By now, you may have resolved to do certain things to better yourself in the new year, to make progress in your personal development or impact. One resolution that many people make is to read the Bible more, or more consistently, in the coming year. I have considered the idea myself this year.
Our pastor is always encouraging us to get into the Word. Our church passes out reading schedules along with free “life journals” for people to record their thoughts as they read and meditate on God’s Word. The reading plan our church follows, the Solid Life Reading Plan, is even available through Bible.com and can be accessed through The Bible App on my cell phone. It’s all so convenient. Why not go for it?
How I Read the Bible
It has never been a question of whether I will read the Bible. My question, coming into the new year, is more about how exactly I will go about it. Which books will I read? Will I zero in on a specific theme? For example, last year I decided to focus on wisdom and instruction. I focused on Matthew and Proverbs, and supplemented that reading with the wisdom literature (Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs), Deuteronomy, 1 & 2 Timothy, and the Didache (a non-biblical book from the early church period). The year before that, I concentrated my reading on the Old Testament Prophets. In the past, I have read through the writings of the Apostle John at a pace of just one chapter a week. I have made it a habit to set Bible reading goals like this every year and that, in itself, helps me stay consistent. I also post my reading plan online for others to see, which helps me stick with the public commitment I make, even when I temporarily fall behind schedule.
So, how have my own Bible reading plans been different than the Solid Life Reading Plan (SLRP)? First, SLRP takes you through the whole Bible in a year, the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice. My plans tend to be less ambitious, focusing on only a handful of books centered around a theme. Second, with SLRP there is a lot of reading to do in one day, usually three or four chapters from two or more books. While there is no doubt that we all should read through the whole Bible, not just once but repeatedly throughout our lifetime, having to read large portions of scripture daily makes me feel more like a Martha than a Mary. As a somewhat slower reader, just finishing the daily reading is time-consuming and feels more like a chore than a “quiet time.” For some people, it would be a piece of cake. For me, it leaves little time for reflection and sets me up for failure if I miss even one day.
How Should We Read the Bible?
The Bible itself does not offer any sacred recommendation on how much of it we should digest in any given day or year. It does not say how many times a day, or days a week, we should read, nor how much time we should devote to scripture each time we read it. It points out that we should meditate on it day and night. It should be on our minds and lips at all times. We need to be both interacting with and acting on God’s Word every day. That means we need to get it in us somehow, whether through a sermon, study, song, an edifying conversation, or, yes, just plain reading. And as we get into the Word, we may end up meditating on one verse, a chapter, or an entire book. And we could do that all before breakfast, or over the course of a day, week or year.
A Reading Recommendation
This year, I have decided to return to, and recommend, a reading plan called The Storyline Challenge. It does not cover every book of the Bible, but it lays a foundation for understanding all of the others and for pursuing further study by taking you through 13 books that tell the Bible’s story from Creation to the Church: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, Ezra, Nehemiah, Luke, and Acts. To get through the story at a reasonable pace, I suggest reading about one chapter a day, six days a week (which makes it a 57-week journey). You can skip reading on whichever day you go to church and meditate on the sermon that day if you like. Nevertheless, feel free to read at your own speed. And if you skip reading on any day(s), just pick up where you left off the next day. The idea is to develop an increasingly consistent habit of reading the Bible, while at the same time re-acquainting ourselves with its overarching narrative. If you are feeling anxious, inadequate, or overwhelmed, slow down. Reading the Bible should lead us into fellowship with God, and that’s where our focus should be.
Fast or Slow, Just Go!
It is a dear privilege and blessing to be able to own and read a personal copy of scripture and to have access to so many resources for helping us understand it, including reading plans. We dare not take such an opportunity for granted. We have the means, unlike so many of our brothers and sisters from other places and times, to read the Bible for ourselves, to hear through it God’s voice, and to find in it God’s life shared with us in Christ. So, if reading large portions of Scripture every day stimulates your mind and quickens your heart toward God, let no one hold you back. Just think of yourself as a spiritual cyclist and Jesus as your riding partner. But if, like me, you like to stop and smell the roses, and really, thoroughly ponder those roses (their color, smell, placement along the path, and all that), then you might think of yourself as more of a spiritual naturalist who goes on nature walks with the Lord instead. Take your time, and do not let anyone rush you. What matters here is not how much ground you cover, but Who is with you as you go.
One thought on “How Should We Read the Bible?”
I agree totally that there is no sacred way of reading the bible. Bible reading is made for us—not for God. We profit from reading the bible in such as we get to know the author better, understand his ways, and become more like him.
Reading the bible often turns into a spiritual duty, where we try to please God or our pastor—I don’t know which is worse. I think of the bible as a great biography of God, showing his character and actions, principles and wishes.
To get to know him, it is best to follow the pace and leading of the Spirit. It is great to plan ahead, but then also to park out on whatever moves us. I sometimes read a verse for days, sometimes a chapter or two a day. Whatever helps to deepen my relationship with God.