The reasons are many. The commitment is indeed a hefty one. The payoff is priceless.
Reading the Bible from start to finish is something I will never regret. I remember the sermon that came during the first Sunday of the New Year, when most people were swearing off sweets, creating a Swear Jar, or swearing to join a gym. Our pastor suggested, instead, that we commit to reading the Bible every single day, with the goal of reading the entire tome over the next year.
It was something I had always wanted to do, so I took a no-time-like-the-present approach and delved in. I found the Bible to be engrossing, and I believe I read through it in about 4 months of nighttime reading, just before falling asleep. You might prefer the mornings, or a time in the day that is just yours, when all is quiet and you can really concentrate. Whatever works for you, the benefits will far outweigh the time commitment.
Here is what reading the Bible all the way through did for me and can do for you:
- It provided the context that had always been missing. I’ve spent decades listening to certain readings that fit into the seasonal timeline or the pastoral study. There are passages I can easily recite and others I never heard in my lifetime until reading the Bible on my own. Once passages are placed in context, they take on a whole new meaning. The prophecies of Jesus’ coming were especially impactful to me. It was clear that there was always a plan, and that kind of wisdom and omniscience really drives home the power and love of our God.
- Meaning emerges as the themes form, and you will only discover this as you read the entire Bible. I remember reading through the Old Testament and marveling – literally shaking my head – as God’s followers chose over and over and over again not to follow him. No matter how many times he told them what they needed to do, they didn’t trust him and didn’t listen. I wanted to scream at them until I thought about how guilty I am of doing the exact same thing. How guilty we all are. I had been told that God was patient and forgiving, but seeing it in action made me realize just how relentlessly He loves us.
- Making the Bible a part of your everyday life really does keep you grounded in your Christianity. It’s just too easy to keep a Bible on your nightstand and never crack it open, isn’t it? But if it becomes a book you are actually reading every day, its value in your life increases exponentially. Dedicating time, thought, and reflection to God’s word becomes a lifestyle, and true change only comes when it is a lifestyle, not a fad. To draw a comparison, a diet will help you lose weight, but until a new way of eating is incorporated into your lifestyle, the weight loss will be short-lived and easily undone. The same applies to staying in the Word. Make it part of your daily life, and it becomes who you are.
- Reading the Bible helps you understand yourself as a child of God. John Calvin famously said, “Nearly all wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” We have to know who we are and who we aren’t, and so much of that depends on our relationship with God. Oftentimes, we must be broken to seek healing with God. But sometimes, life can be rolling along just fine and we get complacent and pretty cocky about what we have done to create this good life. As we read the Bible, we are reminded of the fact that it’s only through God’s grace and mercy that we have what we have. We are not gods and in fact are very flawed individuals who Christ saved so that we can enjoy everlasting life with our Creator.
- After reading the Bible, you will feel more confident speaking about your beliefs to others. Have you ever been questioned by a non-believer and not had the slightest clue how to answer? It’s uncomfortable and somewhat terrifying to realize that you’ve based your entire life on a belief system but are not able to defend it in the real world. Entire programs in apologetics exist to prepare you to address the opposition and have greater clarity about why you believe what you do. But reading the Bible is a fantastic first step to seeing the big picture and to sharing it with others. If you’re going to believe it, you ought to be able to back it up or at least be able to speak about it intelligently. You will have much greater confidence to do so if you take the time to read the chronology of events, learn how parables are used to teach life lessons, and understand the differences in the Old and New Testaments.
I’m sure others have discovered many more benefits, and I believe that these will vary from person to person. The Word is a living, breathing document that speaks to each of us in the way we need to hear it in order to draw closer to God. I hope you will embrace the challenge to read all of it so that this year can be the one you remember for drawing you closer to God through his Word.