As 2021 comes to a close and the new year is upon us, many Christians take this time to scout out a Bible reading plan (or multiple) that they’d like to go through in the upcoming year. For some, they might seek a plan that will take them through the whole Bible in one or two years’ time. Others might opt to read through one of the Testaments, or even a few, or a group of books, such as the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Bible), or the Gospels.
Or maybe you find yourself stuck, knowing that daily or regular Bible reading is important (and I would even say necessary to living a faithful Christian life), but you’re having a hard time nailing down what you what or how much you want to read.
Or perhaps you don’t have a specific plan; you just wake up and decide on the spot what and how much you will read on any given day, and that is your Bible reading for the day. Whichever of these camps you may fall into, I want to offer three points that show the value of having a plan to read the Bible, and then offer a practical resource that you can use for your own Bible reading.
First, having a plan keeps you focused and motivated. It’s hard to achieve anything, especially anything of value, if we do not have any goals that are set. This is why the Apostle Paul speaks of “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way” (Philippians 3:13-15). Christians are to be heavenly-minded people; we are to look to what is unseen, not to what is seen (2 Corinthians 4:18).
The same goes for Bible reading. If we have a goal to read a certain amount of the Bible in a certain amount of time, we will be much more likely to actually read, whereas if we’re just coasting from day to day, we will find it hard to read even a few verses.
Second, having a plan never leaves you wondering what you will read next. Perhaps you’ve heard of people who have used the following method to read their Bibles: they close their eyes, flip to a random page, take their finger, and point to a random verse or section (with their eyes still closed), and whatever their finger happens to land on, they will take that as God’s word to them for the day, and that’s what they will read.
Part of that sentiment is true, in that all of the Bible, each and every word, is God’s inerrant and inspired Word. Every word we read, whether it be from Leviticus or Romans or the Psalms or the Gospel of Matthew, has been inspired by the Holy Spirit, who guided real human beings to physically write down these words of God (2 Peter 1:20-21). So, in that particular sense, yes, any verse or passage you read is the very Word of God.
But there is also part of that sentiment, of flipping to a random passage of Scripture each day, that actually leads to an unhelpful way of reading and understanding the Bible. What I mean is that there is a reason that God gave us his holy Scipture as one book, and that book being broken up into 66 smaller books and letters and accounts. God has given us his Word in this way, in the form of full books and letters and not merely just snippets of verses here and there, so that we can follow along with each individual author in the line of reasoning, argument, storytelling, and much more.
Let’s take a practical example. The book of Romans is my favorite book in the whole Bible, and in Romans 11:33, Paul says the following: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and how inscrutable his ways!” What a great truth! But try to imagine for a second that you have no prior knowledge of God, or at the very least, no knowledge of what the book of Romans is about. And you take use of the method of flipping open your Bible to a random place, and that random place is Romans 11:33, so you read it. You might be a little impressed, but the truth is is that you will not grasp the full weight of what Paul is saying in that verse unless you understand what he has been talking about all the way up to that point. In other words, the reason that Paul errupts in worship at the end of Romans chapter 11 is because of everything he has said in the prior chapters!
Just consider quickly the deep and rich theological depths that Paul had mined thus far up to Romans 11:33.
- Every single person on the face of the earth is a sinner, and is therefore under the wrath of God, yet God remains righteous in his judgement against the world (1:18-3:20).
- Also in his righteousness, God has provided a way of escape for sinners like you and me from the wrath that we deserve for our sin by providing a substitute, a “propition” to bear the penelty of our sins for us, who is Jesus Christ, and we are saved by faith in him (3:21-4:25).
- This results in a great and glorious hope that is assured to all who turn from their sin and trust in Christ, that there is no condemnation and punishment for those who are in Christ, and that there is a world that is coming where the sin that used to reign over us will be forever destroyed (5:1-8:39).
- This then leads Paul to explain how this good news that we call the Gospel actually takes effect in our lives, and he lays out for us that salvation is a supernatural work of God that extends to the Gentiles and not just the Jews, and that salvation that can only be brought about by God; not by any human will or exertion (9:1-11:36).
So, bringing ourselves back to 11:33 now, we can now see, having traced Paul argument and train of thought why it was that he exulted in the depths of God’s wisdom. It was because of the great and indesribable gift of salvation and redemption that God has given to undeserving and hell-bound sinners. But if you’re not reading through whole books of the Bible, you’re likely going to miss much of that! So make sure that when you read your Bible, you make it a goal and have a plan to read through whole books at a time, even if it’s just to read a chapter or a few verses a day. That way, you will be able to follow along with the author of each book what they are trying to communicate.
Third, and this goes along with the previous point, having a plan keeps you from avoiding passages and topics you may not like. If you’re committed to reading through whole books of the Bible at a time, you will be forced to confront many of the hard doctrines and teachings that God teaches us in his Word. Some of these include the doctrine of hell and eternal conscious suffering for those who do not repent and believe in the gospel, as well as the doctrines of election and predestination, and many hot-button culture issues like sexuality and marriage. And of course, you will be confronted with your own sin as you read God’s Word as whole, and not just as individual bits and pieces.
Hopefully, these pointers have been helpful, and have shown you the value of having a plan to read God’s Word, whether it be an in-depth study of a few books over a long period of time, or a more fast-paced plan where you read through the Bible in a year or two. But I don’t want to stop here; I want to get even more practical. I have created my own Bible reading plan that I will be using for the upcoming year (2022), and I want to make it available to anyone else who would like to use it. What the plan will do is it will take you through the Old Testament once, and the New Testament twice over the span of one year. But that’s not all.
Instead of reading from one book of the Bible at a time in larger sections and then moving onto the next until you hit all 66 books, this plan has daily readings from 3 different parts of the Bible: the Old Testament, Psalms/Proverbs, and the New Testament. So, for example, on the first day, January 1st, instead of having to read Genesis chapters 1-5, I will read Genesis 1-2, Psalm 1, and Matthew 1-2. This was done in an effort to keep Bible reading less burdensome and more enjoyable because let’s be honest, there are some parts of the Bible that are really hard to understand, and it can be easy to get discouraged and bogged down by those difficulties and give up. But with readings from different parts of the Bible each day, my hope and prayer is that this method will make it easier for people to press on in their Bible reading and understanding of God.
As we move into a new year, my prayer is that you encounter God and grow in your faith and hope in him and your love for him, and that that would be done through the reading and studying of his Word that he has so graciously given to us.
God has told us about himself and his salvation, why would you not devote yourself to understanding him?