You know it’s important to read the Bible every day. And every January 1st that resolution makes it onto your list. THIS will be the year you accomplish your goal of reading God’s Word from cover to cover!
You start out with a bang in Genesis 1 and somewhere around Leviticus 12 your resolve begins to fade. What to do? How can you keep the motivation going when you hit passages that seem to have no application to our lives today—and may not even seem to make sense?
Here are a few tips to keep you on track through the dog days of summer and beyond. You don’t have to wait until January, either—start today!
1. Remind yourself how precious it is to have the gift of God’s Word. For most of history the average man or woman hasn’t had access to a copy of the Bible. Illiteracy, unavailability (no printing presses!), oppression—these are a few of the things that have historically kept the Bible out of the hands of all but a very few. Today most of us have multiple copies of Scripture and a few seconds on our cell phones can get us a look at any passage we want in dozens of versions. It’s easy for us to become complacent and forget how privileged we are.
2. Remember that God’s character is revealed in Scripture. When you are scratching your head over arcane passages in Numbers it is helpful to step back and look at the big picture. God is serious about worship, serious about his glory, serious about his people. We see this in every page of the Bible. And while God’s awesomeness is displayed in his creation, everything we specifically understand about his nature and his will comes from what is contained in the Bible. To understand the God we serve it is imperative to know him and the most direct way to do that is through reading the Bible.
3. Follow a reading plan—or a different reading plan. If you start reading Genesis 1 on January 1st it can be a daunting task when you hit various sections of the Old Testament. How many laws ARE there? Isaiah is a LONG book! Do the minor prophets speak to us today? (Traditionally, 613 laws—give or take; yes, 66 chapters—not as long as a Stephen King novel, though; yes, they do.)
It can be helpful to mix it up a little. There are countless Bible reading plans out there (just Google “Bible reading plans” and you’ll see what I mean); you can even have a daily portion emailed to you each morning. One of the oldest reading plans was written by Robert Murray M’Cheyne and will take you through the entire Bible in one year, plus the Psalms and New Testament twice. Each day’s portion contains both the Old and New Testaments spread over four different passages. If that seems too ambitious there are plans that will take you through the Bible in two years or plans that present your reading in a chronological way. Try a plan or if your old plan seems stale, trade it in for a different model.
4. Your daily Bible reading should not replace Bible study. Just read. Don’t feel the need to drag out commentaries, concordances, and Bible dictionaries. It’s fine to make a note of passages that raise questions for further study, but let your daily Bible reading be just that—a time of reading and letting God’s Word envelop, feed, and sustain you every day.
5. Remember that reading your Bible is a sure way to gain wisdom. “Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.” —Proverbs 4:5. God’s words are the truest and quickest path to wisdom and that is surely something we all need.
6. You need help because you are reading a supernatural book. Hebrews 4:12 reminds us that God’s Word is living and powerful; we need God’s help to understand it. Before he begins his daily Bible reading John Piper prays his IOUs:
“Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” —Psalm 119:36
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” —Psalm 119:18
“Unite my heart to fear your name.” —Psalm 86:11b
“Satisfy [me] in the morning with your steadfast love.” —Psalm 90:14a
7. Recognize that you cannot sustain a vital, vibrant, healthy Christian life without constant feeding on God’s Word. Bible reading and prayer are our direct connections with God; without them we grow stale, weak, untethered. We need constant nourishment and there is nothing (nothing!) more vital to our daily health than a dose of Scripture.
8. The best way to recognize bad theology is by knowing what God’s Word actually says. In these days of biblical illiteracy it is not uncommon to hear “Scripture” interpreted by a secular source (or a preacher who might just as well be secular). If we know the context of the verse they are using (because we’ve read it for ourselves) we are better able to recognize when passages are used incorrectly, taken out of context, or even misquoted. Ephesians tells us that God’s Word is the “sword of the Spirit” and is our weapon of choice against the world and Satan. A good soldier knows his weapon.
9. This is a subset of the first item, but do not look at daily Bible reading as something that has to be checked off of a “to do” list. Take a glance at Psalm 119 for an example of the right attitude to have with regard to God’s Word. Treasure it, make reading it the highlight of your day (because that’s what it is, even if you don’t see it yet).