Did you make New Year’s resolutions for 2013? If so, you’re certainly in good company. According to a study published in the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45% of people usually make resolutions and another 17% make them occasionally. They go on to state that “People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.” That’s pretty inspiring.
Most resolutions deal with self improvement issues—specifically losing weight, getting more organized, exercising—and finances. I’m not surprised. I usually resolve to lose weight and exercise more too. (I’m making good progress on the exercise vow. The weight problem? Not so much, sigh.)
About ten years ago I added a new resolution that I’m very glad I kept. I boldly promised God and myself that I would read through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.
Oh, I didn’t do it all that first year. In fact, I only got about a third of the way through. Not bad, when you consider that the first third of the Bible includes books like Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers! The second year, I made it to the end of the Malachi, and the third year I read the entire New Testament.
There are plenty of one year and three-year plans for reading Scripture. I didn’t use any of them. I just opened the book and started reading. I read until I found something that spoke to me, which I then underlined. Some days, that meant I plowed through three or four chapters. Other days, I soaked in just a few verses. The point was that I read until I sensed God speaking to me through his word. And while I didn’t read absolutely every day, I did on most days. It became a habit.
I’ve been a Christian since 1973, and I had already read every passage in the Bible at one time or another. I had just never read them all in any particular order. Since I wasn’t reading anything new, I really didn’t expect to learn anything specific. I’m just an organized person, and this seemed to be an organized way to go about reading Scripture.
Much to my surprise, it was an entirely new experience. I wasn’t stopping to dissect any passages, look up lots of words, or spend days on one verse. I already knew that digging in could be helpful, but what about backing up and seeing things from that different perspective? So I just read as if I was reading a novel. And for the first time, I got the Big Picture. I began to see how God stays the same from book to book, always reaching out to us, always loving us, always wanting us to know he is God and to respond to his love.
In fact, I learned so much that when I finished, sometime late in the third year, I simply flipped back and started in Genesis again. Over the next nine years, I read through the Bible three times. Once in a while I’d skip around a bit, especially if I sensed a nudge from the Holy Spirit to read a particular passage, but for the most part, I stayed on track.
When I first started I was a bit concerned that spending two years reading mostly in the Old Testament would somehow limit my spiritual growth. I thought that I needed to skip around to make sure I covered everything God had for me.
I needn’t have worried. Rather, I was constantly amazed at how God was able to use my day’s reading to speak to me. It didn’t matter what my “issue of the moment” was, or which book I was reading, it was always pertinent—in the same way that a sermon can speak to an entire congregation of people who are all struggling with different issues. The word truly is alive and active! (Hebrews 4:12)
I’d like to challenge you to try reading through the Bible. I know it’s not always in chronological order, but that didn’t seem to matter. I don’t even know if the order of the books is special—is that part of the “inspired-ness” of Scripture? All I know is that God used this discipline in my life, and I wish for you to be likewise blessed.
Don’t put yourself under pressure. You don’t have to finish in a year, or two years, or on any type of schedule. Read until the Spirit speaks to you. Take notes. Write in the margins. Underline. Make that Bible your own and see what God does.