A recent reader, Kristy, shared the following comment,
I have never found the right Bible reading plan, so have tried to read at my own pace and feel that even though I am not following a plan, that I am behind simply because I still have a lot to read by the end of this year and I have this thing in my head that I have to finish the Bible by December 31. It ever seems like what I read is enough; sometimes I read a lot, but it doesn’t seem like it is enough. I feel like I am not doing it right.
Lesson 1: So, how much should you read? I don’t believe there is a great pat answer to this question, but I do have some distinct thoughts on this. I read four chapters a day and then sometimes some additional study reading. Why four? About thirty-five years ago when I started reading daily I had a reading plan that was two chapters a day, but I usually felt like I was just getting to taste the text and then it was being pulled away from me. Four was an arbitrary comfortable number for me. This felt like enough reading to get the flow of the text without it being a burdensome daily commitment.
I am not recommending you read four chapters. That amount just worked well for me and continues to work well. A passage a day can be enough. In fact, the truth is God can speak volumes through just a few phrases of scripture. The real key is consistency and quality not quantity. Here are some thoughts I wish someone had shared with me when I was starting out.
Lesson 2: Be more concerned about reading daily than getting through the Bible. Why? 2 Reasons: First, daily immersion into the Word of God is an essential component of the Christian life. Few things will feed and shape you more than getting into God’s Word consistently. Reading the Word is bit like exercise for the soul. When you exercise, consistency is the key to gains. A person who jumps in and works out hard every weekend but doesn’t attend to his or her body throughout the week will show little progress. The same is true for reading God’s Word. If you are only picking up your Bible on Sunday’s expect to have minimal spiritual growth.
Second, if you develop a discipline of reading the Bible daily, then you will not only get through the entire Bible, but you will read it many times over during your life. As I mentioned about thirty-five years ago I adopted a practice of reading four chapters a day. Add in additional reading I have done for sermon preparation and additional study and I am pushing somewhere well over 50,000 chapters read. I’ve lost track of how many time I have read the entire Bible. Probably around five or so. Many passages or books I have read literall dozens of times. I am not saying this to toot my horn, but to reveal to you the power of just consistently reading every day without exception. Be sure and use a bible reading guide daily. Being focused on reading daily rather than finishing will also help you avoid a common trap…
Lesson 3: Don’t get trapped in reading to finish. Many of us have been conditioned by school to read things simply to get to the end. For example, “I have to read three chapters of my world history book tonight.” We plod through with nothing but the last page number in sight, often times absorbing or understanding little. Getting caught in this type of “check list” reading is all to easy to do.
More often than I care to admit, my four chapters have been an item on my to do list to check off. I am grateful for the exposure to the text regardless, but regret the many growth opportunities that I missed because I failed to engage my reading.
The quality of the journey is far more important than the quantity. Pondering a single verse or phrase until God transforms you, is more valuable than a thousand chapters read but not listened to. The ultimate answer to the question, “What is enough?” is, “When it makes you more Christ-like.” Which brings me to my last point.
Lesson 4: Read to be. Why should we read scripture? Read to connect with God. Read to know God more intimately. Read to…
- see God more clearly
- love Him more deeply
- learn to faithfully follow Jesus Christ
- become more Christ-like in our daily actions
- be a better disciple
The bottom line — Read to be transformed by the renewal of your mind. I have a spiritual growth mantra of sorts that says, “Know it!, Do it!, Be it!” You will find there is a progression to your reading of scripture. At first, you may feel like you are in a foreign land. You may be confused. You may feel awkward. That is okay. You are getting to know the Bible. When you start gaining understanding and start applying, these negative feelings will fade.
Truth be told, I am not sure you fully understand a scripture until you apply it. So know the Word. Do the Word. Let the Word of God dwell in you and become a part of who you are. For example, perhaps you read and identify some principles about good stewardship. At first, you might only recognize that you are not living that way.
Then you start applying principles like tithing and first fruits. At first it may be difficult and alien to who you are. Over time it becomes a consistent practice. With more practice you find yourself having a whole different set of values around money and material goods. Eventually, you realize that you have changed and now you are a better steward, a good steward. So, “Know it!, Do it!, Be it!” Don’t stop reading or studying until the Word of God is written on your heart and naturally informs who you are and how you live your life.
Lesson 5: Realize you are never finished. After twenty-five years and close to forty thousand chapters, the Word of God still convicts, comforts, teaches, preaches, challenges, and mystifies me on a daily basis. The more you learn about Scripture the more you will learn how little you truly understand God. Paradoxically, your new gift of understanding will lead you to know how little you know. This paradox will humble you.
Inevitably, the quest for “enough” with scripture results in an encounter with grace. Eventually, you realize, there is never enough, at least in terms of what you do. You cannot read enough or apply enough. Only Christ is enough. When scripture leads you to that understanding then you will find enough. Ironically, you will then desire and crave the Word even more, because reading it will no longer be about you.
Blessings on your reading journey. Check out my Bible Reading Bundle. This free resource is one of my most downloaded helps. In it you’ll receive everything you need to effortlessly get started on reading the Word of God daily.
Lesson 6: Wrap your reading in prayer. If I have one regret out of my thirty-five years of experience of reading daily, it’s that I wish I had prayed more along with my reading. I would highly recommend that you pray as you begin your reading. Ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Pray for God to instill in your heart and mind the truth of His Holy Word.
When you’re done reading, express to God your gratitude for the time together and any insights that you received. If you felt called through the Word express your commitment to follow through.
Would You Like to Read the Bible in One Year?
The resource below will give you step-by-step instruction on how to over come the most common problems that prevent someone from reading the Bible in the year. If you’re serious about reading the Bible in a year, I would encourage you to also listen to my podcast episode, “How to Read the Bible in a Year.”
FREE Bible Reader’s Resource
Have you needlessly struggled to read the Bible? You’re not alone, but with a few simple strategies anyone can read and enjoy studying the Bible for his or herself.
I’ve put together a Bible Reading Bundle to make daily reading and study ridiculously simple.
What’s in the Bible Reading Bundle
The One Year Bible Reading Tool Kit – A collection of 13 proven daily bible reading schedules to help you know exactly what to read everyday. Plus, the easy-to-follow tips I’ve used to successful read the Bible everyday for over thirty years. Never miss a day again with these prevent tips.
SOAP Bible Journaling Cheat Sheet – A step-by-step guide for quickly and easily gathering insights from your reading and applying them to your daily life. Literally, just fill-in the blanks and learn. The SOAP Bible Journaling Technique has been used by thousands of people to take their faith to the next level.
Don’t miss out download these FREE proven resources today!
(This post is revised and expanded from a post originally posted Dec. 19, 2009)