3 Simple Keys to Understanding the Bible – Guaranteed!

Jana Carlson

Jana Carlson

Why is the Bible hard to understand? It wasn't intended to be. It's God's message to you! These 3 simple keys can help you understand the Bible - guaranteed.

Why is the Bible hard to understand? It wasn’t intended to be. It’s God’s message to you! These 3 simple keys can help you understand the Bible – guaranteed.

Do you… 

  • feel spiritually stunted, like you’re not actually growing? 
  • feel spiritually “behind” others in your circle?
  • feel like you’re missing something others are getting out of the Bible?
  • stick to reading devotional books because the Bible is too hard for you to understand?
  • struggle to find what you’re looking for in the Bible?
  • wonder what God is saying to you through the pages of His Word?
  • wonder how the Bible can actually deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ?

I’ve been there. 

We are not alone. Here’s proof:

  • Less than half of evangelical Christians read at least a little bit of the Bible daily.
  • But out of the women in this group, 31% say they do not read the Bible on their own.
  • 9% don’t understand how the Bible relates to them.
  • And 7% are intimidated by it. 

Why is the Bible so Hard to Understand?

“Why is the Bible so hard to understand?” It’s a common question. 

There are definitely passages in the Bible that are more challenging to comprehend than others. Peter even admitted this in reference to Paul’s writings: “There are some things in [Paul’s writings] that are hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16, ESV)…”

But a vast majority of the Bible is understandable to anyone who desires to know it. 

Spiritual truth is spiritually discerned. This means that a prerequisite to truly understanding God’s Word is a spirit that’s connected to God. Do you have a relationship with Him?

Have you ever been around a parent with a toddler who speaks gibberish? Even though the child’s speech is incomprehensible, the parent often understands what their child is saying. It’s simply because they’ve spent a lot of time together. The parent knows the child. 

It’s easier to understand God’s Word to us when we have a relationship with Him.

Spiritual Milk vs. Spiritual Meat

The Bible acknowledges that understanding God’s Word is a process that begins with our spiritual “birth” and progresses as we grow in spiritual maturity. 

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— (1 Peter 2:2, ESV)

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:12-14, ESV).

So, if you’re “spiritually young”, it’s normal for you to struggle with understanding the Bible more than our “spiritual seniors”. But a healthy Christian is a growing Christian, so it’s natural for us to desire recognizable growth in our Biblical understanding.

Decades ago, I was discontent with my spiritual growth. I knew there was so much more richness in God’s Word than what I was gleaning on my own through devotionals and random Bible reading. 

Earnestly, I prayed. “God, I want to understand what I’m reading, what You’re saying to me. I want to actually know Your Word, to be able to find what I’m looking for in this Book. I want my reading to help me know You more.”

Can you relate to this prayer? Is this the cry of your heart, too?

Knowing God by Knowing His Word

God loves to reveal Himself to His children. He’s not hiding from us. He has already revealed Himself to us in His Word, the Bible. 

He promises that when we seek Him, we will find Him.

“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13, ESV).”

God is faithful. He led me to helpful resources and began to teach me how to study the Bible on my own. We moved to a new city and began attending a church that taught through Scripture verse by verse.

I learned slowly – a little bit here, a little bit there. Small steps. 

Evidence of God’s Faithful Instruction

One day last year, I was studying through 1 Samuel using an old second-hand copy of an inductive Bible study guide. I did the day’s study, which involved reading a chapter in 1 Samuel and noting keywords. 

As I read, a couple of passages stood out to me. I noticed a list God gave His people. My natural desire was to write it out and dig deeper into each point. I also wanted to take a closer look at the meaning behind a specific word. 

But I was short on time. I had to put my study away and carry on with that day’s agenda.

The next day, I pulled out my Bible and book again and turned to the current day’s instructions in the study guide. Imagine my delight when the guide told me to break down the list God gave His people in the same chapter I’d read the day before, and encouraged a deeper study of the word that I’d been curious about!

This was a huge encouragement to me. I thought of that season of discontent decades ago when I felt lost every time I opened my Bible. And I could see that I’ve grown. I’ve learned. I’m still learning!

3 Simple Keys – You Can Understand the Bible!

I’m nothing special. I’m not super intelligent – I have no schooling beyond high school graduation. I don’t have a theology degree. I’m just a woman who wants to know Jesus more through His Word. 

Why am I sharing this with you? I want to encourage you with these 3 simple keys I used personally to understand the Bible more. They work for me, and they can work for you! I promise!

1. Prayer

If you’re in that place of feeling like you don’t know how to understand or study the Bible on your own, pray about it! It’s a prayer God wants to answer. 

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him (Matthew 7:7-11, ESV)!

2. Patience

if-any-of-you-lacks-wisdom-let-him-ask-god-who-gives-generously-to-all-without-reproach-and-it-will-be-given-to-him-james-1-5

Be patient with yourself. I’ve literally been learning how to read and study the Bible for almost 40 years – and I’ll continue learning until I’m face to face with Jesus! 

We will never “arrive” at complete Biblical comprehension. It’s an ongoing process. Be looking for growth or progress instead of achieving some sort of concrete level of understanding.

And be patient with the Lord. He’ll answer your prayer in His perfect timing and in His own way. Expect Him to answer your prayer for spiritual wisdom and understanding of the Bible, because He will answer that prayer.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind (James 1:5-6, ESV).

3. Persistence

Jesus taught us about persistence in prayer. When we’re asking for something we know is good and right, we must not give up.

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth (Luke 18:1-8, ESV)?”

Be persistent in prayer, and be persistent in practice. If you struggle to understand the translation of the Bible you have right now, try reading an “easier” translation (my personal recommendation is the New Living Translation) until you’ve developed a deeper grasp of God’s Word. If you don’t understand one resource or one teacher, try another. Keep reading even when it’s not making sense. 

Understanding the Bible is Guaranteed

These 3 keys are guaranteed to bring you greater understanding of the Bible:

  1. Prayer
  2. Patience
  3. Persistence

When you ask God to reveal Himself to you and rely on Him to open the eyes of Your heart, He will. It’s only a matter of time. Wait and expect Him to answer. And in the meantime, be persistent in learning, trying, growing. 

A Bonus Key to Understanding the Bible

One more thing…

Practice. 

Put God’s Word into practice. Apply it to your life. Live it out. Become a doer of God’s Word, not just a reader of it.

The Bible wasn’t meant to be merely for information. It was given to us for the purpose of transformation – transforming us into the likeness of Jesus Christ. 

But don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the Word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. (James 1:22-25 NLT)

obedience-leads-to-growth-leads-to-understanding-cycle

Obedience to God’s Word is how we grow and mature spiritually. Growing and maturing spiritually naturally leads to greater understanding of the Bible. So it’s a cycle. 

Obedience leads to growth.

Growth leads to understanding.

Understanding leads to obedience.

Put these keys into practice and someday, you’ll be reading your Bible – a passage you’ve read countless times before – and something will jump out at you and you’ll know exactly what to do about it! You’ll dig deeper and discover a nugget of life-giving Truth to carry with you forever. 

It’s the nature of the Living Word of God and a reward He loves to lavish on those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). 

A portion of this post was originally distributed in the July 2019 Wield The Word newsletter to email subscribers.

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