Whenever you study the Bible you should realize the first step is to observe what is being said in the text. Note the actual facts or statements. Then you need to try to understand what it actually means. That is, you need to interpret what you have observed. Once you do that you need to apply what you have learned to your life. In other words you need to answer the question, “What does it mean to you personally?” What kind of changes do you need to make in the way you live to have this truth implemented in your life?
As an example of this study approach, note the parable of the sower, mentioned in Mark 4:1-8. Fortunately Jesus Christ Himself interpreted this parable in Mark 4:13-20. With His explanation of the facts you can develop applications to your own life.
For example you could say that you should take care where you sow the seed of God’s Word. Try to sow it into the lives of those who have been prepared by God’s Spirit. On the other hand, no matter how careful you are, since you can’t see what is in the heart of the hearer, have realistic expectations regarding the results. Some who respond will not follow through. Don’t be too hard on yourself when that happens.
You could also reflect on what kind of soil best represents the condition of your heart. When you study God’s Word, will it produce a crop, or will it be thwarted because of the rocky or weedy condition of your heart?
With these three steps in mind - observation, interpretation and application - you will get the message in God’s Word more readily and benefit from it.