"I have a hard time reading the Bible" is a comment I have heard many times since I became a pastor, probably right up there with the other comment, "I just don't understand the Bible". In 2003, a Gallup survey of Christians found that only "about half of survey respondents (49%) believe the Bible has decisive authority over what they say and do, although only 28% say they regularly study the Bible to find direction in their lives."
While there is no magic solution to these issues Christians struggle with, there are some excellent resources available to help those who understand that the Word of God is the only source of spiritual food for the believer. One resource that I would highly recommend is Reading the Bible With Heart & Mind by Tremper Longman III. This is an excellent tool to help anyone learn more about the Word of God and how to both understand it and apply it to their lives.
Longman starts his first section by discussing "The Bible's Transforming Power". He reminds the reader that Scripture is the primary way that God changes our hearts and minds, and it is the primary way that God shows us what in our lives needs to be changed. "God speaks to us through the Bible. He encounters us in its pages. It is true that He speaks to us in other ways as well but never so clearly and directly as in Scripture." (pp. 39).
Once he establishes how the Bible works in us, his next section, "The Receptive Heart", describes how we should approach the Bible when we turn to it. He describes some wrong approaches or "lenses" that some of us bring to Scripture - "A treasure chest of golden truths", "A grab bag of promises and comforts", "A compilation of riddles and secrets", or "A talisman with magical power". He then describes some of the correct ways to approach God's Word - as the very Word of God, as a guide for living, and with great humility.
The third section, "The Understanding Mind", focuses on how we, as people who are trying to read the Bible, can both build our trust in what it says, and our understanding of what it says! He explains and describes seven principles that will help a reader better understand any Biblical passage's meaning accurately. He finishes this section with a reminder that, "the most important thing to remember as you approach the Bible s to come to it with an openness to hear God speaking directly to your heart. He cares about you and your deepest concerns. Don't allow principles or guidelines to take away the power of your encounter with Him. But do use them as a guide for accurate interpretation."(pp. 94).
His fourth and largest section, "The Literary Cornucopia," which explains how to specifically read and understand the different genres of Scripture - history, law, poetry, wisdom, prophets, gospels, epistles and apocalyptic. By reading these chapters, parts of the Bible that may have seemed impossible to understand before, can now be read with new confidence and clarity. This section alone is worth the price of the book!
Longman concludes with a wonderful exhortation: "The Word of God is rich, complex, challenging and compelling. As long as we live, we will struggle to understand it. But as long as we struggle with it, we will grow....To read the Bible with heart and mind consistently is to enter into a lifelong conversation with god. And this conversation has only one possible result: continued growth and transformation into the image of Jesus Christ." (pp. 228).
If your desire is to "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly..." (Col. 3:16a), then this book is a great tool to help you begin that process in your life!