No, this is not an article about New Year’s resolutions, not directly anyway. But countless evangelical Christians treat the topic that way. Before 2016 begins, I want to talk about reading the Bible through this year.
Now, I am not against reading the Bible through in one year. I have encouraged many people during my years as a pastor to do that. And I would suggest that if you haven’t read the Bible “from cover to cover,” you should consider doing that sometime. You ought to be able to say that you have read every word of what God has revealed to you. It is easy to give many reasons for doing that, and the web is filled with such exhortations.
However, amid all the hard sell of reading the Bible completely in 2016, I will offer an alternative. Read slow and deep rather than fast and wide.
Bible reading, especially reading according to a daily plan, can easily degenerate into the fulfillment of a ritual or obedience to someone’s rules. “Oh, it’s March 11 and Pastor or Well-Known Preacher So and So told me that I have to keep to the schedule. So I guess I absolutely must read ________, or I’ll get hopelessly behind schedule.” And as the year grinds on, what happens? You know what happens! What began as a delight turns into a chore. And what is worse is that you can easily read yet not listen to the Lord your God, because you’re trying to fulfill a task, instead of listening to your Father in heaven, thinking (meditating) about what he says to you, and joyfully experiencing the transformation of your mind and way of life. How does the Spirit describe a godly experience of the word of the Lord?
The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes (Psalm 19:7-8 NIV).
For 2016, why not choose an approach that is more in line with this description than forcing yourself to trudge through a plan simply for the sake of completing a plan? Here are some suggestions:
- Read one book, like Mark, Hosea, or 1 Peter, many times. For example, read Hosea ten times in January. You will slowly become more acquainted with its contents and will notice ideas and patterns that you never saw before. Or perhaps read 1 Peter every day of February. You might be surprised what happens to your understanding and your delight in that part of the Lord’s message to you!
- Read according to your interest. Ah, the taskmasters will heap scorn on this. But tell me honestly, haven’t you had the experience of wanting to look more deeply into various parts of the word. Pursue your curiosity. If you need help on this subject, please contact me, because there are some pitfalls to avoid.
- And always, read with your friends (gospel partners). We all tend to make every part of spirituality very individualistic. But read the same Scriptures with others and multiply your spiritual experience as well as that of the group. Certainly, you could read through the whole Bible together, but most people learn better at first in small sandboxes than in large playgrounds.
My prayer is that your soul would be refreshed, your way of living would become wise, your heart would overflow with joy, and your eyes would be filled with light.
Grace and peace,