Christians should read the Bible every day. But sometimes the WAY you read it is just as important as HOW MUCH you read it. For example, many people use a plan to read through the Bible in one year. If you currently do this, and it seems to work for you; then by all means KEEP DOING IT! I'm not trying to discourage a Bible-reading format that works. But what I am saying is that there are other ways to read the Bible; and in this article I would like to encourage some of those ways.
I suspect I've read the Bible trough several times, because I'm always in the process of reading it through. I just refuse to force myself to get stuck in a particular time frame. About twenty years ago, I decided I would read through the Bible in a year. What started as an exciting and edifying challenge eventually became drudgery. Maybe even legalism. Maybe even a little bit of pride; as I force-fed the Scriptures down my throat; painstakingly reading the daily allotment. The problem with this, is that the Bible should be enjoyable and beneficial for us. Not painful and boring. At the end of that year I could boast that I had read the Bible through (pride). And I could boast that I did it in a year's time (pride again). But sadly, by the end I was just reading to “check the box” and I was gaining little true wisdom from the Scriptures.
I still read the Bible through; I just don't pay any attention to how long it takes me. And here's why that is important. Some days I may feel so led to read five chapters of a particular book. Other days I might read five VERSES and am so engrossed in it that I have to stop and meditate on it. I might spend the whole day meditating on it as I go about my other life duties. Then the next day I might read those five verses again; followed by five more verses. Or the next day I might read two or three chapters. The point is, my Bible reading varies from day to day because life varies from day to day. And God is not limited by my Bible reading plan. I might read through the whole Bible in six months. I might read it through in 3 years. But the time makes no difference. The teaching does.
I'm currently reading through Job and, as always, it's a very soul nourishing read. As I read through the narrative at the beginning of the book I found that I read quickly through several chapters. But when I began to read the conversations between Job and his friends, I started reading slower. Things were jumping off the page at me. I believe this is God showing me things; and I don't feel obligated to say, “Leave me alone God, I've got a reading schedule to keep!” Take your time and let God lead as you study His Word. The next time I read Job I might slow down in other places and read faster in other places, as the Lord leads.
Another reason I avoid the “read the Bible through in a year” plans is because I found it easy to get discouraged when I fell behind schedule. On January 1st, I was doing good. By January 15th I was usually a couple days behind. By January 30th, I had given up and felt like a failure. But then I thought, “Hey! Who made the rule that I have to stick to someone else's schedule?” The answer is no one made that rule, so I refuse to live by it. I want to be encouraged by the Scriptures. I want to be spiritually fed. I want to be convicted, when need be. And I want the spiritual growth process to take root and bear fruit. I don't want to be put on a guilt trip for not reading someone else's assignment. I don't want to legalistically force myself to read when my mind has checked out. And I don't want to pridefully boast in “getting it done.” The Bible is more important than that.
So what is my advice to the Christian who wants a “reading schedule” in 2017? I advise daily reading from both the Old and New Testaments if possible. As I said earlier, I'm currently in Job for my Old Testament; and I'm “all over the map” in the New Testament. I've read Romans through several times in 2016 for no other reason than because I felt led to do so. And every time I read it I was blessed. Sometimes if I hear a sermon or read an article over a particular book; I'll veer over and spend a day or two reading that. Let's be honest; most of the New Testament epistles could be read in a few minutes. But don't rush yourself. Read slow. Think about what you've read. And be edified. It's not a race to be first. It's a race to be fed. And only God can feed you.
One final word on your daily Bible reading. Some people find it beneficial to read a “daily devotional.” And if so, then by all means do it. Charles Surgeon's “Morning & Evening” is good. As is the classic by Oswald Chambers, “My Utmost for His Highest.” But sometimes, rather than reading a short devotional; I read a short section out of something deep and more theologically challenging. Or sometimes I might read a few pages of a Christian biography I'm working on. These don't replace the Bible and never should. But sometimes they help “prime the pump” of your mind and get you thinking in a “Lordly” direction. The main point is, read the Bible every day and pray for God to help you understand as you do.
So, just to sum up what I said and what I didn't say (because it can be easily misconstrued). If sticking to a “reading plan” to read the Bible through in a year works for you, then KEEP DOING IT! Just because it doesn't work for me, doesn't mean it can't work for you. If these type of reading plans have left you discouraged, prideful, or un-edified; then chuck the plan and keep the Bible. If you have no idea where to start, then start in Genesis and in John. Take as much time as you want, or can and devour the word of God like the spiritual food that it is. The important things are to read it, and understand it, and be changed by it. No matter how much or no matter how little. You need to be in God's Word. And you need to train yourself to be consistent in reading it. With that said, life still comes at you pretty fast sometimes. If you don't get to read it in the morning because you're caring for a vomiting child, then read it in the evening once things have settled down. You can't very well say, “Sorry Johnny you'll have to throw up later, I'm reading my one-year Bible plan right now!” But stay consistent, as best you can. If you miss a day, don't bury yourself in guilt. Pick up God's Word the next day and carry on. Your life will be the better for it.