Biblical application answers two questions:
If your Bible teaching doesn't ever answer these two questions, you haven't applied the Bible to the lives of your listeners. Many of us struggle in this area. We're taught to find the central idea of a passage, but we aren't shown how to apply this truth to the lives of our students.
I've found the following three ways of applying Scripture to be very helpful.
The Application Pyramid
I adapted this from Dave Veerman, the senior editor of The Life Application Bible. He suggests you ask nine questions of the text.
People: Who are the people in this passage and how are they like us today?
Place: What is the setting and what are the similarities to our world?
Plot: What is happening? Is there any conflict or tension? How would I have acted in that situation?
Point: What was the intended message for the first people to hear this passage? What did God want them to learn or feel or do?
Principles: What are the timeless truths?
Present: How is this relevant in our world today?
Parallels: Where does this truth apply to my life? At home, at work, at school, in church, in the neighborhood.
Personal: What attitude, action, value or belief needs to change in me?
Plan: What would be my first step of action?
These are nine questions you can ask of any biblical text that will help you see the application.
The Application Window
The next tool is the application window, which I borrowed from my friend, Bruce Wilkinson, the founder of Walk Through the Bible and author of The Prayer of Jabez.
He believes 2 Timothy 3:16 describes this application window, showing you four kinds of application. In this passage the Apostle Paul says, All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (KJV).
Simply put, studying Scripture should change our beliefs and our behavior. When you find answers to these four questions, you'll have an application.
Doctrine: What should I believe?
Reproof: How should I not behave?
Correction: What should I not believe?
Instruction in righteousness: How should I behave?
The Application Acrostic
A third way of looking at application is what I call my application acrostic. I ask twelve questions related to the text.
A: Is there an Attitude to adjust?
P: Is there a Promise to claim?
P: Is there a Priority to change?
L: Is there a Lesson to learn?
I: Is there an Issue to resolve?
C: Is there a Command to obey?
A: Is there an Activity to avoid or stop?
T: Is there a Truth to believe?
I: Is there an Idol to tear down? (That's a big one.)
O: Is there an Offense to forgive?
N: Is there a New direction to take?
S: Is there a Sin to confess?
Remember, for some people this may be the only pastoral care they ever get in their lives. They may never get one-on-one with their pastor, so what you teach them in a Sunday School lesson or during small group time may be the very thing that helps them with a problem. That's why it is so critical you deal with the personal application.