Reading the Bible in a year - lessons learned

Reading the whole Bible. It's harder than you think!
If you’re a regular church-goer you’ll likely be familiar with the most repeated of New Year’s resolutions: this year, I’m going to read through the whole Bible within a year.

It’s an admirable goal. And so, with their heads held high, many a Christian burrows into the first few chapters of Genesis.  

But, by the time the end of the week rolls around, they’ve probably missed a day.

Then the guilt starts.  Then all of a sudden our adventurous reader is facing a day when, to get back on track with their reading plan, they need to read all of Exodus and Leviticus in a weekend.  No one comes back from that.

However, this past year, my wife and I decided we’d give it another crack.  We'd both read every book of the Bible before, but never in a continual sitting. 

So, we downloaded a 5-day-per-week reading plan that gave 4-5 Old Testament chapters and 1 New Testament chapter per day and around 3 Psalms per week.

It was also done in chronological order which made things interesting. For example, I've now decided that the chapter ordering in Jeremiah is largely ceremonial (one day we read chapters 25, 35, 36 and 45, then we read 27, 28, 29 and 24 the next).

But, when the 31st of December rolled around, my wife and I polished off the last chapter of Revelation and the last chapter of Job as well as Psalm 150 and we were done!  The sense of achievement was palpable, but it was met with equal amounts of relief.  

We had done it!

I learned a lot of things along the way but here are my top 5 learnings for getting through your Bible in a year.

  1. It’s hard work
    Don’t you DARE underestimate how tough it is to stick to this plan.  Unless you’re a natural reader or you are someone after God’s own heart, this will be a struggle.  If you miss a day, suddenly you’re looking at up to 12 Old Testament chapters in a single sitting, and if you’re in the middle of Leviticus, this is tough going.

    If you’re not cut out for hard work, then getting through the whole Bible in a year probably isn’t for you.

  2. The discipline of reading it matters, but knowing ‘how’ to read it matters even more
    I’m a huge fan of just getting the Bible reading ‘done’.  After all, God’s word is living and active so any exposure to it has to be a good thing.  But learning ‘how’ to read particular parts of the Bible is crucial.  Unless you do a little research into why there is a talking donkey in Numbers, or why God orders the things He does in Joshua, or why Ezekiel has to lie on his side for more than 300 days, then you’re not going to get much out of your Bible reading.

    Investigate a little into when books were written, what people they were written to, what the big idea of them is, why some of the language that is used appears that way.

  3. Accountability is crucial
    If there’s no one checking up on you, it’s much harder to keep going.  That’s why doing the same reading plan as my wife was crucial for me (and her) – neither of us wanted to let the other down and neither of us wanted to be embarrassed by ‘failing’.

    Find someone who can keep you honest (and who you can keep honest!) and keep each other accountable.

  4. Mixing things up is good
    I loved reading the Bible in chronological order.  It made the New Testament fascinating but it also made things a little unexpected.  At one point we were leaping from 2 Chronicles, to 2 Kings, to Isaiah all at once.  You think you’d be in the middle of 2 Kings when suddenly the book of Nahum jumps out of nowhere (again, knowing why Nahum appears when it does and to whom it is written is critical to reading it).  So mix things up.

  5. Don’t miss the point of why you’re doing this
    The main point of the whole Bible is Jesus.  God’s holiness and redemptive nature is central to the whole book.  So even when you’re getting bogged down in the measurements of the temple, or seeing another genealogy, don’t lose sight of the big picture – this is a story.  This is God’s story.  By taking a helicopter view of scripture it helps you better understand why things are happening the way they do.

By keeping this big picture always in your mind, it will help you grow a love for God as well as make you better appreciate just how amazing the good news of the gospel is.
So, I urge you to have a go.  Happy reading!