Up until a few years ago, I had never read through the entire Bible, after almost 30 years of being a Christian. Of course, I was positive that at some point I had read every word in Scripture. I just didn’t do it in order. After all, I reasoned, the order of the books didn’t seem to be as critical as the fact that they were included.
So I’ve spent most of my life following the “whatever happens to be the most appealing book or passage at the moment” method of Bible study. At times, it’s been very fruitful. At other times, it’s been non-existent.
A few years ago the pastors on the teaching team at our church decided to switch to the ESV as the preaching Bible. To help them become familiar with the new translation, we read through the Bible in a year as a church. Those who actually finished were rewarded with a pancake breakfast, served by the pastors. That may have been de-motivating, actually.
I was excited about the possibility of actually reading the whole Bible in a year. At the same time, I was concerned that like all my other attempts, I’d quit somewhere in the middle of Leviticus. Either I’d get bogged down, or fall 80 chapters behind and just give up.
The fact that I was trying to lead my family in the one-year Bible reading plan was definitely motivating. I really didn’t want to get to December and have my twelve year old daughter ask me why I didn’t finish. “Well, dear, Daddy’s an important person, with lots of important things to do, and lots of important people to talk to, and…I’m sure I’ll finish it some day.”
After confessing my craving for my children’s approval to God, I did the only thing that made sense. I asked God to help me.
It occurred to me that I’ve always tried to “keep up” with a plan, as though following the schedule I had set was the goal of reading. Didn’t I want to read the Bible to get to know God? Wasn’t I neglecting an irreplaceable resource in my war against sin? Was there any part of the Bible that wasn’t important? If Scripture really is His inerrant Word, made up of God’s thoughts, promises, commands, warnings, and deeds, shouldn’t I WANT to know it?
At some point, I had an “aha!” moment. What if I attempted a reading plan that seemed so outrageous it would require GOD to be successful? My ESV Bible had a little over 1200 pages. If I read six pages a day, I would be done in a little over 200 days. Of course, given my track record, I knew I probably wouldn’t read it every single day. But each time I spent time with the Lord, I would aim for 6 pages.
An amazing thing happened. I began to look forward with greater eagerness to my Bible reading. I was seeing the redemptive story of Scripture unfold before my eyes. Sometimes I was so excited about what I was reading, I read MORE than six pages!
I ended up finishing in November. My first thought, surprisingly, wasn’t, ‘Now wasn’t THAT impressive?” No, my first thought was, “You idiot! Why didn’t you start doing this years ago?”
I was hooked. After a brief break, I picked up D.A. Carson’s excellent book, For the Love of God, Vol. 1. It’s a devotional for every day of the year, based on an adapted version of Robert M’Cheyne’s Bible reading plan. M’Cheyne, who had an enduring godly effect even though he died before he was thirty, believed in reading more than one part of the Bible at a time. He devised a plan for reading through the entire Bible once, and the Psalms and New Testament twice. His words to one young man are still relevant: “You read your Bible regularly, of course; but do try and understand it, and still more to feel it.”
Again, I let my hunger to know God better motivate me more than a reading plan (although both are helpful). I started to read two, even three, days in one sitting. I was having a blast! Carson’s comments definitely deepened my understanding, but the most significant effect was seeing how God’s voice is consistent throughout His word. My view of God was getting bigger.
After finishing Volume 1, I moved on to For the Love of God, Vol. 2. I began to do more cross-referencing, notice threads of thought, and get to know my Creator and Redeemer better. In some small way, I was beginning to experience what David wrote in Psalm 19:
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psa. 19:7-10, ESV)
I’ll share more about my journey tomorrow.