This is the final post in a 3-part series. Find part 1 and part 2 at these links.
Are you thinking about reading through the Bible in 2018? I know you can do it! Let me offer some tips and encouragement to stay with it that I’ve picked up in my years of reading through.
This Isn’t Speed Reading
First, you might hear the criticism that reading through the Bible is just speed reading to check off a box every day, to be able to say you read your Bible. That’s not the kind of reading through the Bible I’m talking about.
On the best of days, you’ll know God spoke to you in what you read. Some days—in the genealogies or the laws in Leviticus or the historical records in the book of Numbers, for example—you might think you are just checking off a box that day. On the other hand, you could be really surprised by what you learn on those days too!
New Habits Take Time
Life can be hectic and unpredictable. There may be days you are just reading to say you did. But here’s the thing—you did do it. You set that time aside to spend with God in his Word. You did it today, and yesterday, and the day before that. You’re forming a habit that can change your life.
One woman in our group always spent her mornings before work with the newspaper and TV news. Eventually, the TV stayed off and the paper lay unopened. Jan found that she only wanted to spend her mornings with God and His Word.
Any new habit takes time and repetition to form. You will miss days. I still do. So then what? Don’t worry about trying to catch up. You can if you want to, but don’t worry if you can’t. Just dive back in at the first opportunity. Don’t beat yourself up. Just keep going.
And that’s another tip. Keep reading. Even if what you’re reading seems confusing or raises lots of questions. Keep reading and discussing, and clarity will come, especially if you are willing to read through more than one time. The whole story of the Bible becomes more clear with every reading.
What’s also great about reading through more than once is that you see different things each time, depending on what’s going on in your life at that time.
My first year, I badly needed connection, and what jumped out at me were all the promises about God being with us and for us. Another year when I was doing some counseling, all through my reading I saw that God’s ways for us to live are the ways that make life work well—and also that God is the poster child for having good boundaries!
What’s Your Time to Read?
My next tip is that when you read is up to you. Any time is the right time.
I think it does help to choose a time and a place to read and stick to that plan as much as you can. I’ve been successful doing that at times.
But I also tend to be somewhat unorganized—or as I like to say, more flexible—so I often read at different times from day to day. You can decide which approach is best for you.
You might be someone for whom reading anything is not a favorite activity. So maybe you listen instead. Maybe you use a Bible app on your phone and listen as you drive to work, or cook dinner, or go on a run. Or listen and follow along in your Bible or on your phone while you eat lunch or before you fall asleep at night.
What About Those Study Notes?
Another tip is to try to skip the study notes in your Bible, at least in the beginning. If you’re using a study Bible, half of most pages is commentary written by Bible scholars, or it could be application written by a popular Bible teacher. These can be a great help to understanding, and a little historical context is good too. But the whole point of reading through is to read the Bible, not what someone else says about it. So especially if your reading time is limited, and in the beginning, try not to read the study notes.
Choose Your Translation
It’s also important to choose a Bible version you enjoy. Some have a literary feel. Others sound more contemporary. It’s up to you. And it’s good to have several versions in use within a group. When you read the same verse aloud in a variety of translations, each one adds something to your understanding. You might also want to change the version you read from time to time.
For Busy Moms
Last tip. If you’re a busy mom or caretaker of little ones, you might feel like you don’t have any time to devote to reading Scripture. When do you have even 15 minutes alone? One idea is to do your reading aloud as your children play nearby. I promise you that they will soak up much of what they hear, and just seeing mom reading her Bible every day will make an impact.
Be Encouraged, You Can Do This!
I want to leave you with this: God wants you to succeed at reading His Word, and you will. How do I know?
God’s Word always achieves His purposes. The prophet Isaiah tells us that God says:
The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it (55:10-11).
And did you know that small beginnings please God? When there was trouble during the rebuilding of the temple after the Jewish exiles returned from Babylon, God gave the prophet Zechariah a message about Zerubbabel, the man who was leading the rebuilding effort.
The message said, in part,
Zerubbabel is the one who laid the foundation of this Temple, and he will complete it. … Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin (Zechariah 45:8-10).
At this time of year, with all the extra holiday activities on top of whatever concerns or issues you’re dealing with, it can be hard to feel strong and able. I don’t know what’s going on with you as you’re reading this. But the prophet Isaiah said this about Jesus:
A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench (42:3).
Maybe you’ve been feeling like a bruised reed or a faintly burning wick and you’re just not sure about reading through the Bible, or maybe you’re bursting with excitement and resolve. Either way, take a step or two toward trying it, and know that your heavenly Father is rejoicing to see the work begin.
Need some friends to do the read-through with? Join my new Facebook group, Women Reading through the Bible. I’ll be posting the weekly reading plan from A Woman’s Guide to Reading the Bible in a Year on that group page every Monday morning beginning January 1. The group is also a place where you can comment or ask questions about each week’s readings.