Why I Plan to Read Less of the Bible This Year (2016 Edition)

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“Let us strive, every year we live, to become more deeply acquainted with Scripture.” ~ J.C. Ryle

Open Bible

 

Regularly reading God’s Word is one of the most important things we can do. We live in a world that constantly lies to us, and our hearts are prone to believe those lies. But in His mercy, God has given us His Word to guide and guard us. He has “granted to us His precious and very great promises” to renew our minds and refresh our hearts (2 Peter 1:4). As much as we need food to live physically, we need God’s Word to live spiritually (Matthew 4:4).

The turn of the New Year offers a natural time to reset (or recommit) to regularly reading God’s Word. Of course there’s nothing magical about the New Year, but it serves as a natural time to make changes in our lives as we seek to grow in Christ-likeness. For me, one of the changes I’ve made over the past years is that I plan to read less of the Bible each year; and I’ve found that less can actually be more.

For most of my Christian life (since 1999), I’ve been following a Read the Bible in a Year plan. I was introduced to this idea early on as “the thing to do” and ever since I’ve found it to be a pretty typical goal for many Christians. I’ve enjoyed this plan, but to be honest, I’ve never finished the plan in a year. There, I said it. I’ve never finished the Read the Bible in a Year Plan.

Some years I’ve made it further than others and by God’s grace I’ve never gone more than a few days without spending time in the Scriptures. But over the years I’ve been riddled with guilt for failing to finish the plan and for rushing through some portions of the plan just to check it off. In my younger years as a Christian, this guilt was more debilitating, but even today I know my propensity to commit to something like reading the Bible in a Year plan and then fell guilty when I fail to do it.

To be clear, I’m not taking a flamethrower to spiritual disciplines. If we don’t “discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7-8) we are in sin and our hearts will grow cold toward God. Reading the Bible regularly won’t make you more godly, but you won’t become more godly if you don’t spend time in God’s Word. It is wise to make humble plans that are aimed at helping yourself and others grow in godliness.

I also want to be clear that I’m not against the Read the Bible in a Year Plan. It’s an excellent goal and very achievable. In fact, I had one friend who after his conversion read through the Bible deeply twice in just under a year. So, what our plan is seems less important to me. What is most important is that we commit to deeply reading God’s Word in the hopes that we will grow in our love for Christ.

Thomas Brooks, in his classic work Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices gives helpful instruction here, “Remember, it is not hasty reading—but serious meditating upon holy and heavenly truths, that make them prove sweet and profitable to the soul. It is not the bee’s touching of the flower, which gathers honey—but her abiding for a time upon the flower, which draws out the sweet. It is not he who reads most—but he who meditates most, who will prove the choicest, sweetest, wisest and strongest Christian.”

With that in mind, here are a few ideas for your consideration.

Make a plan.

As Don Carson rightly said, “no one drifts toward holiness.” If we just go with the flow, we will eventually be swept away with the current of idleness and sin. In light of this, it is wise to make humble plans to draw near to God and fulfill His purposes (Prov. 6:6-8, 21:5, 24:27; Matthew 6:33, 25:1-13; Luke 14:28; James 4:13-17). As you think about what plan you intend to use, I’d encourage you to look at this excellent post by Justin Taylor. As for me, here’s the three-fold path I’m planning to take this year.

       First, I plan to read the passage that will be preached on the next Lord’s Day. If I’m preaching this will be a necessity since I’m hoping to live better than I preach, but if I’m not preaching, I plan to study ahead to get the most out of the sermon. Our church publishes what we’re preaching on in advance with the hope that our congregation will come having already soaked in the text, hungry for more.

       Second, I plan to pick one Bible book a month to study deeply. In January, a few friends and I are studying Ecclesiastes. For the month we will read and re-read it. We plan to outline it, chart it, and memorize portions of it. Then in February, I’ll select another book with a similar approach, though hopefully improved by January’s attempt. By doing this I’m able to meditate deeply on one book, something I felt I was missing in other seasons of my life. Some months I may do multiple books if they are short (i.e. In November I did 1, 2 and 3 John).

       Third, I plan to read other books of the Bible in one sitting throughout the year. To avoid neglecting other portions of the Scriptures, I have a list of the books of the Bible in my journal and plan to regularly step away for an hour or two throughout the year and just read them straight through. In January I’ll plan to read through 1 & 2 Kings and the pastoral epistles. Though I have not finished my Bible Reading Plan in a year, it is rare for me to not read most / all / more than the whole Bible in a year.

Partner Up.

I encourage you to not keep your plan by yourself. Find another brother or sister in your local church who you enjoy spending time together with and ask them to join you in this journey. Commit to a month or two or whatever works for you, but don’t do this alone.

As I mentioned above, a few guys I’m discipling and I are going through Ecclesiastes together in January. We will get together a couple times during the month to discuss what we’re reading, but we’ll email or text or talk on the phone more regularly about what we’re learning and what we are struggling to understand. You don’t have to work out your plan with someone else, but I’ve certainly benefited from it.

In case your’e wondering, I plan the first 6 months and then plan the rest of the year’s reading in June. We’re planning to read Galatians in February, Isaiah in March, 2 Corinthians in April, and Nehemiah and Ezra in May.

Remember Why You’re Reading.

The reason we read the Scriptures isn’t just to check off boxes and make ourselves feel like we’ve accomplished something for God. The Scriptures aren’t an end in themselves, God is the end. As we plan to seek Him, however we do it, we must come with the supreme goal of loving Him more and obeying what He teaches us when we do read. If our plans become traps for guilt and discouragement—then plan to scrap your plan and do something else.

The most important thing in this moment and in the moments that make up next year is that we draw nearer to God through His Son Jesus. His Word teaches us how to do this, so let us plan to draw near with great hope because of promises like these from the Prophet Isaiah,

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and delight ourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live…” Isaiah 55:1-3

May the Lord bless us with His rich and gracious supply as we read His Word in 2016.

 

 

 

Picture courtesy of Keith Ferrin.

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20 thoughts on “Why I Plan to Read Less of the Bible This Year (2016 Edition)

    1. Geilton

      When @Sixflags003 When an atheist is given eendvice that he cant dispute he will still believe what he believes without researching for himself. Like what eendvice? Also, that makes most religious people hypocrites (learn to spell), since they (probably including you) don’t want to listen to any arguments. We believe in God and were called stupid. You’re right, we shouldn’t call you stupid. Pointing out the obvious is a waste of time and effort.

      Reply
  1. Sharon Martin

    Thank you for your words. I am moved by your openness. Most preachers would never admit to that. I still listen to your sermons that I downloaded to my computer when you were in Graham. Thank you for letting God speak through you.

    Sharon

    Reply
  2. Denise

    I love the idea of partnering up for the month. I am going to try to do every month with a different person. Great way to strengthen friendships through the love of Gods word. (Good for accountability too).

    Reply
  3. Jhonna

    Very good post. I think I struggle with that as well: trying to read as many books as possible in a short amount of time. Reading the word is a joy and benefit to our lives – why not soak in the Lord’s wonderful goodness and apply God’s word to our well being. I, too, plan to read less of the Bible and soak in the Lord’s word more. Thanks Garrett

    Reply
  4. LeighAnne

    Loved this post! I, too, hate it when spiritual disciplines become nothing more than a “box to be checked off.” I want to add, though, that I never succeeded at reading the Bible consistently at all (and called myself an epic fail as a “real” Christian) until my discipler introduced me to the One Year Chronological Bible. Then amazingly, the light came on and God and His Word became real. The Story became real and engrossing and I finally understood how it all fit together. For 3 years now I’ve read the Bible through — no, not perfectly, not every single day — but consistently because I wanted to delve deeper into GOD and His love and try to understand it all just a little more. I really liked all of your ideas, but I just wanted to add my two cents’ worth as well :-).

    Reply
    1. garrettk Post author

      Great idea! I have also found that seeing how the whole Bible fits together from beginning to end helps me delight all the more in what God has done for us in Christ. Thank you for your comment.

      Reply
      1. Drull

        Greetings from the UK. Thanks for the reading plan it has been a great help this year. The link to the very uuesfl bookmarks seems to have broken down. I printed off the bookmarks for the 1st quarter but can’t get them for the rest of the year. Not a big issue but they are uuesfl!Keep up the excellent work.

        Reply
      2. Ahmed

        My in-laws bought my wife and me mciahtng ESV study Bibles for Christmas and we have been reading/studying from it primarily this year. Loving it! I grew up with King James, I read it in my youth,I read it in my Sunday school,It’s how I learned the truth (bonus points for anyone who can name that tune)But then I got into Bible bowl at age 12 or so and discovered NIV. Spent years and years there, then I realized I was allowed to read other translations. My wife just bought me a pocket-sized Holman Christian Standard Bible a week ago Saturday and I’m loving it, too!So now my favs are (in no particular order) ESV, NLT, NASB, NCV, HCSB, and the old standby, Mr NIV (I actually got to where I didn’t care at all for the NIV, but I think I was just burned out on it). I also dig the Message. I’ll have to try God’s Word version.Great post. May I steal your idea, Trey?

        Reply
  5. Ruth

    I hear ya. I managed to cram the discipleship journal Bible-in-a-year plan into a little less than 24 months. 🙂

    Let all those little checkboxes become just a way to mark what you read last. The amount of time it takes isn’t that important.

    Reply
  6. Mark Dever

    excellent stuff, brother! I have long gone back and forth between agressive kind of read huge sections in my Quiet Time & the stare at 2 verses and meditate on them, pray through them, etc. This is the kind of practical, heartfelt wisdom I expect from Garrett Kell.

    Reply
    1. Atalay

      Hi! Thanks for your comment. The chreidln’s Bible reading plan would be the same as offered here, if they want to read the whole Bible through in a year. Perhaps if they are younger, you could take just one of the four sections per day and finish reading the entire Bible in 4 years? You may download and print the four bookmarks to place in your Bible. Each family could make the decision on how many sections they will read each day .It is certainly an idea that I will think about. Offering some devotionals for parents to read with their chreidln as they read through the Bible .great idea!Pam

      Reply
      1. Moustafa

        I’ve gone back and forth through Bibles, using mtlosy the ESV and NIV in the past. I gave up using ESV because it was so choppy to read through, even though it was good for study. Readability and accuracy are both important to me. I still use the NIV a lot (a NIV/ Message parallel for reading), but it’s too familiar to me. I tend to gloss over verses a lot on accident, and the translation can be kind of generic sometimes.I’ve landed on the HCSB. They’ve marketed this Bible mtlosy as specialty Bibles (the soldier’s Bible etc.) but it’s an amazing version. It uses an “optimal equivalence” approach which uses both thought-for-thought and word-for-word depending on which they felt best portrayed the text. It uses words like “Messiah” instead of “Christ” and it just makes so much sense reading it. It is rich in language and very understandable.Here at SIBI, I’ve heard teachers say, “the real word should be ___ and I just wish a translation said it.” A lot of times the HCSB does! But they always forget the version lol. Anyway, I just bought a bigger version of it and plan on using it as my main version now.

        Reply
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