Why I annually do “Bible in a Year” plans
I'm sure everyone has been there. The New Year is fast approaching, and you are feeling a mixture of both regret and possibility. You desire to do something different, to make changes for this new year. Maybe you have a number in your head that you want to weigh at this point next year. Perhaps a number you will have in the bank? For those of us who are trying to pursue Jesus, we share these, but perhaps might add the infamous "read the whole bible this year" goal. There are any number of plans and schedules. Read it forward, backwards, chronological, alphabetical (I made that up, I think). You get my point. Well, I've been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
I'd like to share why I have taken a long-term strategy in recent years, committing to reading the bible in a year. More importantly, as someone who has in years past over promised and underperformed, I'd like to share why it’s working!
Over the last two years, I have started a particular "read through the bible in a year" plan that I like, and, for the last two years, I have finished it. I have a few caveats to my statement "finished it" that I would like you to consider. I believe these caveats will set you up for long-term success as it relates to bible literacy and spiritual development.
STRATEGY ONE I don't always read the prescribed portion each day. Whew! It feels so good to admit that, and, even better, not feel like a failure who might as well quit. As a pastor, who I hear is supposed to be a bible professional, I also have many things going on at times which keep me from checking the box many days over the course of the year. In fact, I've missed whole books in my quest to finish the bible! Sorry Philemon! This speaks to the goal of "long term" success and not just checking the box each day.
I hope you don't hear me saying, "just do it when you feel like it." Each of us has to make a choice to make pursuing God a priority over other things we like to do (i.e. eating, work, TV, social media, etc.) It should be an expectation for every Christian to meet with God each day, much like my wife expects me to acknowledge and perhaps even pursue her at some point each day. Right? It's a relationship, not simply a box to check. Those who merely check the box will have their reward in checking but shouldn't expect much more than that.
I decided about two years ago that I needed something to give me daily direction and structure in reading God's Word. A relationship with God should also include other things, like prayer and further meditating on information already read or learned about the text, so I added those as well. God speaks to us primarily through His revealed Word, but how we take it in might change day to day.
What I have begun to see each year is that books and portions I missed the last year are covered the next or maybe even the next, but my overall bible familiarity has grown with each passing year. So if and when you fall behind, just keep going. Take a long-term approach to your growth. Just think where you and I might be after 20 years!
STRATEGY TWO Make a plan that challenges but fits best with your life season. A book a day might get you done faster but probably isn't very realistic. What plan you choose and when you plan to accomplish it each day are crucial parts to work out before beginning. I have built in a few backup opportunities if my primary time and place are compromised. One backup is that my bible reading plan can be found in an app that will read it for me in the car if I'm on the road. I also know that I have grown to enjoy a plan that doesn't repeat (the NT or certain books multiple times throughout the year) and includes both the Old and New Testament each day.
Look, someone out there could certainly coach me in all this, but I know for certain that I need to be in it every day to combat the darkness in my heart and around me. I also know you need it as well. I know that a group of believers committed to being with God, knowing, and applying His Word are a powerful force against the kingdom of darkness.
This is how we build the kingdom and change the world, folks.
A fellow journeyman,
You can download the pdf of the plan I use from the ESV Study Bible or find it as one of the offered plans in the ESV Bible App.