Let us strive, every year we live, to become more deeply acquainted with Scripture. — J. C. Ryle
Regularly reading God’s Word is one of the most important things we can do. We live in a world that constantly tells us lies that our hearts are prone to trust. But in his mercy, God has given us his Word to guide and guard us. He has “granted to us his precious and very great promises” to renew our minds and refresh our hearts (2 Pet. 1:4). As much as we need food to live physically, we need God’s Word to live spiritually (Matt. 4:4).
The dawn of a new year offers a natural time to recommit to regularly reading the Bible. Of course, there’s nothing magical about a new year, but we do tend to think about changes that will grow us in Christlikeness.
One change I’ve made the past few years is that I plan to read less of the Bible each year. I’ve found less can actually be more.
Since becoming a Christian in 1999, I’ve followed a read-the-Bible-in-a-year plan. I’ve enjoyed it, but honestly, I’ve never finished one.
Some years I’ve made it farther than others, and by God’s grace, I’ve never gone more than a few days without spending time in his Word. But I’ve also been riddled with guilt for failing to finish the plan, and I’ve rushed through portions just to check it off. Earlier in my walk with the Lord, the guilt was debilitating, and it sometimes lingers today.
Vital Means of Grace
I’m not taking a flamethrower to spiritual disciplines. If we don’t “discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7–8), we sin and our hearts grow cold. Reading the Bible won’t automatically make you more godly, but you won’t grow in godliness without the Word. It’s wise to humbly aim at helping yourself and others grow in godliness.
Reading the Bible won’t automatically make you more godly, but you won’t grow in godliness without the Word.
I’m not against one-year Bible reading plans. It’s an excellent and achievable goal. I have one friend who, after his conversion, read the Bible deeply twice in under a year. The specific plan is less important than reading God’s Word deeply to grow in love for Christ.
Thomas Brooks, in his classic work Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, puts it memorably:
Remember, it’s not hasty reading, but serious meditating upon holy and heavenly truths, that make them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It’s not the bee’s touching of the flower which gathers honey—but her abiding for a time upon the flower, which draws out the sweet. It’s not he who reads most—but he who meditates most, who will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest, and strongest Christian.
Here are three ways you might read more of the Bible by reading less in 2018.
1. Make a Plan
As Don Carson observes, “No one drifts toward holiness.” If we just go with the flow, we’ll eventually be swept away by the currents of idleness and immorality. It’s wise to make humble plans to draw near to God and fulfill his purposes (Prov. 6:6–8). As you think about which reading plan you intend to use, I’d encourage you to look at this excellent post by Justin Taylor. Here’s a threefold path I’ve taken in years past:
- I plan to read the passage I’m preaching the next Lord’s Day. This is necessary since I’m hoping to live better than I preach. If I’m not preaching, I plan to study the passage anyway in order to get the most out of the sermon. Our church publishes the preaching text in advance in hopes our congregation will feed on the text and come hungry for more.
- I plan to pick one Bible book a month to study deeply. Last January, a few friends and I studied Ecclesiastes. Throughout the month, we read and re-read it, outlined it, charted it, and memorized portions of it. This way, I’m able to meditate deeply on one book, something I felt I was missing in other seasons of my life. Some months I may do multiple short books.
- I plan to read other books of the Bible in one sitting—to regularly step away for an hour or two and read them straight through. Though I haven’t finished my Bible reading plan in a year, it’s rare for me to not read the entire Bible—or more—every year.
2. Partner Up
Don’t work your plan by yourself. Find a brother or sister in your church whom you enjoy and ask them to join you. Commit to at least a month or two or whatever works for you—but don’t do this alone.
I’ve benefited immensely from reading the Bible with others.
When I read through the Bible with others, we get together a couple times each month to discuss the books. We also email, text, or talk by phone to discuss what we’re learning and what we’re struggling to understand. I’ve benefited immensely from reading the Bible with others.
3. Remember the Reason
The reason we read God’s Word isn’t to check boxes and make ourselves feel we’ve accomplished something for God. The Bible isn’t an end in itself; God is. As we plan to seek him—however we do it—we must come with the supreme goal of loving and obeying him. If your plan becomes a trap for guilt and discouragement, then scrap it and do something else.
Above all, we need to draw nearer to God through Jesus throughout the year. And since his Word teaches us how to do this, let us draw near with great hope because of promises like Isaiah 55:1–3:
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight ourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live.
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