It is easy to approach Scripture only looking for knowledge. After all, we spend years in school reading in order to learn, for the primary purpose of passing a test. However, the Bible is not only a way to learn more about God; it is primarily a way to experience God.
We experience God through learning from and obeying His word. In Psalm 119 — a staggeringly long poem about the beauty and value of God’s word — the Psalmist claims more maturity than his elders and teachers because he meditates on and obeys the Lord:
I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
– Ps 119:99-100 (NIV)
If we read the Bible only for knowledge, encouragement, or out of obligation or habit, then we miss the depths of what the Lord has intended for us. We must apply what we see in Scripture.
For years I read the Bible, wanting to grow in maturity. It wasn’t until I learned to find something specific to apply that I began to see my life transformed. While reading scripture, I began to ask myself the question “What specifically can I apply from this passage within 48 hours?” Most of the time, it’s not an earth-shattering act of obedience. One time – I can’t remember the passage – I began to feel convicted that I had neglected important relationships because I prioritized tasks over people, a frequent pitfall of mine. So for my application that day I delayed a few truly unimportant tasks and called my mom. Not earth shattering, but I’m pretty sure my mom’s love language is out-of-the-blue phone calls from her kids. I would not have called her that particular time if I had not read scripture and applied it.
I’ve asked this question while leading Bible studies with Christians and 90% of the time, people answer “read the Bible more”. Let me make it clear to you. If “read the Bible more” is your application most of the time, you’re missing the point. Should you read the Bible more? For most of us, yes. In addition to actually reading it, we must learn to apply it.
Once you get a little practice finding an application, it is not hard. Someone gave me a useful framework for thinking of an application: S.P.E.C.K
- Sin to confess or avoid
- Prayer, Praise, Promise
- Example to follow
- Command to Obey
- Knowledge to pursue
I did not come up with this acronym. If anyone knows who came up with it, comment and I’ll gladly give credit.
Let’s do an example. What does this look like while reading the 23rd Psalm?
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
For you are with me;
Your rod and your staff,
They comfort me.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Some possible applications from the passage could be:
- Sin to avoid: “I struggle with anxiety and fear. Whenever I find myself feeling anxious in the next few days, I’m going to repent and ask God to help me trust him.”
- Prayer: “I don’t always feel like the Lord is active or interested in my daily life. For the next few days, I am going to ask him to show me how he’s working.”
- Praise: “I’m reminded of the Lord’s goodness from this Psalm. In the next two days, I am going to write down as many ways as I can think of that he has been good to me as a way to praise him.”
- Promise: “I’m in a scary/difficult situation right now. Over the next few days, I’m going to remind myself of the promise that the Lord is with me.”
- Example to follow: “It seems like the Psalmist takes time to contemplate the goodness of God and responds to that goodness through creativity which is then shared with a community. In the next few days, I’m going to find a creative way to express the ways the Lord has been good to me and share it with someone who might be blessed by it.”
- Command to obey: “It seems like the Lord commands rest at the beginning of this Psalm. I’m not very good at actually resting on the Sabbath. This week on the Sabbath, I’m going to spend some extra time reading the Bible and go on a walk without my cell phone. I’ll stay away from TV and social media for the day too.”
- Knowledge to Pursue: “I’m not sure what ‘Your rod and your staff, they comfort me’ mean. I’m going to look into that in the next two days and try to apply whatever I learn.
Each of these are 1) specific, 2) have a time attached to them 3) actionable 4) and most importantly are derived from the passage. There’s even one in there about reading the Bible more.
What about you? What is one way you could apply what you’ve learned in Scripture this week?