Before you think I’m just being boastful, please understand something. I turned forty this year. I’v been a believer for twenty-five years. I would guess that I began January 1 of most of those years with the ambition of reading the whole Bible. I would diligently begin in Genesis 1. On good years I would make it to Leviticus. Rarely did I make it past Leviticus. If I even made it past Genesis 2, Leviticus got me every time. For twenty-five years.
So, I get it. That is the goal I thought I would never truly accomplish. I came up with many justifications of why it didn’t really matter. I still loved Jesus. I still read Scripture. I’m really busy. I’m sure I’ve read all of it at some point or another (I always went back to I had to read the Old Testament for my seminary class). Wasn’t this a legalistic goal anyway?
None of those were necessarily bad reasons, but for me they were just excuses to choose not to be disciplined to read all of God’s Word.
Dana wrote an excellent post yesterday encouraging this goal for 2019. I wanted to share with you how I actually made it happen in my world (just in case you are like me and have spent many years not getting past Leviticus) and also what God has done in me.
Here are four things I did that I think made a difference in actually finishing the plan:
- I committed to read along with other friends. I love that YouVersion’s Bible app has the option to do a plan with several close lady friends. This community option provided two things. First, it gave me a little checkmark that I knew my sweet friends could see when I finished my day’s reading. I had accountability. On some level I didn’t want to let my friends down by not having my checkmark. Silly, right? But it worked! Second, the app gives you the option of sharing comments with your community. I could see what verses spoke to my people and could share my thoughts as well.
- I found a specific time to read most days. With my kids’ school schedule, I arrive to my office about thirty minutes before the church office officially opens. I decided to primarily use that time to read the passages designated by the plan. I didn’t do that every day. Sometimes I read before or after or at home or whatever. I did not come in on Saturdays to read in my office. 🙂 But, what it did was provide a structure where most of the time I read in the same place at the same time.
- I tried not to stress over “the rules”. If I missed a day, I just worked on catching up the next day. Or the next. I didn’t want to stress about not being perfect and just quit. I even told my friends who were reading along that if you miss a day, it was ok to skip it altogether and keep going. Maybe come back to it later. The most important part is to keep reading, not to be legalistic over it. Oh, and we also started on January 2, not January 1, so we were really rule-breakers! 🙂
- We picked a plan that mixed Old Testament and New Testament. Even with this plan and the accountability, etc… I still about lost it in Leviticus. What made a huge difference to me was reading a little bit of both each day. I’m pretty sure if I spent weeks in just Old Testament, it would have been hard to keep going.
- I just kept going. Those people who say that a habit is formed after thirty days or something know what they are talking about. What began as a chore became a habit which became a discipline. By the end of the year I noticed if I forgot to read or missed a day. It was just something that was a natural part of my routine. A year ago 365 days sounded like a long time. Now where we are and it is done. Not by doing some big, fantastic feat, but simply by just doing it every day.
There was so much God showed me over the year, but here are my four biggest takeaways:
- His love is fierce, His grace is big, and His world is broken. There is a lot in the Old Testament that is just flat out ugly and depressing. People’s rebellion and God’s responses were hard to read at times. But, He keeps fighting for the hearts of His people. And despite their (our) continued unfaithfulness, there was a New Testament. He provided His Son to save those people who spend hundreds of years fighting against Him. Reading the entire Bbile gave me new gratitude for the beauty of the gospel.
- The Bible is not about me. There are a lot of chapters that I finished reading and wondered what I didn’t get a thing out of it. I mean, I could try to be theological sounding and say how the division of the lands in Joshua represented… I don’t know, I can’t even make something up. But, why in the world am I arrogant enough to think that every word in the Bible is written just for me? There is a whole history of a whole world where someone somewhere needed those lists of divisions. Bigger than that though, is God’s Word is not written just to make me feel better during each day of Bible reading. His Word is to glorify Him.
- There is so, so much more I want to learn. As I read through the prophets and Kings, I realized how much more I have to learn. I wanted to know more about the history and how the prophets fit together. I wanted to spend more time focusing on some books more in depth. Reading through the Bible was not the end. It was inspiration to keep digging and learning about God’s Word.
- The Holy Spirit works through the discipline. As I mentioned, there were days I would read according to the plan and I didn’t have an “a-ha” moment. But the next day, or maybe two or three days later, God spoke clearly and precisely through the assigned passage. But, see, if there wasn’t the non-“a-ha” days, I wouldn’t have gotten to the a-ha. It took the discipline to get there. The whole process is what changes me and draws me closer to Him, not only some feel-good devotion times. The Holy Spirit worked through the daily discipline to speak loudly.
So now it’s 2019. New challenges and new goals lie ahead. Let me challenge you to see what God has in store for you by reading His Word.