Back in January, I started on a journey to read through the entire Bible in 2017. I’ve done this a few times before, but it had been a while and I had been longing to experience the comprehensive biblical story from beginning to end.
Reading through the Bible in one year is a lot. It’s a significant undertaking. It may not seem all that daunting because you have an entire year to finish it and only have to read about four chapters per day to stay on track. But if you’ve ever set out to do it, you know that reading the Bible all the way through takes intentionality and discipline. Especially when reading through Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Those books can be a bit of a slog. All the numbers, the repetition, and the names – it’s a lot to take in! If you get a few days behind, it can be quite a feat to catch up. And without the resolve to finish, it’s easy to abandon the reading project a few months in.
While reading over the last month, I’ve started to notice a shift in my approach to reading and not a positive one at that. Leading up to Easter I had fallen behind by about a week and a half, which equaled roughly 30 chapters. In order to catch up, instead of reading, I listened to the chapters as I drove in my car wherever I went. My goal was more to get through the “material” than it was to encounter God.
While I would never discourage anyone from seeking to read through the entire Bible, when putting yourself on a timeline to finish it, the Bible can become an end in and of itself rather than a means to an end. Meaning, the goal can become completion rather than connection with God.
This is true not only with reading through the entire Bible, but it can be true with scripture memorization as well. We can be so focused on mastering a certain verse or section of scripture that we lose sight of the purpose of scripture.
The role of scripture in the life of a follower of Jesus is about transformation more than information. We shouldn’t primarily be reading the Bible simply to learn about God, but to become more like Him. Instead of seeking to master the scriptures, we should posture ourselves in such a way so that the scriptures master us.
There is a danger when we engage with the Bible and lose sight of its intended purpose in our lives. Even Jesus says so. While speaking to the Pharisees in John 5 He says, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life (v39-40).” The Pharisees saw the Bible as an end in and of itself rather than a means to an end (i.e. – relationship with Jesus).
While I don’t like being behind schedule, whether it’s for a work deadline or in my Bible reading plan, maybe when it comes to scripture it’s ok. If you, too, decided to read through the entire Bible in 2017 and have found that you have fallen behind and/or are discouraged. Don’t give up. Don’t lose heart. Don’t throw in the towel cause you’re too far behind. Simply remember why we set out to do it in the first place. To know God more. To deepen our relationship with Him. And to become more like Him.
What has been your experience in reading the Bible, whether in general, or seeking to read it all the way through?