Article

A new year, a new shot at a Bible reading plan

Jan 1, 2015

It’s that time of year again when we break out our New Year’s resolutions and make our impossible surely-I-can-do-it this year lists. Even though we know they are tough to finish, and even harder to start, we keep coming back for more. For many of us exercise will be on top of the list, but for the Christian we often flock to Bible reading plans. I’ve been there, done that and I’d love to share with you a few reasons why, even though I’ve failed, I’m doing it again.

This year I will embark on the “How to Change Your Mind” Bible plan. The plan is simple:

  1. Choose a book of the Bible.
  2. Read it in its entirety.
  3. Repeat step number two 20 times.
  4. Repeat this process for all books of the Bible.

Here’s why:

1. It’s the Bible

This seems to go without saying but anytime we can plan to get in the Word it’s a good thing. We don’t hope in our plan and we definitely shouldn’t derive prideful satisfaction from completing our plan (all satisfaction isn’t prideful, mind you), but that shouldn’t stop us from pursuing it either. The Bible is living and active. It’s where we learn about our Living Hope. It’s how we hear from our Lord. It’s where we learn how to walk out our faith. We find out more about our Savior and rejoice. The Bible helps lead us to our Savior where we then turn all that reading into worship. Planning to read it is a good pursuit because it is the very words of God.

As Kevin DeYoung wrote in Taking God At His Word:

“When we embrace everything the Bible says about itself, then—and only then—will we believe what we should believe about the word of God, feel what we should feel, and do with the word of God what we ought to do.”

So, one motivation for starting this reading plan is simply to plan to read it because it is the Bible.

2. Saturated in the Word

Like I mentioned before, I’ve started plans and have failed. Many of the plans I’ve tried instruct the reader to skip all over the Bible and digest several passages from several books in one sitting. It’s amazing to me that people are able to sustain such reading—my husband is one of them. I’ve tried and tried again and I simply cannot do it. I get confused and find myself just trying to cram in the verses rather than soak in the truth.

Difficulty using various plans is not the case for everyone, but it has been for me. However, the idea of reading an entire book in a sitting is much more appealing.  I’ve read books at a time before, but never considered reading the entire Bible this way and not consistently (i.e. more than once). I’m excited to read books like Ephesians twenty times! Twenty times! Can you imagine how saturated you’d be in the Word if you read the same thing over and over again? I want my mind to be renewed and refreshed and I believe the Lord will provide such sweet grace as I read.

3. Pray as you read

I haven’t seen a reading plan that also encourages you to pray (I’m not saying they aren’t out there—I simply haven’t seen it). This again is a wonderful reminder that communion with God is active. I don’t want to simply read the Bible, I’d like to ask him to fill me with his Spirit, make the words make sense (illuminate them to me), give me an even greater desire for him, hunger and thirst for righteousness, and enjoy him!

I haven’t come to the Lord with such requests in a long time. In my daily work, which often involves the Scriptures, I’ve become dry and predictable. I pray but not like this…not about his words to me and for me.

4. Failure is an option

Although we don’t want to go into a plan with the expectation to fail, we also don’t want to make it so much about duty that we forget to delight. I am not condemned in the least about my past attempts and failures to complete plans. My goal was always to start reading and reading consistently. Those plans always accomplished that goal, by the grace of God. And when it became too much, I changed. Simple.

Once I get into the larger books, this reading plan will become much more difficult to accomplish. I’ll need to break up readings over a series of days and it may take months to complete reading a book twenty times. Besides being a slow reader, I’m a mom and I work (writing and speaking). I’m not putting unrealistic pressure on myself and neither should you.

Just try. Take the pressure off and enjoy the God of the Bible.

What Bible should I use?

In most cases, the version and type of Bible you use during your reading plan doesn’t matter. Joe Carter suggests using an easy to read Bible for this plan and I agree. The Bible I will be using is unique and seems like a perfect companion to the “How to Change Your Mind” plan. Because the plan requires reading through an entire book, I’ve decided to use the ESV Reader’s Bible which is designed without the added chapter headings, sub-headings, and Bible verses. This style will not only make reading easier with limited distractions, it will also facilitate my desire to simply read.

I’m easily distracted by footnotes and I cross reference often as I read. There is a time and place for that sort of Bible study (and I will no doubt continue to do so as I write) but I’d like to table the study and enjoy the benefits of reading—simply reading—during my allotted Bible reading times.

Enough about planning to read, let’s get started. Let me know if you decide to do this plan too. If not, feel free to suggest your favorite reading plans below.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Quick word about legalism. Reading the Bible only becomes legalistic if you believe that your Bible reading somehow justifies you or adds to your salvation. Please don’t be distracted by the fear of legalism. Just read and ask God to help you realize that your salvation comes only from the finished work of Christ on the cross on your behalf. It is finished! And if you are tempted to think that everyone using a Bible plan is a legalist, please have grace (love) your fellow Christian and don’t place undue burden and accusation. Let’s just enjoy God and his grace together. Read! Enjoy! Be free!

Trillia Newbell

Trillia Newbell serves as the Director of Community Outreach for the ERLC. She is the author of numerous books, including Sacred Endurance: Finding Grace and Strength for a Lasting Faith (2019). Her writings on issues of faith, family, and diversity have been published... Read More