“The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple” (Ps. 119:130). That’s just what we’ve needed in 2020, isn’t it? Perhaps never before have some of us felt so crunched for time to read the Bible, and yet never before have we needed God’s Word so much.
Many surprises have come with 2020, but this year has also reaffirmed the words of Isaiah: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isa. 40:8). The Bible is a lamp that gives light (Ps. 119:105), bread that gives life (Matt. 4:4), fire that refines (Jer. 23:29), a sword that divides (Heb. 4:12), a hammer that breaks (Jer. 23:29), a seed that implants and bears fruit (James 1:21, 1 Pet. 1:23), milk that nourishes (1 Pet. 2:2), and solid meat that strengthens (Heb. 5:12)—to list just a few biblical metaphors.
In short, God’s Word is meant to change us. So we at The Gospel Coalition recently asked those of you who participated in Read the Bible 2020, “How did God’s Word change you this year?” Here are some of the testimonies we received. They have been lightly edited for publication.
Mattias: “I started this in January just because I was curious. And I can say that for the first time in my life, being a believer since I was 13 (now 30), I’ve read God’s Word in a joyful and fairly disciplined way. Life isn’t easy, but it’s happier with God closer through his Word. Grace to God and to you [for making] this opportunity possible.”
Curt: “I don’t think it was an accident that God nudged me to start TGC’s reading plan in 2020—the year of COVID-19, racial division, and the presidential election. Daily reading of God’s Word provided a much-needed perspective that sickness and death are only temporary, that we can have unity in Christ, and that my citizenship in heaven far supersedes earthly politics. The reading plan has truly helped me to experience Jesus’s words from John 16:33 more fully: ‘I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.’ Thanks!”
Sylvia: “Thank you so much for sending the emails each day. I can’t believe I managed to stay on track (with catchups). It really helped me to grasp the bigger picture of the Bible, to see themes repeated from Old to New Testaments. I thought it would be a chore, but with everything in 2020, it became a place of sustenance, comfort, and communing with God. I really want to do it next year, too!”
Angela: “I’ve probably consumed the Word of God more this year than any other in recent memory. Besides a longstanding before-bed Bible-reading habit that I have kept, both TGC and my local church initiated different Bible-reading plans that I’ve chosen to participate in. The effects are strange: I’ve been at the heights of feeling more certain of the truths I’ve held onto for the past 19 years of my Christian life, more certain of the authority of the Word of God, more excited to have such a grounding; and then at the lows of finding the Word more confusing than I remembered—more obfuscated, more contradictory, more questionable. I’ve felt that the Word has had less power to speak into the tumult of the world today as my time in it has gone on. I recognize the latter as a feeling, though, and not truth: I still trust in the Word of my God and his power to save, though right now my eyes can see it less clearly than before. It has given me something with which to wrestle, to say to God, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me’ (Gen. 32:26).”
Steve: “I came to Christ as an adult in 1981, but consistent disciplined Bible reading had always been a challenge. Because Don Carson has been one of my favorite living Bible teachers for years, I tried TCG’s reading plan in 2020. I looked forward to the daily emails. The opening devotional entries drew me into the readings, and I was able to stay on track all year. I found that the consistent reminders of who I am, who God is, and what he has done increasingly inspired me toward the normal Christian characteristics described in the Beatitudes—poverty of spirit, sorrow over sin and its effects, gentle submissiveness to Christ’s will, a hunger to be more conformed to Christ, and a better gospel witness to those who need peace with God. We’ll pray for more of the same in 2021. Thank you!”
Anne: “Through God’s Word this past year I am learning to trust him more. I am being changed, as I learn about his grace, to be gracious to others. I have forgiven someone I held a grudge against for many long years. I am so grateful to God for this. Many thanks again for the wonderful resource of TGC!”
Rofans: “I don’t think I would’ve survived this difficult year without God’s Word. During the devastating lockdown period, I looked forward to spending time alone with God and his Word even though I wasn’t able to be in near proximity with my friends and families. I guess I always knew that Christ is my mediator to God, but I’ve never enjoyed this as experientially as I have this year.”
Judie: “This was the perfect year to listen to God’s Word every day. The commentary by Don Carson always opened my eyes about other portions of Scripture for that day. Having that quiet time with the consistency of God’s precious words to me lifted my spirits daily and then made me more sensitive to sharing a portion of that Word with others who were struggling—those sick, mourning, experiencing loneliness, or doubting God’s goodness, and even some who were going through marital difficulties or abuse of one kind or another. Human problems don’t stop because of a pandemic; often they’re multiplied. But God’s Word is his answer, and it’s always effective, true, and loving. Listening to God’s Word this year has made it real and powerful!”
Melissa: “Thank you so much for Read the Bible—2020 has been one crazy year with the pandemic, things constantly changing, and our nation being so divided and chaotic. Each morning of this year I’ve woken up early to a quiet house and relished God’s Word. It’s comforting to know that he is immutable, all-knowing, and sovereign over all. I especially love the devotionals and the articles that deepen my understanding of the day’s passages. Savoring this time with him each morning has fixed my gaze on Jesus and the hope I have in him. Though the mountains may crumble, though the flower withers and dies, though everything we know is rapidly changing, his Word remains. And he’s coming back.”
Will: “I expected to grow in my knowledge of the biblical story, and enjoy parts of the Bible I don’t usually read. What I didn’t expect was how much my heart would be changed. Even in a year when discourse in the world seemed harsh and divided, I responded to others with more patience and kindness. When many of the normal joys in life were taken away, I was grateful for the things I do have. And the biggest difference between this year from years past was daily time in God’s Word. Thank you, TGC, for sharing this plan. I enjoyed reading knowing many others around the world were reading with me, and I look forward to continuing this again next year.”
From all of us at The Gospel Coalition, thank you for participating, thank you for sharing, and thank God for continuing to speak by his Word. Would you consider helping us to produce more resources like Read the Bible? And join us again in 2021!