Three years later, I finally finished reading the entire Bible. For the first time in my life, I read the Bible word for word; I didn’t skip verses, skim chapters, skim genealogies, or find a way through entire books. I didn’t have a plan. I started with my favorite Bible, Mark, and let the Spirit guide me from there.
It is this time of year when people finally decide to read the Bible regularly. According to my last unofficial count, there are about 5 million different reading plans to help you understand the Bible. You can read with CS Lewis, read something called a “Bible summary,” read the Bible chronologically, or read the Bible in a male and female-only way if you prefer.
Of course, these options don’t even begin to include different guides that promise to get you through the Bible in a year. My wife Kristin currently works through John Stott’s Through the Bible, Throughout the Year and found it equally productive, challenging, and fun.
All this is good. We need more people who read the Bible. Because we know the value of the Bible, one only needs to check social media or, in some cases, go to a local church to remind us that we need more people who are Bible literate and take reading God’s word more seriously (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Any plan that regularly puts someone in the word of God is fine, even if that plan is no plan at all.
What I learned about reading the Bible
During the three years of my regular Bible reading, I learned a lot. The greatest lesson I have learned in particular about reading the Bible is that it is very important to find a way that is not based on enjoying it, but instead finds a way that works best for you as a person.
To continue with that, I’ve learned that it’s okay to admit that reading the Bible can be a challenge. The best pastors will offer you a mocking smile and silently accept the same.
The way my three years of unplanned self-cultivated meant that in 2022 I spent an excessive amount of time in the Old Testament and ended the year and the three-year project in a kind of anti-climate style in 2 Timothy.
It’ll probably take me a while to reread Numbers or Joshua or 1 or 2 Kings. But I liked Jonah more than I expected—a book I hadn’t seriously studied since my early Sunday school days.
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Lamentations and Isaiah are my two new favorite books that I found myself listing when asked – it happens more often than you think when you live in Waco.
Another lesson about Bible reading: You will be surprised and at those moments you will feel that the Holy Spirit is guiding you, in you, speaking to you, as if saying: “Here. see this. This is for you.”
taking notes on the Bible
A little over a year after I started reading the Bible, something pushed me to take notes beyond the confines of the Bible.
My first note, dated May 27, 2021, is from Luke 4 and simply says: “Jesus responds to the temptations of the devil with the Scriptures.”
I also noted down the hundreds of thoughts that came to my mind while reading and the interpretations of the verses that I would like to underline to return to one day.
There are no notes for every day or every book. I mostly take a break on weekends or holidays. Some days, I just couldn’t get used to it. So I read extra the next day.
Another lesson I learned: Give yourself some indulgence. This is not a race. Take your time and see what the Lord has written for you in his words.
Here is another note from August 26, 2022, from a day that meant nothing to me but that I neglected to write from 1 Thessaloniki: “He who calls you is faithful and will do.”
And this is the last lesson I learned from reading the Bible regularly for three years: He is faithful. His faithfulness is in all the pages of God’s word. It’s written in the fabric of our lives, and it’s there for us to see if we’re going to take the time to stop and open our eyes and listen.
I advise you to come up with a plan or not make a plan like me and sit with God as often as possible. I promise, the more you do it, the more often you’ll want to, and the number of days you don’t do it will become less and less. Then one day we will join Jonah to sing, “When I was dying, I remembered you, Lord” (Jonah 2:7).
Smith Getterman lives in Waco with his wife, Kristin, and two sons, Harry and Baker. You can reach him by e-mail. [email protected] The opinions expressed belong to the author.
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