Why Studying the Bible is Important and Tips to Get You Started

“For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12

The Importance of the Bible

Have you ever sat down at your desk, opened up your Bible, and really thought about how amazing it is that we have the words from an all-knowing God written in a language that we understand? One of the greatest miracles God has ever performed was when He took His infinite vocabulary and pieced together words that could be comprehended by our very limited human minds.

I believe the daily reading, studying, and memorization of the Bible is of utmost importance in the life of a true Christian. By reading the Bible, we know that God is good, just, merciful, and loving. It tells us of God’s amazing grace and of His plan for our salvation. The Bible is our source of peace in a world that is passing away.

The Word of God is also “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12), breathing life into the souls of those who are faithful to read and study it. It’s no wonder that the longest chapter of the Bible (Psalm 119) is about having a deep desire for God’s Word. The psalmist spends 176 verses discussing all the ways that the Bible can be useful to believers if they simply spend time reading and studying it.

Misplaced Priorities

However, we often tend to forget how powerful the Bible is and how desperately we need it to sustain us during our everyday life. The Bible is the only book of its kind, yet we treat it as though it’s just another piece of paper with words on it. But why do we treat it that way?

Unfortunately, as much as people like to blame lack of time or lack of understanding for their neglect of reading the Bible, I believe it has more to do with misplaced priorities than anything else. We have started to prioritize sleeping in, making sure the house is clean, catching up on our favorite TV show, and having the perfect makeup routine over spending time reading the Bible. None of these things in and of themselves are sinfully bad but NONE of them should take priority over our personal relationship with Jesus. And until we believe that to be true, reading the Bible will not be at the top of our “to-do” list each day.

Getting Started

When I first started studying the Bible, I spent most of my study time feeling tired (because I was waking up earlier than I was used to) and confused (because I had no idea what was going on in what I was reading). But I remained faithful and kept reading, asking God to give me the clarity to understand and energy to stay awake. And through my remaining faithful, God revealed His faithfulness to me by giving me the clarity and energy I had asked for.

If you are stuck in a spot where you really want to begin studying the Bible but are having a hard time getting started, I want to offer a few tips that I have learned in my years of studying:

  1. GET A VERSION OF THE BIBLE THAT YOU CAN READ EASILY (BUT MAKE SURE IT IS NOT A PARAPHRASE VERSION)

In order to start studying the Bible, you need … well… a Bible. More than likely, someone in your family or in your church has gifted you with one at some point in your life. But if you are a 28-year-old woman and the only Bible you have is a KJV Teen Study Bible that has been collecting dust since you were in middle school, it may be time to go Bible shopping.

A few important things to consider when shopping for a Bible are: (1) what type of Bible you want/need (devotional Bible, reference Bible, study Bible, hardcover, softcover, etc.)  (2) the readability of the translation that you are wanting to purchase (how well you can understand it), and (3) the accuracy of the translation when compared to the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic manuscripts. (See chart below):

When picking out a Bible, I would suggest that you stay more toward the left side of the “Bible Translation Continuum”. However, it is important to consider that the readability of the translation may be compromised in order to make the translation more literal to the original manuscripts.

My personal go-to is the Christian Standard Bible (CSB; formerly Holman Christian Standard Bible – HCSB) but I also enjoy using the English Standard Version (ESV) every now and then. As you can see, the ESV is a more formal translation but the CSB is a more readable translation. The main reason that I have used the CSB more is that it was the only Bible translation I had when I wanted to really start studying the Bible.

Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need the fanciest-looking Bible out there. Any Bible that you can read and understand is perfect. You can get a good Bible on Amazon for $20-$30 or you could go to your local Christian store and find one for around the same price.

Here are the Bibles that I use most often:

2. GET A NOTEBOOK OR JOURNAL AND YOUR FAVORITE PENS (HIGHLIGHTERS HELP TOO)

 Now, you don’t have to use a specific type of notebook to take notes in. I use the Moleskine Cahier journals because the paper quality is on point. But if you don’t care about paper quality as much as I do, you could use a regular school composition notebook which usually sells for less than $1 at most stores. I am also VERY picky about my pens but if you can write with regular stick pens, use those. God doesn’t need you to break your bank in order to have quality time with Him.

These are the notebooks/pens that I use while I study the Bible:

3. SET ASIDE TIME

 Every morning, the first thing I do is plan out my day. I grab my planner and my Frixion pens and write out everything I have to do, being sure to include a section for my quiet time. This really helps me keep my priorities straight. If I didn’t take time to plan my day, 4 times out of 5 I would skip spending time with the Lord so that I could start on something else that felt more important to me.

I don’t have to spend two hours in the morning trying to understand every concept in the Bible. Most days, I just set aside 30 to 45 minutes to pray, read the next section of what I’m studying (I’ll talk more about that later), and take notes on that section.

But I don’t have time throughout my day to study my Bible…” I know. I know. I hear ya.

Here’s the best advice I have for people who “don’t have enough time” to read the Bible: wake up 30 minutes earlier. As someone who likes to sleep in, I had to train myself to get out of bed as soon as my alarm went off and sit at my desk so that I wouldn’t be tempted to roll over and fall back asleep. Once I’m at my desk, I plan my day and read my Bible. That 30-45 minutes I spend meditating on God’s Word changes my mood for the entire day. I’m a completely different person when I wake up early and give the Lord the very first minutes of my day.

However, if you are a night person who can stay awake for an extra 30 minutes before going to bed, use that time to study instead. It doesn’t matter what part of your day you decide to study, it just matters that you set aside time to read God’s Word.

I have used the Day Designer to plan my days for the past few months and I absolutely love it:

4. PRAY

 Before I even open up my Bible to start reading, I spend a few minutes in prayer. I pray for anything that my friends or family have asked me to pray for and then I ask the Lord to bless the time I spend in His Word. This gets my heart and mind ready to receive whatever He has for me as I study. If you are a believer, asking the Holy Spirit to give you discernment and guidance as you read can be the biggest difference in whether or not you understand the passage(s).

Most of the time when I pray, I just sit at my desk and silently tell the Lord what’s on my heart. Sometimes I will feel the need to write prayers down so I will grab my prayer journal and a pen, and I will write out the words I want to say. I know people who write every prayer down and I know people who have never written a prayer down. It all just depends on your personal preference.

5. HAVE A PLAN

Don’t worry, I’m not going to copy and paste point #3 from above here. This planning is more about knowing what you are going to study.

It is important to know what you are going to study BEFORE you start reading. It is a common but dangerous practice to just flip to a page in the Bible, read a little section, and go on about your day. If we do that, we miss the major context of the verses we read and confuse ourselves even more.

The books I typically recommend to people who have never tried to study the Bible before are James, Romans, or the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Once you understand more of who Jesus is and what it means to be a true follower of Him, you can move deeper into the New Testament or get into the Old Testament to understand more of what the world before Jesus was like.

The best advice I can give you is to choose a book of the Bible to start studying and read it from beginning to end. Each day, break the book down into small passages so that you aren’t overwhelmed by the amount you have to read. For instance, if you decide to start studying James, just stick to verses 1-11 of the first chapter so that you can dig deeper into those verses to get a better understanding of them. Then the next day, study through verses 12-18 and so on and so forth. Don’t worry if you get less than 10 verses done each day. The important thing is that you start to grasp the meaning of the text and understand why it is important for you as a Christian to know it.

6. BE INTENTIONAL

There will be times when you are studying, and you still don’t understand what the Lord is trying to teach you. Don’t give up! Those are the moments when He is cultivating your heart to really understand what is happening in that passage. There have been many moments where I have read a passage and thought “that makes no sense” and then I’ll reread it the next morning and the Lord has given me a greater understanding of it. In the Lord’s perfect timing, He will give us wisdom.

There are going to be times where you don’t really feel the Holy Spirit moving in you, but you have to remain faithful to read God’s Word; you are learning more than you may give yourself credit for.

7. GET SOME RESOURCES

If you ever get to a point where you say to yourself “Okay, I’ve read through this passage a few times and I want to know what other pastors/Bible teachers/theologians think about it…”, you should look into getting some type of resource to help you understand the passage even better. There are a few different types of resources out there that can be very beneficial for someone who is just starting to study the Bible. However, there are some false teachings in the world so you should ask your pastor or other solid Christians for their recommendations when it comes to each of the following:

  • Commentaries

One such resource is called a commentary. Essentially, commentaries are the Bible study notes of theologians, pastors, and other leaders in the church who have spent a lot of time reading and studying certain books of the Bible. Since commentaries are written by flawed humans, it is important not to use commentaries as a stand-alone substitution for the Bible itself. It is also important to only use commentaries from trusted Bible scholars who have studied the Bible for years and years.

The most effective way for me to use a commentary in conjunction with studying my Bible is to read the passage of Scripture in my Bible first and while I read, write down any questions that I may have or different points that really stand out to me. After reading through the passage in the Bible (sometimes 2 or 3 times), I open up the commentary I’m using to the respective section that I read through in the Bible and read what the commentary author had to say about the questions I had and the points I wrote down. Once I’m done reading through the commentary and taking notes on it, I go back through the passage in the Bible one more time to make sure that I understand the flow of it and, if necessary, I will make a note in the margins of my Bible of the most important point from that passage.

Right now, I am studying through Hebrews and have used the commentary linked below to help me understand different concepts in the passages throughout the book:

Exalting Jesus in Hebrews Christ-Centered Exposition

  • Bible dictionaries

Bible dictionaries are pretty self-explanatory. They are dictionaries that focus on words in the Bible. Knowing the true meanings of words in the Bible helps a great deal when trying to understand different passages in the Bible.

You don’t have to have a physical copy of a Bible dictionary to find the definition of a word in the Bible but for those of you who enjoy having a physical copy, I have linked one that I’ve seen pastors use during their sermon prep. For others of you who want the free online option, I have linked the website that I use to look up words:

Vines Complete Expository Dictionary

Bible Study Tools – Dictionary

  • Concordance

Concordances are another great tool to use when studying the Bible, especially if you want to know more about a specific topic. A concordance is a list of words found in the Bible and shows where each word is found in each book of the Bible. In addition to a dictionary, a concordance can help you better understand the definition and context of a word.

Like a Bible dictionary, there are a few concordances found online for free but I have also linked one of the most popular options of a physical copy of a concordance below. (Some Bibles also include a short concordance in the back):

Bible Study Tools – Concordance

Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance

  • Sermons on podcats/Sermon Audio

As someone who loves the Bible and tries to get as much out of it as I can, I have started listening to sermons on my Podcast app and online. This way I can just search the passage of Scripture that I read that day, find a sermon by a pastor that I know and trust, and listen to the sermon as I drive. This way, I get an even deeper understanding of the passage of Scripture and shouldn’t lack any knowledge of its importance.

(I will do a post on different podcasts I recommend soon!)

I recommend looking up sermons on the Podcast app on iPhone or iPad or using Sermon Audio to find sermons/pastors that have been recommended to you by your Christian friends. Sermon Audio has different filters you can use to find the perfect sermon for the part of the Bible you are studying but, again, don’t let words of men take the place of the Word of God. The Bible is the ultimate authority.

Sermon Audio is linked below:

Sermon Audio

8. TAKE GOOD NOTES

There are a lot of different ways you can take notes. Just Google Search “best note-taking method” and many options will pop up.

My favorite way to take notes is to write them out as if I am going to teach the passage that I’m reading to a small group of teenage girls. Now, I take notes this way because it isn’t unrealistic that I would eventually teach that passage to a group of teen girls. If I go ahead and set my notes up in a way that helps me flow through the passage while adding comments here and there, I will be more prepared to teach when given the opportunity. This also helps me make sure that the notes I take are accurate according to the Scriptures. I need to have a good, solid, foundational understanding of the passage so that I can discuss it with anyone at any time.

9. GET INVOLVED IN A LOCAL CHURCH

The last little piece of advice I have for someone who is wanting to study the Bible more is to get to church. Whether or not you are a regular attendee of your church or you haven’t gone to church in a long time, one of the best ways to know how to study your Bible is to go to the place where the Bible is being taught. Get involved in a Bible study that your church is doing or, if there isn’t one, start your own! It’s a great opportunity to be held accountable in your own study of the Bible and it gets other people digging into the Word too. If you are too young to start a Bible study in your home, talk to one of the older leaders in your church about getting one started.

Another thing you can do is to ask a leader in your church if they could help you walk through a book of the Bible with you. As a volunteer in a local church, I thoroughly enjoy when younger girls come up to me and ask me to study a book of the Bible with them. It gets me studying and it helps me really dig into the Word so that I can help the girl(s) understand it better.

Going to church and hearing sermons preached on the passages I am learning about helps me understand it so much better. Different people will glean different things from the same passage of Scripture because it can relate to us in different ways.

 

As you can see, there are many tips and tricks to start studying your Bible (believe it or not, there are many, many more tips I could add). I hope you have learned the importance of making Bible study the top priority in your life and how to get started on that journey.

Comment below and tell me which tip or trick you are most excited about trying and let me know what book of the Bible you are studying. If you have any questions, comment them below as well.

Sign up for email updates on the right side of your screen to be notified of when I post more Bible-related content. I plan on adding a few more posts about effectively studying the Bible and memorizing passages toward the beginning of the New Year.

Thank you for reading!

Grace and peace,

Bethany

Calming the Storm – Resources

It is crazy that it’s already over but I have been personally challenged throughout the course of writing each post. I have learned so much about the Lord and about myself through looking at this story in Scripture. In this post, I am going to share with y’all the different resources I used as assistance for this series. I will be the first to admit that I didn’t use a ton of resources to help me with this study but the ones that I used were definitely effective.

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First of all, I obviously used my Bible. Not just one, though… I used four different Bibles to help me in the breaking down of this passage of Scripture.

The main Bible I used was my ESV. I used this translation at the beginning of each of the posts because it is really popular in Christian circles now. I do not normally read the ESV translation (I typically stick with the HCSB or CSB) so reading this passage in a translation that I am not used to helped me more effectively interpret the message.

The next Bible I used throughout this study was the HCSB Apologetics Study Bible. This is the Bible that I have always used to study so I have a lot of extra notes from previous sermons about this particular passage in the margins of this Bible. It was easy for me to just flip to the passage and see a bunch of previously recorded notes about Jesus calming the storm.

In addition to the two Bibles mentioned above, I used the She Reads Truth study bible as well as the HCSB Study Bible. I didn’t end up using these two Bibles a whole lot for this study because I used other resources that I will get to later in this post but I did use a bit of information from each of these Bibles which helped me in constructing my posts.

IMG_2109The only commentary that I used for this study was called “Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew”. The Christ-Centered Expostion series of commentaries has been one of my favorites for a while – I am currently studying through their Hebrews commentary – so I knew that this would be a good resource for me to use as I did the “Calming the Storm” series.

The last but probably most effective resource that I used for this study was the WordSearch Bible by Lifeway. I was gifted a subscription to the WordSearch Bible and have used it more throughout the course of this study than any other time. I have learned to love it and all of its’ features. The main thing that I have used it for is the “word study tool”. Knowing what each word of each of the verses that I went through actually meant made a huge difference for me in my interpretation of the passage. I would highly recommend the WordSeach Bible by Lifeway to anyone who wants access to countless resources at the touch of a button.Screen Shot 2018-08-07 at 12.08.19 PM

I hope that y’all find encouragement to seek out additional resources when you are studying different parts of the Bible but be sure that the resources you use are reputable and based on truth.

Thanks for reading!

– Bet

Calming the Storm – Part IV: Matthew 8:26b-27

“And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing.’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’” – Matthew 8:23-27

This is the last part of the series! (*tear*) I hope everyone has enjoyed this series and been challenged by it just as I have. In the next few days I will post some closing remarks and include a few different resourses that I’ve used throughout the course of the series.

If you’ve been keeping up with the series, you know that I have been using questions for each of the previous three parts of the series but we’re going to drop them for this post. Hopefully this decision will make sense as you read it…But let’s go ahead and jump into the last part. This is where everything comes together, where it all makes sense.

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Click the picture to see more of Alison’s art!

Let’s do a quick recap before getting into the last part of verse 26 and verse 27.
1) Jesus had been preaching all day and wanted to cross the sea so He could preach to a different crowd. He calls the disciples onto the boat after telling them the importance of following Him. (Part I)
2) While they are at sea, there comes a storm that starts constantly swamping the boat with waves causing it to start sinking. During this time, Jesus is asleep. (Part II)
3) The disciples wake Jesus up because they need His help. He questions their lack of faith in Him. (Part III)

After Jesus is rudely woken up from His nap and then questions the disciples faith, some pretty crazy stuff happens:

Jesus stands up after exploiting the lack of faith in the disciples and shuts up a storm that is threatening the lives of the people with Him: “Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm,” (v. 26b). The guy SPEAKS to the storm and it LISTENS! I love the word “rebuked” here because it is translated to “correct” or “warn”. Only someone who has control over something is able to effectively correct or warn it. Jesus was in control of the storm from the beginning. With just three words – “Peace! Be still!” – the storm is put in its rightful place under the authority of Jesus Christ.

How amazing would this have been to witness first-hand?! You’re standing in the boat shoveling water out when Jesus stands up, says three simple words and the waves are stilled, the thunder is hushed, and the clouds are rolled away. I don’t know exactly what I would have done in that moment, but something tells me that my reaction would look something like: “I’m with that guy! I don’t care where He goes or what He does but He has authority and I’m going wherever He wants me to go and doing whatever He wants me to do.”

In verse 27 we see how the disciples react to Jesus’ authority. As Jewish men, they were very familiar with passages like Psalm 89:9 which says, “You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them,” and Psalm 107:29: “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.” These were verses that the disciples had known about (and possibly memorized) from a very early age. They were aware that God was able to calm storms and settle waves and now that Jesus had demonstrated that same power in front of them, they were amazed at the possibility that Jesus could in fact be the God of the universe.

And now we come to the main point in the entire story: Jesus is God! The authority that belongs to Yahweh of the Old Testament is the same authority that belongs to Jesus the Messiah. Jesus is Creator and Ruler of the ENTIRE UNIVERSE. He is powerful, He is holy, He is perfection. He quiets the storms, He heals the lame, He raises the dead. Jesus is the God-Man who holds authority over all of nature. Jesus demonstrates this authority by correcting the actions of the storm. And He wants us to submit to His authority over our lives. He wants to bring us into the boat with Him so that He can demonstrate His power over the storms that often wreak havoc in our lives. He alone has the authority to settle them. No effort we could give will ever be enough to calm the storms. We can try our best to get the water out of the boat but as waves keep crashing in and our physical ability starts to decline, Jesus is the only one who can effectively say “Peace! Be still!” over the storms in our lives.

What a gracious God we have the opportunity to serve! Jesus continues to demonstrate His authority over the storms in my life and I pray that He is doing the same for you!

– Bet

Calming the Storm – Part III: Fear vs. Faith – Matthew 8:25-26a

“And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing.’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’” – Matthew 8:23-27

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Click the picture to go to Alison’s art page!!

This study has been so good for me so far. Over the past few weeks, we have learned about the disciples following Jesus into the boat (click here for Part I) and the incredible storm that they have found themselves in the middle of (click here for Part II). In Part III, we will see the disciples’ reaction to the storm and what Jesus says to them. This next section of the passage has convicted me more than any other section. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that this is when Jesus finally wakes up and says something or if it’s because of the combined rebuke and calmness He has when questioning the disciples’ faith but I really learned a lot about the character of Jesus from verses 25 and 26 which we’ll get into later. But for now, let’s jump into what is going on in this passage.

1) What is happening in this verse?

We find out that there is a bad storm in verse 24 and in verse 25, we see the disciples’ reaction to the storm – they were freaking out! Since Jesus was asleep and they probably needed all the hands they could get to help bail water out of the boat, they felt the need to wake Him. But take a look at the words that they say: “Save us, Lord…”. The disciples were either aware of the fact that Jesus could save them or they just needed Him to help them with the water buckets. Either way, they needed Jesus’ help. They recognized His presence as a beneficial resource for them but did not trust that He was in control of the situation. Hence, the alertness in their call for Jesus to wake up.

The disciples were fiercely panicking at this point. After waking Jesus up, they say, “We are perishing.” Now, that’s a little extreme. But it is true. They were on the brink of death when they woke Jesus up. But what the men in the boat didn’t have faith in was the fact that Jesus was in control the whole time. They only wanted Him to wake up and do something about the fact that they were sinking.

Then, Jesus says to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” This probably took the men in the boat a little off guard because the waves were still crashing over the edges causing the boat to sink lower and lower. But Jesus decides to use this moment to teach his disciples. They lacked the faith that Jesus expected them to have at this point in their journey with Him. They had already seen Him perform miracles that proved His identity and power but they did not believe that He had control over nature. Jesus wanted them to know that He had the power to keep them safe from the storm. He was disappointed to find out that the disciples didn’t have much faith in Him.

The phrase that Jesus uses to call them out – “O you of little faith…” – is the same phrase He uses throughout the New Testament when the disciples are not displaying a proper amount of faith in who He is. Jesus begs them to stop worrying because He is in control. He knows that if they have faith enough to believe that He is in control, they will be content in whatever situation may arise.

2) What does this verse mean to me?

The easiest way to determine what this verse means to us as readers is to mentally put ourselves in the boat with Jesus and the disciples. Imagine you are using small buckets to help scoop water out of the boat. Imagine waves are crashing in on every side, causing the boat to toss and turn. Imaging Jesus laying there asleep in the boat after a long day of preaching and teaching. What do you do in that situation? Do you start freaking out like the disciples? Or are you calm, knowing that the Man asleep in the boat has authority over the winds and waves? Would you have trusted that Jesus has the ability to quiet the raging storm with His powerful words?

Our faith in Jesus depends on who we say He is and vice versa. If we believe that Jesus has all authority over Creation, there is no doubt that we would trust His ability to silence the storm. But if we constantly question who He says He is and do not recognize His power in all situations, we will be less likely to have faith in Him while the storm rages around us. I think it is easy to say that we would have that kind of faith looking back at this story, but when we mentally put ourselves in the boat with the disciples, it is harder to admit that we would believe in the authority of Jesus.

3) What does this verse teach me about Jesus?

I discussed a bit about Jesus in the answer to the first question but I want to look at something else interesting that Jesus does here in my answer to question 3: Jesus does not have a “what is going on…” moment after being woken up. He doesn’t freak out, He doesn’t complain about the storm or the water in the boat, He simply asks what the disciples are afraid of.

Notice that He disciplines the disciples prior to calming the storm. If He wasn’t in control of the storm, He would have urgently tried to calm the storm first and then lectured afterward. But, He had time to question their faith before calming the storm. He was in control the whole time and it was important for the men on the boat to see that. Jesus uses this moment to show that He is the founder and perfecter of the disciples’ faith (Heb. 12:2) by calling them out on their lack of faith in the middle of a raging sea storm.

I think it is also important to point out that Jesus does not even get up from where He was laying to address the disciples. He “rose” just before He rebuked the winds and the sea. He was still either laying down or sitting in the boat when He questions the disciples’ faith. This added a more dramatic effect to what happens next when Jesus does finally calm the storm which we’ll get into in Part IV.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it!

– Bethany

Calming the Storm – Part II: The Storm – Matthew 8:24

“And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing.’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’” – Matthew 8:23-27

Before getting into Part II of the “Calming the Storm” series, I need to apologize – 1) for not posting this on the date that I said I would and 2) for putting things into the passage in Part I of the series.

As for the first apology, I’ve been so busy but that is no excuse. I said it’d be up by Sunday 7/8/18 and it wasn’t so I’m sorry. I will try to do better about getting these posts up when I said I would.

For the second apology, I want to take this time to talk about the value and danger of interpreting Scripture. In Part I (which you can read here), I tried to over-apply it to my life and your life. While the things that I said in the post were true, this is not a passage that we can just put our life circumstances into and use for our benefit. The particular message of this passage is more beautiful if we take it as it is and do not add more meaning to it. This is not a parable that Jesus is telling to crowds, this is real life. This story actually happened. There were actual boats with actual people and an actual storm. This is not a hyperbole that we can apply to our lives, this story ACTUALLY HAPPENED. I think when we try to add to Scripture we can start to have a “fairytale” mindset about what we’re reading but that is very misleading. We have to understand that many of the things we read about in the Bible (unless they are parables) are real-life stories.

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Let’s look at verse 24 of Matthew 8:

“And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.”

Now, for the questions that I am going to answer:

 

1) What is happening in this verse?

2) What does this verse mean to me?

3) What does this verse teach me about Jesus?

1) What is happening in this verse?

This verse is pretty straightforward for the most part. In Part I, we looked at what was going on right before the disciples got onto the boat (Jesus told them about the importance of following Him), and now they are on the boat at sea in the middle of a big storm.

For context in verse 24, we have to consider who all is on this boat (there are multiple boats on this trek across the Sea of Galilee as told in the book of Mark 4:35-41, but we’ll just focus on the boat that Jesus is in). From looking at verse 23, we know that this boat has some of Jesus’ disciples in it. We know that many of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen by trade. This is significant because many of the men on this boat have probably had experience dealing with storms at sea. Why is this significant? Well, we’ll get into that in the next part of the series. But for now, we just need to know that there are men who used to work as fishermen on the boat with Jesus and that they have more than likely been through storms at sea before.

I also want to take a second to look at the word “swamped” in the middle of this verse. It says that the boat was being “swamped” by the waves. What does this mean? Is it just a simple rocking of the boat? No. This word “swamped” also translates to “covered” or “veiled”. The waves are crashing over the side of the boat and covering it with waves. These guys are not on a yacht or a cruise ship going across the ocean. They are in a little wooden boat trying to get across the Sea of Galilee. Let me just say that this is not the type of boat I want to be in when a big storm comes. Knowing that the waves were “swamping” the sides of the boat makes me scared for these men because there was not a lot of room to hide from the storm.

Now, this seems like a bad deal and all but check out what Jesus is doing. THIS GUY IS SLEEPING. We know that He just got finished preaching a possibly day-long message to a crowd of people and he is currently on His way across the sea to do the same thing. So, I understand that He is tired, but what in the world?! These waves are crashing over the sides of this small fishing boat and Jesus is ASLEEP in the middle of it.

2) What does this verse mean to me?

Since I kind of got onto myself for reading into the passage in part I, there is not a lot to say here. Yes, Jesus is with you always but that is not the point of this passage. Yes, Jesus can calm the storms in your life but that is not the point of this passage. Yes, there are going to be times when you feel like Jesus is “asleep” in your life but that is not the point of this passage.

For now, what this verse should mean to you is that Jesus and his disciples were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee when a crazy-bad storm came up and Jesus was sleeping through it. That’s all for now. It would be dangerous for us to lose sight of the actual meaning of this passage by putting our own story in it and making it a story that it was never intended to be.

3) What does this verse teach me about Jesus?

While it blows my mind that Jesus is asleep in the boat, one of the biggest things I have gathered from this is that Jesus feels so secure in the hands of God the Father that he can peacefully sleep, no matter what is going on around Him. And, though we’ll get into this later in the series, this proves to me that Jesus is not just a human. He is also a divine being who can literally sleep through anything.

In Part III – Fear vs. Faith, we’ll be taking a look at the disciples’ reaction to the storm and their reaction to Jesus being asleep. I hope you all have enjoyed reading through this study so far and, as always, if you have any questions for me, please ask them!

– Bet

Calming the Storm – Part I: Follow Him – Matthew 8:23

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing.’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’” – Matthew 8:23-27

 

Throughout the course of the “Calming the Storm” series on the blog, I want to answer three questions for each part of the series:

1) What is happening in this verse?

2) What does this verse mean for me?

3) What does this verse teach me about Jesus?

I also want to encourage you to ask me questions in the comments or just email them to me if there is something that you are confused by or if you just have a question about the passage as a whole. My goal in this study is to encourage a deeper understanding of God’s Word and a longing to know Him better so that we may fall more in love our Creator each day.

Now, let’s get started…

 

1) What is happening in this verse?

Matthew 8:23 is a very simple sentence when you first read over it. It is pretty clear what is happening here: Jesus is leading His disciples onto a boat.

He had just finished preaching about parables and had healed quite a few people which resulted in a large following. As with most cases when Jesus started to inherit a large crowd, He wanted to leave, so they got into the boat to cross the Sea of Galilee.

But I want you to take a look at the previous two verses (21-22):

Another of the disciples said to him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.’”

This makes verse 23 that much more important:

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him.

Jesus had just finished talking about the importance of following Him; how it should be the most important thing in our entire lives. We know this from other instances in Scripture (Matthew 4:19, Matthew 16:24, Luke 9:23) but I wanted to point out the hidden message in this passage and how each part of this story can apply to our lives.

 

2) What does this verse mean for me?

The correct response to Jesus’ leading us is to follow Him. We may not know where we are going or the condition of the boat we may be getting into but the application for us from verse 23 is to have enough faith to follow Jesus onto the boat. We will see later in this passage that having faith to follow Him onto the boat is not going to be enough. But it is the initial step of faith that the disciples demonstrate in this verse that we must also display in our own lives.

This could look a lot different for each one of us. For me, having enough faith to step onto the boat could mean that I take a job as a volunteer middle school girls youth leader. I could have made up excuses for reasons that I couldn’t be their youth leader or I could have just flat-out said “no” but I decided to follow Jesus into the boat that He has led me on to. It took a lot of faith in who He is for me to be able to say “yes” to that position but I know that I have a great opportunity to pour into the lives of these middle school girls and that Jesus is with me always.

For other people, stepping into the boat may be moving away from home for the first time. Freshmen in college will be moving into their dorms in about a month from now and I know that it is scary to move away from home for the first time. But if you have prayed about your college decision and have found a ministry to get plugged into while you are away from home, you have displayed enough faith to follow Jesus onto the boat.

For many of us, the biggest step of faith we ever had to take was confessing Jesus as our Lord and Savior. It may not seem like it for all of us but stepping onto that boat was the hardest decision in our entire life. Some people had to give up hobbies and interests, some people had to give up friends, and some people even had to give up family members and careers as a result of following Jesus onto the boat. It took a lot of faith to give up those things and follow Him.

The biggest point of this verse as far as what it means for us is that Jesus is worth following. It is the most important decision we will ever make this side of heaven and it is indeed one that we will regret if we decide not to follow Him.

I also want to point out that we should never stop following Jesus. Following Him onto the boat is one thing, and it is indeed a great thing. But once we get to the other shore, we can’t just say, “Okay, I followed Him onto the boat once so I’m done following Him.” Jesus tells us in Matthew 16:24 to take up our cross DAILY and follow Him. It isn’t something we do once and then forget about. Following Jesus is like a job: if we don’t show up, we don’t get rewarded. We either have faith to follow Him onto the boat and recognize the importance of that, or we don’t. There is no in between.

 

3) What does this verse teach me about Jesus?

Here is where I will park the “boat”, so to speak. This verse is very simple, as I said before, but there is SO MUCH to say about who Jesus is from these 11 words.

The first thing that I want to point out about Jesus in this verse is that He gets into the boat with the disciples. Now, this may be a very minor point if we didn’t know one other thing about Jesus. But in Matthew 14:22-34, we know that He possessed the ability to walk on water. Could he have walked on the water beside the boat in this passage in Matthew 8 too? I believe He could have if He had wanted to. But He opted to get into the boat with the disciples. Why?

I think it is no simpler than the fact that He knew the limitations of the disciples and that they were tired from walking around with Him all day. He met them where they were at and stooped down to their level. He knew that they didn’t have the ability to walk on the water like He did so He led them onto the boat. Now, Do I believe that Jesus could have helped them out onto the water as He did with Peter in Matthew 14:22-34? Absolutely. But we have to remember that the disciples had just started following Jesus only a few chapters earlier and maybe didn’t have that much faith in Him yet. Heck, they barely had enough faith to get into the boat with Him. I’m sure they would have thought He was crazy and dipped out if He had told them to walk on the water with Him.

I think that this story really demonstrates Jesus’ ability to relate to us as humans. I know that I often think of Jesus as much higher than us, reaching down to pull us up when we don’t have enough faith but that is not always the case. We need to understand that Jesus constantly reaches out to help us where we are. He relates to us so impeccably that He was able to take our place on the cross and bear God’s wrath for us. He does not reach down to help us, He reaches out to save us. He is standing in front of us, leading us onto the boat knowing that He is all we need to get through whatever comes next.

Like I said at the beginning of the post, please do not hesitate to ask me a question via comment or email. I will be glad to answer any question that comes my way!

I hope y’all enjoyed reading this first of four “main point” posts from the “Calming the Storm” series. I really enjoy writing about the Bible and showing people more of who Jesus is. If there is a topic that you would like for me to write about, let me know! I have ideas for upcoming series’ but I want to know what you guys want me to write about. Let me know in the comments!

Peace and Blessings,

Bet

Matthew 8:23-27 Introduction: Calming the Storm

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Check out this painting and others like it here

Whew, the last few months have been busy for me and my family. If you have been praying for us after the loss of my Papa, please know that we are so grateful for the prayers and the support that we have received! I know we still have a long time before things feel normal again but having such a large support system behind us, lifting us up in prayer and sending flowers and food, makes it slightly bearable. Papa was a very loved man and he will be dearly missed.

However, during this time of suffering and loss in my family, the Lord has been so good to me. In a time that I thought would be so hard for me to hold on to my faith and I would let my stress get the best of me, God has held me closer to Himself than I could’ve ever gotten on my own. Papa’s passing has allowed a greater opportunity for my family to talk about what we believe. About death, about God, about suffering, about medical advancements. We have suffered a great loss but we have also been provided with a wonderful presence of peace that only comes from the Prince of Peace.

DEDICATION:

I can remember during one of my years in school having to write a one-page essay that I did not want to write. I came home from school that day and walked next door to my grandparents’ house and was telling Papa how much I hate writing. I went on and on about how “dumb” it is to write about things that no one cares about because it just takes up everyone’s time. Papa just sat there and listened like he always did. Then he said, “You’re going to write this paper. But when you finish, I want to be the first to read it.” So I went home to start writing. I don’t remember what it was about or how old I was at the time, I just remember getting finished, taking it to Papa, and him saying, “Wow, you can really write! Keep writing so that you will be able to tell your story and point people to greater things.” At the time, I thought he was just being nice and giving me grandfatherly wisdom. But after hearing that, I began to enjoy writing. I began to see what Papa was saying about telling my story and pointing people to great things.

This is why I want to dedicate this study to my Papa Ernie: the man who stirred up a passion for writing in my heart. He wanted me to use writing to paint the bigger picture for people. The bigger picture of life, the bigger picture of my story, the bigger picture of the world, the bigger picture of the Gospel. I hope to one day become the writer he always knew I could be.

THE STUDY:

I often lose sight of the fact that our God is a miracle-working God. I can easily think of Him as a King or higher power who receives glory and praise but I don’t really understand why He deserves them. Then I am reminded of stories like Matthew 8:23-27 and think, “Oh…that’s why.” He is Creator and Controller of the universe. Every human’s breath, every bird’s chirp, every dog’s bark is under His control. He makes the sun rise and set, He makes the wind blow, He puts the stars in the sky, and He makes trees and flowers grow.

God doesn’t just want a relationship with me because He knows what’s best for me. God wants a relationship with me because He IS what’s best for me. Any storm in my life, He alone can settle. If I have faith enough to submit the storms in my life to Him, He tells them, “Peace, be still!”

As I have studied this passage, I have learned a lot about the character of Jesus, the character of the disciples, and the character of nature. I wanted to share some of my thoughts about it with y’all and decided that just doing one blog post would be WAY too long so I have split the study up over 4 main points. Each point will get its own week on the blog and you can see a schedule below. I’m so excited to get started on this and I hope you are too!

SCHEDULE:

June 30 – Follow Him (Main Point #1)

July 9 – The Storm (Main Point #2)

July 16 – Fear vs. Faith (Main Point #3)

July 23 – Creator and Ruler (Main Point #4)

July 30 – Closing Remarks (pretty self-explanatory)