Four years ago, someone recommend an intriguing Bible reading plan. Her suggestion: read the Bible through, start to finish, as quickly as possible. She said if you read as much possible each day, you could finish reading the Bible in about three months. At first, I was skeptical. My typical Bible reading included a slow, in-depth, sometimes three month study of one book of the Bible. I’m confident the Lord has used this approach to grow my faith and cultivate my relationship with the Lord.
So, out of curiosity, I decided to try it, and committed to a rapid read-through of the Bible. I began in October, and by the end of the year, I had read the entire Bible. It was one of the most fascinating experiences of my Bible study years. It was gratifying to know I could achieve what felt impossible and my understanding of the Bible’s story greatly increased. I decided to make it an annual rhythm.
In 2020, I purchased a set of journals with enough space to write something for every chapter of the Bible. I decided to use them for my annual read-through. Attempting to jot down one line from each chapter forced me to engage more fully as I read. Some days, my one-liners were short, even one or two words. Other days, I wrote a summary statement or simply copied verses verbatim. Once again, I loved it, and I became more familiar with portions of Scripture I hadn’t previously studied.
When I repeated this one-line practice in the fall of 2021, something interesting happened. Sometimes I would come across verses and phrases that stuck out to me as I read. Phrases like “Consider Jesus,” (Hebrews 3:1) and “my soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods” (Psalm 63:5) begged me to stop. Because my aim was a broad overview of the Bible, I pressed on. Yet, I knew this fast-paced reading plan was hindering me. Yes, it hindered a deeper study of the text. But it was also hindering intimacy with the Lord.
I needed space to think through God’s character and prayerfully evaluate my own life. And I needed time to allow the Spirit to work his Word into my soul. My mind craved in-depth study and I felt overwhelmed by my inability to simmer in the Word. It was time to slow down.
As we come to the end of January, I can’t help but wonder if some who are attempting to read through the Bible this year might feel overwhelmed, discouraged, or bored. If your goal is to read God’s Word in its entirety, I’m so glad! You won’t be disappointed. The Spirit will use the Word to teach, train, convict, encourage, and equip you for life and godliness. As you uncover the riches of God’s truth, you will grow to know and love God more. Because God’s Word is living and active, it will never return void in your life.
But if you do feel overwhelmed or not as excited as you did on January 1, don’t lose heart. Please, don’t quit your Bible reading plan. Just slow down.
Take a week, or several weeks, to meditate on a particular passage. If you feel stuck in the repetitive, confusing laws in Leviticus, put a bookmark there and flip over to Hebrews. Maybe you need to read and meditate on Christ as the better priest, better sacrifice, and ultimate fulfillment of the law. When you feel discouraged by the amount of chapters and books remaining in your reading plan, it might be helpful to pause your plan and pray through the Psalms.
We need a robust understanding of Scripture. All of it. Biblical literacy is important in order to grow in our knowledge and love for God. Yet we cannot divorce it from intimate fellowship with the Lord. Somehow we must learn to cultivate intimacy with the Lord through our regular Bible reading. When we engage in regular Bible reading, dependent upon the Spirit’s work to transform us, it will create in us a craving for more of his Word, not less. We’ll grow to delight in fellowship with the Lord through time in his Word.
You aren’t a lousy Christian if you don’t read through the whole Bible this year. But if you quit seeking intimacy with the Lord, it could weaken your faith and create distance between you and the Lord.
So, if you’re checking off boxes and breezing through your Bible reading plan, keep it up. You’re doing great. And if you lost sight of why you’re reading in the Bible in the first place, slow down, linger, and enjoy fellowship with your Savior.