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, 2009. It never 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.
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? Twenty-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, that felt like enough reading to get the flow of the text without it being a burdensome amount to face each day. I am not recommending your read four chapters. It is just what worked well for me and continues to work well. A passage a day can be enough. 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.
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. 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 twenty-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 around 40,000 chapters read. I am in the process of finishing a complete read, I think for the fourth time, and have read many passages books of the Bible 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…
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. “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. It is really easy to get caught in this trap with your Bible reading. 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.
Read to be. Why should we read scripture? We read to connect with God. To know God more intimately. To see God more clearly. To love God more dearly. To learn to faithfully follow Jesus Christ. To become more Christ-like in our daily actions. That is why we read. 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 it will feel a bit like an unfamiliar foreign land. It may be confusing. You may feel awkward. You are getting to know the Bible. When you start gaining understanding, start applying. Truth be told, I am not sure we really understand a scripture until we do apply it. So know the Word, do the Word, and then it will shape you, at that point be 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. You recognize. That’s not how you live your life right now. You start applying some 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.
Realize you are never finished. After twenty-five years and close to forty thousand chapters, the Word of God still convicts, comforts, teachers, 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 AND the more comfortable you will become with realizing how little you know. It’s a bit of a humbling paradox. 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. Below are a couple of links to other related posts.