Every week the Lord blesses me with the opportunity to sit and study scripture with a hand full of young men. Over the years I have noticed a number of young men who have a burning desire to know the Word of God, yet don't know where to start or how to keep what they read.
So I went ahead and compiled these 9 tips for young Christians who may be in the same boat.
1. Pray until you pray before you study
I have noticed that many young men jump into the text with the hopes of understanding all that it says. However we must always remember that it is the Holy Spirit who brings transformative understanding to the text. (James 1.5, Eph 1.17, Col 1.9, Job 32.8-9)
2. Start small.
Don't try to conquer Rome in a day. If you try, you will likely loose. Take your time and start small. Don't get into parsing greek phrases before you know who the 12 disciples are. (1 Pet 2.2)
3. Pick a book or a theme and stick with it for a while.
Many young people are prone to play "Russian Roulette" with the Bible. Flipping pages at random and studying whatever their finger lands on. Never do that. Take the time to pick a book or topic and devote yourself to the study of that.
4. Learn how to read passages in context.
It is a classic mistake that even seasoned preachers make. Taking a passage out of context. If you decide to read a book of the bible start with reading the whole book (if its big, cut it up into sections). But don't just read it once. Read the book over and over again until you have a good grasp on the content in general. Train yourself to identify the themes and flows of argument in a given book. Use "tools" (See below) to help you understand the culture of the letter, the author of the letter and even an outline of the letter. Think of it as shooting at a target. Instead of aiming right for the bull's eye, set your aim at the outer ring first and work your way to the bull's eye. This will keep you out of a lot of trouble.
5. Try writing a commentary as you read.
It seems that many young people, especially boys, tend to remember what they read better if they write down comments as they go. Try summing up a chapter in 3-4 sentences in your own words. This will help ensure that you grasp the forest, and eventually the trees.
6. Tell people about what you read.
I am constantly amazed at the brain capacity of men like D.A. Carson, R.C. Sproul and M.H. Fletcher;-). So much so that I once tried to change what people called me from "Pastor Kaynenn" to "K.J.E. Parker" hoping that the initials is what made them so smart. Needless to say, that didn't work out as planned. Instead I asked men I hold in high esteem how they retained so much knowledge. And the short of it is - they use it! They tell people about what they learn. They make a point to discuss and teach others what they are studying. That helps them to retain much of what they know.
7. Use tools.
I am a big advocate of using helps. Things like Bible dictionaries and Concordances can help a young person get much out of the text. I would also advocate commentaries for young people. However, use them with caution. Don't be a slave to them. Fight them. Make the commentary prove itself by asking questions to it. How did the commentator come up with this particular interpretation? Why do they divide the passage up the way they did? I suggest you ask your local Pastor as to what commentaries are best for whatever you may be reading.
8. Avoid distractions.
Turn your phone off. Don't check Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Flicker or any other media that may be invented during the writing or reading of this blog. Get in study mode and devote a planned amount of time to study.
9. Don't get discouraged.
In the likeness of the 2nd point in this list, don't think that you will conquer Rome in a day. Don't think you will be a "spiritual giant" in a few months. Some of the greatest biblical scholars in the world weren't recognized as such until they reached senior citizen status. Not only will growth take a long time, but its very hard work! Don't quit when study gets hard. Press on!!!