For many years I had the goal of reading the Bible from cover-to-cover in a calendar year. I reckon I’ve completed that goal once in the last 15 years. My routine from January first was to start at Genesis 1:1 and make my way through at least 4 chapters per day. Yet, by late January I’d be stuck in Exodus reading about the plagues, the Red Sea, and the journey into the wilderness and already finding myself too far behind to catch up.
Perhaps this is a familiar experience for you as well.
As one who comes from a tradition where the regular reading of the Bible is engrained from a young age, being unable to do this can trigger some sort of guilt trip. Thankfully, this need not be the case and my legalistic view of Bible reading has changed somewhat. This is not to say that my view of God’s Word has changed, only the perceived necessity to read through the entire Bible each year.
As I seek to worship God in the everyday I seek to engage with God’s Word in various ways and at various times throughout the day. This may involve reading a select passage of scripture, listening to worship music focussing on the words of scripture, or reading a portion of a Christian book that leads me to contemplate the ways of God more deeply.
The sidebar to this that I can’t help but make is that God’s Word is not on even par with a worship song or a Christian book. No other book or words written in human history is “…God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It’s got to be said.
But still, perhaps you are like me and require some structure, some idea of what you’d like to do. In growing as a disciple, in our experience, knowledge, and follow-ship of Jesus it’s still good to have a plan or approach to scripture reading. As a regular practice of our faith, and as the year is now underway, I wonder whether a way to approach this might be to think small, think regular, and think expectantly.
Everyone has different capacities as to what they can achieve in a day or a week or a year. Often we might be surprised at how much we can accomplish when we are consistent in doing little things throughout the year.
I’d encourage you not to think about reading the whole Bible as one complete project for the year. Radical, I know. But instead, think about it in little chunks. Think about reading one Proverb a day and repeat it every month. Think about working through a gospel one chapter at a time and digesting it properly. Or think even smaller, contemplate 1-2 verses of Paul’s letters. Or perhaps limit yourself to 5 minutes a day for January with the goal of increasing it a minute each month.
It is the little done over time that produces a significant amount. You’ll be surprised at how much of God’s Word you will end up reading if you think small.
Thinking small leads to thinking regularly. Doing the small means approaching the reading of the Bible as a consistent discipline.
Perhaps reading everyday is not a possibility for you, that’s OK. How do weekdays suit? How does committing to a Saturday and Sunday schedule sound? I’m not sure what’s best for you, but it is in your hands as to when and how regularly your Bible reading might be.
At the moment I’m probably hitting 4-5 days per week of significant reading whereby I’m seeking to connect with God and grow in him. Outside of this I am in the unique situation where I’m given the opportunity to dip into God’s Word in various ways – sharing with others, preparation for sermons, and in faith conversations with church and community members. Nevertheless, what I’ve found helpful is to have a committed time of reading that’s in the calendar or on the to-do list (and prayer is always helpful alongside this).
The final idea in approaching Bible reading for this year is to read expectantly.
How often Bible reading can become a duty rather than a delight because we come to God’s Word not expecting to hear from him! Not expecting him to change our hearts and minds, not to conform and have our mind renewed (Romans 12:2-3).
Often we will find connections, greater knowledge of God and his ways, and be willing to hear from God when we come to his Word expectantly. Sure, sometimes Bible reading is hard and difficult and doesn’t make sense to where we find ourselves, yet God has revealed himself through his Word and continues to make himself known by it. It’s why part of our discipleship is to go to God’s Word and hear what he has to say to us.
I’d encourage you to have a go, to think small, to think regularly, and think expectantly as you approach the reading of God’s Word this year.