My New Year’s resolution for 2015 is to accomplish the goals of 2014 which I should have done in 2013 because I promised them in 2012 and planned them in 2011.
Does this sound like you?
At this time of year, lots of people are making lots of plans to change lots of things about themselves. We call them New Year’s Resolutions. The most common ones are cliched, and people often joke around with them such as wanting to have a thin body and a fat bank account unlike last year when they got these things mixed up.
But Christians are no different. As we pray and hope that 2015 will bring change, and we seek to become all things to all people so that by all possible means we might save some, many of us convince ourselves (or guilt ourselves) into thinking we should read the Bible more and start a New Year’s Bible reading plan.
Now I do not want to do anything to curb anyone’s enthusiasm for Bible reading, in fact the very opposite, but before you begin ‘In the beginning’ you really need to know the top 10 mistakes – some are obvious and some are not so obvious, but if you avoid them you will have the best possible chance of completing your Bible reading plan.
Here they are:
1. Starting with Genesis and reading front to back
There is nothing by itself wrong with this plan, but I have tried it a couple of times and it has certainly given me a good grounding in the book of Genesis. But by the time you get to Leviticus, you will not only be very aware of your need of a Saviour from the huge, what feels like unending set of rules, but you will also want saving from your Bible plan. Ask anyone who has tried this method, and in my view, apart from the super holy / super diligent / super spiritual people it is just too difficult to make it through ‘in order’. There is also something a bit odd about reading the Bible in one year and only starting the New Testament on 8 October.
2. Start with Revelation and reading back to front
As opposed to mistake 1, there is actually something wrong with this plan. I have never tried it, and while I acept that the book of Revelation is an important book of the Bible, if you start there, you may never make it out. That is, it is quite possible that you will find it a very strange way to start a Bible reading plan, or it will leave you a very strange Bible reading type of person. I’m not saying you will end up in a cult somewhere debating endlessly the meaning of numbers and symbols from John’s visions (although you could), but you will more likely miss the benefit of a more sensible Bible reading plan (see point 9).
3. You don’t have consistent time set aside
This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of Bible reading. Some people like to read the Bible (and pray) in the morning, because of the one verse in the Bible that says Jesus went out to pray early in the morning (Mark 1:35). Of course there are many other great reasons to start the day with scripture, but equally many people consistently read their Bible at lunchtime, or before dinner, or after dinner, or before they go to bed. Honestly it doesn’t really matter, but what does matter is to set time aside and keep it.
4. You don’t read enough
I’m not talking about reading enough generally, such as newspapers, magazines, novels, Kindle, blogs (like this one), etc. I am talking about reading enough every day. It only takes a few days to fall behind and suddenly the amount of reading required to catch up seems overwhelming. Try to read enough each day to keep up with the plan, if not a little bit more. There will inevitably be days when you can’t read, due to sickness, motivation, the pressures of life, or don’t want to read – don’t beat yourself up over them, don’t give up, don’t stop reading enough. (This post has nothing to say about how you read the Bible – if you read the Bible as a book, on a smart phone, or even on a scroll, I don’t care, as long as you are reading it).
5. Your bible reading becomes about information not transformation
Every time you read the Bible, God is speaking to you. The Bible is God’s word, and it is not just words on a page. But it is very easy to slip into the habit of reading a huge chunk of the Bible without really understanding anything. Again, sometimes this happens. Don’t worry about it, but if you notice it happening don’t let it become a habit.
6. You try a Bible reading plan alone
Perhaps one of the greatest markers of success in a one year Bible reading plan is having someone to read it with. I am not talking about literally reading it together at the same time while you are holding one side of the Bible and the other person is holding the other side. I am talking about asking someone else to join you in your attempt at reading the Bible in one year. Why not ask someone from your church, a family member, or someone in your Bible study group? This is a great chance to encourage and be encouraged by someone else but also to keep each other accountable.
7. You think it will be easy
This is a very common misconception. It will not be easy. Some days will be hard. Some readings will be hard. Some times in your life will be messy. Don’t give up. But don’t start out thinking it will be easy.
8. You finish your bible reading plan but now you are a Pharisee
Some people can finish reading the Bible in one year, but as a result become so rules based, that they only did each day in order to tick the box (sometimes literally) on their Bible reading plan. Other times people finish, and are then so judgmental of others who didn’t make it through that they are almost unbearable. The goal of finishing the Bible in one year is not to be better than other people, but it is to allow God’s word to change your heart, to convict you of your sin, and to receive the grace that God so freely offers through Jesus Christ.
9. You don’t have the right plan
There are obviously some plans that suit some people, and other plans that suit other people. There are a huge number of plans available, and here are a couple of compilation sites – ‘What is your Bible reading plan for 2015’ from Challies.com or ‘Bible reading plans’ from Ligonier.com. This is one of the few places where post-modernism really fits – there is no right plan, just the one that suits you the best. If it helps you get through reading the Bible in one year, then it is the right plan.
10. You don’t have a plan
As corny as it sounds if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. The fact that you are reading this post, and the fact that you are reading the end of this post shows that you are serious about reading, and hopefully even more serious about reading the Bible. As I finish this post, if I could sum up in a few words the guaranteed way to read the Bible in one year, then there would have been no need to write this entire post. But what I will say, is this:
– Get a plan
– Stick to it
– God speed!