Your Best Resolution
Jesus said: “Man must not live on bread alone, but on every word, that comes from the mouth of God” (Mat. 4:4). If we don’t eat food, our bodies become weak and sickly. It works the same way in the spiritual realm. But digesting the Bible doesn’t only make us strong, we also need it to fight temptation successfully (Ps. 119:105) and to be wise (Ps. 19:7-11). God hasn’t told us when or how often we should read His Word. He just told us we need to, in order to live well (Deut. 8:3).
One reason good intentions fall flat is because we don’t have a plan. If you want to get serious about reading the Bible, you need a strategy. And I can’t think of a better help than a Bible reading schedule. And I can’t think of a better time to start than today.
You don’t have to use a Bible reading program. Some use a devotional guide to help their reading, others study individual books of the Bible. There is not one sanctified method that comes with a 100% guarantee of success. But my own Bible reading didn’t really take off until the day I started using a Bible reading plan. The blessings of reading through the Bible in a systematic way has been a tremendous boost in my walk with God. Other benefits of a reading plan include:
- It provides structure. A 84 year old woman in our church began using a 2-year Bible reading schedule two years ago. When she gets up in the morning, she makes herself a cup of coffee, grabs her reading schedule and starts reading her Bible. It took awhile to develop the habit but now she doesn’t know any different. She doesn’t have to think about what she will read that morning. The Bible reading schedule helps her routine and keeps her accountable and on track.
- God’s redemptive plan becomes more breathtaking. When you read through the Bible in a systematic way, the main story line of the Bible becomes more clear. You’re not just reading individual stories. You see how they all fit together, like marbles in a necklace.
- You go places in Scsripture you would normally not go to. If you only read books that seem interesting or doable you miss much. We generally don’t mind reading the Gospels or Psalms. But how do you feel about Leviticus with its discussion of the sacrifices, or Revelation and its symbolism? What about the judgment oracles in the Minor Prophets? But God says that His entire Word is inspired, and profitable (2 Tim. 3:16) and that includes flyover territory.
God doesn’t love you less when you don’t read His Word on a regular basis. We don’t score brownie points when we do. Our acceptance is based on the finished work of Christ, not on what we do. But when we’re not in the Word, we lose.
Perhaps you’ve started many times before, but by the time February came around you were so far behind that you gave up, feeling like a failure. But what if you would make March this year? You would have spent many days reading. And who knows, maybe this year your love for the Bible is kindled like never before.
Did you know that if you would read only 3 minutes a day, you could read through the entire New Testament in one year? If you have an average reading speed, you can finish Obadiah in 3 minutes, the Gospel of Luke in 2 hours and the book of Psalms in 3,5 hours. If we have time to take long showers or scroll through newsfeeds, we should be able to carve out 15 or 20 minutes a day for reading the Bible.
There are helpful reading apps available for on your phone, but here is a list of Bible reading schedules you can print.
- The Bible reading schedule I use is chronological, but has one New Testament reading a day. It follows a 52-week format, five days a week. The other two days I can read something else, or make up for days I missed during the week.
- For starters this 5x5x5 reading schedule from the Navigators may be handy. It takes you through the New Testament in one year, 5 days a week. Especially helpful if you have never used a Bible reading plan and don’t want to bite off more than you can chew.
- The Scottish Pastor, Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843) developed a Bible reading plan take takes you through the New Testament and Psalms twice year and through the rest of the Bible once. You read approximately 4 chapters a day.
- Author and theologian D.A. Carson slightly modified M'Cheyne's plan and wrote two accompanying books, commenting on each day’s passages. Both Volume 1 and Volume 2 are very instructive and pastoral.
- Here is a straightforward program that takes you from Genesis to Revelation in one year by reading three chapters a day. You can do the same in two years.
- This program is interesting. It is called “The Bible Eater” and highlights the chapters that are crucial for understanding the overall plot of the Bible’s salvation story. It has you read Romans and Hebrews twice, since these two books are very helpful for seeing how the Bible’s story unfolds and how the Old and New Testament relate.
Another option is a one-year Bible. The advantage is that it is easy; the daily readings are laid out for you by date. Different translations are available such as the New American Standard Bible, English Standard Version and New King James Version.
I hope you will find joy and delight as you commit to reading God's Word daily. Don't be put off by the feelings of duty, at first. Pray before you read and ask God to change your "ought to read" into a "want to read". Stick to it. Be accountable to someone. Follow a plan with buddy or even with a group. And may you be filled with joy unspeakable as you meet Jesus in the Scriptures, the only One who can satisfy your spiritual hunger (Joh. 6:35).
Committing to reading God’s Word systematically and regularly in 2019 is the best resolution you can make.