For years I struggled to read through the Bible, but eventually, I realized the reason I struggled was because I was constantly setting myself up for failure.
So what was my problem?
The problem was my haphazard approach to reading the Bible. I had no plan and no structure to keep me accountable or to maintain momentum. It reminds me of a famous quote:
Does this describe you when it comes to reading God's Word? If so, here are five simple steps to kick start your journey of reading through the entire Bible.
1. Understand the Bible's Unique Structure
You see, the Bible doesn’t follow the format of a traditional book. It’s more like a volume of books. In fact, the Bible is comprised of 66 unique books that are bound in one volume. On top of that the books are not necessarily presented in chronological order, and there are various genres (history, poetry, prophecy, etc.).
Not knowing this resulted in me setting myself up to fail in two main ways:
First, I would try to read the Bible from front cover to back, but then I would get frustrated because I didn’t understand how the books flowed together because I viewed the books more like chapters. Remember, each book contained in the Bible is unique—they aren’t chapters!
The second way I’d set myself up to fail is when I abandoned reading the Bible from front cover to back, I resorted to just randomly flipping open the Bible to any page and picking a spot to start. That didn’t work either because I didn’t understand the context of what I was reading.
Before reading the Bible from cover to cover, or just jumping to a page, it's helpful to first understand the “big picture” flow and theme of scripture, plus the context. I’ve read through the Bible multiple times now and understanding those nuances makes all the difference in the world.
2. Recognize The Need for Daily Bible Reading
There is a difference between Bible reading and Bible study. The topic of Bible study methods is a subject for a later time. For now, let’s build a foundation on the basics by establishing a pattern of Bible reading first.
The Bible makes it clear that spending quality time reading and contemplating (meditating) on God’s Word needs to be a daily activity.
Of course, there are numerous other reasons why reading the Bible is important and you can read about them in my study, The Pillar of God’s Word.
3. Adopt A Structured Daily Reading Plan
There are several options for a structured daily reading plan that range from an actual document that breaks the Bible up into daily chunks to read, to apps or other digital formats.
I personally prefer the YouVersion app which can be utilized on your computer, phone, or other device. YouVersion offers multiple daily reading plans that can be read, watched, or just listened to, all while taking you through the Bible daily.
Here’s what I like about these kinds of reading plans:
- Many take you through the entire Bible in about 1-2 years
- The structure keeps you accountable
- That kind of pace keeps the context fresh in your memory
- You truly get to see how the theme of scripture flows consistently from start to finish
Here’s what I don’t like:
- Feeling rushed or pressured in your reading
- No chance to really “stop and smell the roses”
- If you fall too far behind, discouragement may keep you from starting back up
Despite the minuses, I do suggest this approach if you are new to the Bible because the positives outweigh the negatives.
4. Take a Stroll Through Scripture
This is actually my favorite way to read the Bible, but it is not very efficient and it requires a lot of discipline. Last time I did this it took me 10 years to read the Bible. I’m not exaggerating—10 years!
Here’s what I love about reading the Bible this way:
- You can truly savor every word and thought
- This really does allow you to “meditate” as scripture instructs us to do
- There is freedom to camp out on a certain verse or idea and study it in detail
- No rush, no pressure
Here’s what I don’t like:
- No accountability
- It may take you a loooooong time to read the Bible
- Easy to lose motivation and momentum
I believe taking a stroll through scripture is a good option for someone who has already read the Bible before and wants to now study it.
Regardless, both using a structured reading plan and taking a stroll through scripture have positives and negatives, but at the end of the day the important thing is that you are reading your Bible and that is 100% positive with no negative at all. So it’s really a win-win.
5. Don't Delay, Start Today
Once you've decided which approach makes the most sense for you, it's time to begin! You may still feel a little intimidated, but decide to start anyway. After all, that’s better than doing nothing.
Using a structured reading plan will allow you to maintain the context and flow of the overall theme of scripture fresh in your mind, while taking a stroll will allow you to study in depth. The reality is we need to employ both methods if we really want to understand the Bible.
The beautiful thing is once you complete reading the Bible one way, you can switch over to do the other. We should never stop reading the Bible, so over the course of our lives we will have read the Bible many times over.
It takes humility to admit that we will spend the rest of this lifetime being perpetual Bible students, but I promise you, the fruits of the journey are well worth the time that it takes!
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