viewing the difficulty as an invitation to grow in their knowledge of and love for God, they viewed it as a hurdle that was not worth overcoming.
While many factors lead people to believe in this Bible study myth, over the years I’ve seen a few consistently rise to the top of the list. Here are the four most common things that lead people to think Bible study should be easy and how to overcome them.
Whether it’s in our churches or on social media, the content we read or hear does not always lead us to think deeply about our faith. Instead, it gives us a quick dose of encouragement or practical living advice that does not require us to engage our minds. We are immediately thrust into a discussion of the application of God’s Word without having to first think through the theological ideas from which the application comes. The proliferation of these “quick hits” of biblical truth has caused our Bible study “muscles” to be underdeveloped. This, in addition to our culture of immediate gratification, normalizes a process of learning that is both immediate and seemingly effortless. So, when faced with a process that requires effort, we push back.
In the New Testament, one of the metaphors that is used to describe the life of the believer is a marathon race (1 Cor. 9). Running a marathon is a significant task that requires a season of training. If you want to finish well without hurting yourself or someone else, you have to commit to a training regime that is both long and slow. The same is true for the believer’s life in Christ. In order to build strong spiritual foundations, we have to be willing to exert the effort that is commensurate with the task. Spiritual insights that are gained quickly might be satisfying for a moment but often fail to produce within us the spiritual maturity we need to finish well (Heb. 5:11-14).
Our expectations about Bible study are inextricably connected to our beliefs about God. Specifically, some of us believe that a good and loving God would not make His Word difficult to understand. Said another way, God would not give us truth that required effort for us to understand. The thought is that, by faith and the power of the Holy Spirit alone, God will tell us everything we need to know. So, there isn’t a need for us to exert an inordinate amount of effort to understand His Word.
However, faith and learning aren’t competing opposites. They are two sides of the same coin. While Scripture does tell us the Holy Spirit will guide us in all truth (John 16:13), teach us all things (John 14:26), and reveal to us the spiritual wisdom of God (1 Cor. 2:10-16), it also tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Rom. 12:2) and to study so that we learn how to rightly handle the Word of God (2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16). Even after Pentecost, believers continued to gather together to learn about the Scriptures from one another (Acts 2:42). As they worked to fulfill the Great Commission, the apostles would spend years with New Testament believers, unpacking the truths of the gospel (Acts 19).
This shows us that the Holy Spirit’s work of revelation has a corporate methodology. Instead of only revealing truth to us directly, He also teaches us through other mature believers. In addition, the disciplined commitment of first-century Christians shows us that our understanding of biblical truth is not passive and immediate but active and gradual. As we put forth effort to study and learn, the Holy Spirit transforms our minds to understand biblical truth (Phil. 2:12-13.)
Studying the Bible is a process that requires reading and comprehension, which are two things that are not easy for everyone. Some of us had a difficult time with these activities in school and therefore feel insecure when presented with any type of learning opportunity. We don’t want to be perceived as “dumb” or be the only one in the group who doesn’t understand the information. So, instead of pushing through, we give up.
For others, the process of learning has been limited to a select group of people. We might have grown up learning that Bible study wasn’t for us, and was only for men, pastors, or other spiritual leaders. This means that when presented with an opportunity to wade into the deep end of the Bible study “pool,” our imposter syndrome might cause us to retreat.
Most of the verses about studying God’s Word tend to have one thing in common—they don’t limit Bible study to a particular group of people. Everyone has the ability to study the Bible, and everyone is called to do it. But it is a process that we don’t embark on without help, both from our Christian community and the Holy Spirit.
While it might be uncomfortable to admit it, many of us see Bible study as a burden or inconvenience because we don’t think it’s a pursuit that is worth our time. But we have no problem investing countless time and money into new hobbies, business endeavors, or our kids’ extracurricular activities. Even though these different pursuits might have a steep learning curve, we work to overcome the obstacles because we believe they are worth it. The truth is, we easily prioritize other things over studying the Bible because we don’t believe it will cause us to miss anything. In our minds, a lack of effort does not impact the depth of our relationship with God or our ability to live for Him. But, in fact, the opposite is true.
Friend, nothing is more valuable than knowing God through His Word. It is only through knowing Him that we can truly know ourselves and understand how to navigate the world in which we live. So, when we are willing to prioritize created things over the Creator, we need to seriously consider our discipleship commitment as followers of Jesus. As believers, our faith calls us to a lifelong journey of knowing God through His Word. Even though it might be difficult, the effort is always worth it because our triune God deserves it.
Elizabeth Woodson is a Bible teacher, writer, and speaker, who is passionate about communicating the rich theological truths of Scripture. She loves helping people internalize their faith and connect it practically to everyday life.
Elizabeth works as the Institute Classes and Curriculum Director at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas where she teaches classes on the Bible, theology, and spiritual formation. She formerly worked as the Single Life Coordinator at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship under the leadership of Senior Pastor Dr. Tony Evans. Elizabeth is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary with a Masters in Christian Education and a cohost of the podcast Culture Matters.