A Lifetime of Reading the Bible
Plan to Read Scripture to Feed Your Soul and Inform Your Life
I’ve read the Bible most of my life. It’s been a huge part of my faith journey. To be clear, this started out with my parents reading to me: one Bible story each night before I went to bed. This helped me know God’s Word at an early age and prepared me to read it on my own.
To be sure, during my days in elementary school, I read Scripture infrequently. This was because my preteen mind found the language of the King James Bible largely inaccessible and mostly confusing. What little Bible reading I did in my preteen years was more drudgery than anything else. I learned little from it.
Read the New Testament
By the time I hit middle school, however, more accessible translations became available, at least for the New Testament. Mirroring my experience as a preschooler, I set a goal to read the Bible each night before I went to bed. Eventually I worked my way through the New Testament. It took me a couple years because some nights I was too tired to read and other nights I forgot. But eventually I finished.
In case you’re interested, reading a chapter each weekday will get you through the New Testament in a year. It only takes two or three minutes to read one chapter. Surely this is a doable task.
Read the Entire Bible
By the time I reached high school, the Old and New Testaments were available to me in more language-friendly versions. The summer of my fifteenth year, I set the goal to read the entire Bible before school resumed. This was before I got my driver’s license. I was stuck home all day, scrambling to find something worthwhile to consume my time.
Reading an hour most every day, I reached the end of Revelation in mid-August, a couple weeks before it was time to go back to school. Mission accomplished.
I later learned that the average adult reader can read the entire Bible in about 80 hours. I proved that claim to be correct.
Making Time to Read the Bible
If you think an hour a day is unreasonable for anyone except a bored teenager on a mission, let me ask three questions. How much time do you spend each day watching television? Or how much time do you spend each day gaming? Third, how much time do you spend each day on social media? I suspect one or more of these areas consumes more than an hour of your time each day. Perhaps several.
The solution is simple. Cut back on entertainment and scale up to read the Bible. That doesn’t mean eliminate all television, gaming, and social media. It’s just a nudge to scale back and not let it consume so much time.
In my first reading of the whole Bible, I covered many familiar passages, albeit in more detail than my children’s Bible story book provided. I also discovered the less kid-appropriate passages too.
I assumed reading the entire Bible was a once-and-done effort. Even so, when I finished, I reverted to my nighttime Bible reading effort, albeit at a much slower pace: one chapter a day. Though I met with better success then when I was in middle school, I still struggled. I found it hard to concentrate on the words in front of me as I fought off sleep. For some reason I could read fiction at bedtime but not the Bible.
Deciding When to Read the Bible
As an adult and a morning person, I switched my Bible reading to the start of each day. This fit me better—much better. I was more consistent in this practice and less fatigued by it. I learned more and better connected with God.
In my mid-twenties I felt the call from God to again read the entire Bible. This time my goal was to do it in a year. It took me twelve to fifteen minutes every day, but I did finish. Relieved to have met my goal, I was also delighted to no longer need to cover so much Scripture every day. I needed a break. Or so I thought.
It wasn’t long, however, before I felt God’s nudge to resume intentional Bible reading each day. That year I read through the New Testament. The following year I read through the Old Testament (ten to twelve minutes a day). The third year I again read the Old and New Testaments.
Pick a Version
Though I grew up hearing the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, I never used it when reading through Scripture. Today I mostly read from and study the New International Version (NIV).
Yet in my annual explorations of the Bible, I’ve used other versions or translations and benefited greatly. Each one gave me a fresh perspective on the text.
In addition to the NIV, I’ve also used the New Living Translation (NLV), The Message, Amplified Bible, and The Living Bible (which I wore out as a teenager). I think there have been a few others that I can’t recall.
The point is, don’t feel you must restrict yourself to one version. Mix it up. Variety is good.
Adjust as Needed
Since that time, I’ve had a Bible reading plan every year—except for a season when I didn’t. Here’s what happened: After a couple decades of regular, daily Bible reading, I became stuck. I would read the words but failed to comprehend them. I persisted Bible reading as a discipline, assuming I would one day emerge from my rut of routine to reclaim the joy of reading the Bible each day. When it didn’t happen, I switched to reading other inspirational books for a time until I felt I could successfully resume my exploration of Scripture.
Rejuvenated, I jumped back in and persisted for a decade or so. But again, the day-to-day Bible-reading discipline eventually threatened to push me back into a rut. Refusing to allow that to happen, I decided to take one day off each week. Instead of reading seven days a week, I now read six. In essence, I took a Sabbath rest from reading the Bible. Lest you think this day off happens on Sunday, Saturday works as a better day for me to pause my study of Scripture.
Taking a break one day each week prepares me to better embrace God’s word, study it, and learn from it on the other six.
I can hear someone complaining already: just as you feed your body each day, you must feed your soul each day too. Since you would never skip a meal, you can’t skip the Bible either. Hold on. On most weeks I do take a daily break from food. I do a 24-hour fast. (In case you’re interested, my fast currently falls on Fridays.)
Reading my Bible each day, Sunday through Friday provides a great rhythm for me. I take a break on Saturday, which prepares me to dive back in the next week. The timing is ideal for me. I’ve now done it for years. What does vary from year to year, however, is how much I read each day. Though usually I’m on a plan to read the entire Bible in the year, other times I slow my pace to cover the New Testament or even to focus intently on just a few books of the Bible.May God speak to you and bless you as you study Scripture. Click To Tweet
Form a Habit of Reading the Bible
Doing this, I’ve read the New Testament about thirty times, the Old Testament twice, and the entire Bible more than ten times. It’s taken me a lifetime to reach these numbers. I plan to continue this habit for the rest of my life.
But don’t look at my lifetime of Bible reading and let it overwhelm you. Instead start small.
Read the Bible one day. Then read it a second day. Aim for a third. Keep the streak going. Form a habit. Soon daily Bible reading will become a way of life that you can’t do without.
Read through the Bible with me this year. Download the chronological Bible reading plan I will follow. (In case you’re wondering, to make this work for my schedule, I need to do seven days of reading every six, so that I can take Saturday off.)
Regardless of which option you choose, the goal is to have a plan to read the Bible this year. Then do it.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.