“Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear (NLT).”
- Matthew 24:35
The Bible is not like a novel or any other book you have ever read. Reading it front to back in order is not always the most productive way of doing things. When attempted in this manner, many get frustrated and give up their efforts at reading the Bible. No matter how eager you are to start your Bible-reading journey, sometimes it can be discouraging just to jump right in.
The Bible is a complex book, a collection of texts written between three ancient languages over thousands of years. It is packed with historical, cultural, and linguistic elements that can make it challenging to comprehend. God's Word is alive and powerful, speaking into our lives, but a little bit of prep-work goes a long way into establishing a consistent Bible-reading plan that will alter the course of your life.
It sounds like hard work, and maybe it is. But anything worth achieving in our lives always comes with effort. Never forget that with great effort comes great reward. That statement has never been so true as it is in developing a healthy Bible reading routine. Through it, God will shape your worldview, allowing you to experience life the way that He has always intended for you to.
So how do we read the Bible? What approach will help us to understand best what God is saying to us?
Pick a Translation That Makes Sense to You
With over 450 translations of the Bible in English alone, there is an overwhelming amount of versions to choose from. Thankfully, it's not as complicated as it sounds. The most common and popular choices will be prominent at your local bookstore or your desired Bible app. Invest a little bit of time in reading a passage from multiple different options.
As you read, determine what language makes the most sense to you. Many have made the mistake of defaulting to the King James Version over the years because it "sounds" more like the Bible. Rest assured that you can feel confident in your choice of Bible translation, even if it is in a more modern language. These translations result from the tireless work of countless biblical scholars applying their knowledge for the cause of God's Kingdom. You can trust in their reliability and not feel guilty for picking one that sounds most appealing to you. This decision is one that will impact your entire relationship with the Bible, so choose wisely and look deeply into your options.
Where to Start?
In most Bibles, the text is broken up between 66 different books, found within sections known as the Old and New Testament. The New Testament is the best place to start. It begins with four "Gospels," stories from the mouth of Jesus' disciples themselves about His life, ministry, teachings. These books of the New Testament are at the core of the Christian faith. The central message of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection are all found here.
The Gospels are the perfect place to start because having a solid understanding of our faith's most essential aspects helps to put in context the rest of what we read throughout God's Word. From here, we can move on to the letters that the Apostle Paul wrote to the different churches he had planted along his ministry. These letters were written to encourage and teach the people of these churches and provide us with a solid foundation of Christian theology that will help us to understand better what we read in the Gospels and what we will start to read in the Old Testament.
As you then go on through the Old Testament, continually try to understand it in light of what you have learned about Jesus in the New Testament. You will see Him in the story of creation, in the words of the prophets, and the promise of the Messiah. The Old Testament is tricky to comprehend at times, but reading it in the light of Christ will reveal all. His presence shines throughout the Old Testament, as serves as a testimony that God's plans always come to fruition through His Word.
I would recommend ending with the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible. This book is the most complex and imagery-laden text of the entire Bible. Everything you have learned thus far about the Bible will greatly help you understand what God is saying through Revelation. The Book of Revelation is the culmination of the whole Bible, showing how everything that was prophesized throughout will come to pass. You will see the ultimate climax of everything you have read come together as God's will prevails.
Take Your Time
Don't rush through reading the Bible to try to get through it. Never has the saying "quality over quantity" been more accurate. There are layers upon layers of meaning built within God's Words, and rushing through it will leave you with more questions than answers. Take it slow, letting the message of the Scriptures sink in deep. Reflect on the stories and the teachings as you go, asking God to reveal His will to you through them.
There are countless Bible reading plans available in print or online to help you as you go. These are very helpful! Take advantage of what they offer. They are crafted to lead you through the Bible in a thought-out, manageable progression. These resources can help take away the pressure of deciding which book of the Bible to read at what time. The creators of these guides have considered these intricacies for you, giving you the freedom to just dive right into reading. Again, do your research, and it will serve you well.
Journaling can be an incredibly powerful way to connect with God's Word. Make it a part of your Bible-reading routine, jotting down thoughts, insights, and feelings as you go. As you read through the Bible, you are going to be experiencing and learning things that you will not want to forget. Write them down so that you can come back to them and remember that valuable insight that God has revealed to you through your time together.
Also, let journaling be a discipline that helps you connect with God as you spend time with Him, reading His Word in prayer. God speaks to our hearts and reveals things to us as we read. Take note of them, and pray about them continually, even days, weeks, or months after. Everything that God speaks into our lives is important, and journaling helps us to both capture and connect with it all. As you continue on in your spiritual journey, you will be glad to be able to look back on everything God has said to you throughout the years. Reading through your notes can provide unmatched motivation to continue running the race.
Invest in a Good Study Bible (or app)
A good study Bible is an invaluable resource. Earlier, we talked about the historical, cultural, and linguistic elements that presented a challenge for us. A reliable study Bible is a bridge that helps us to cross that gap. These resources are packed with easy to digest content that teaches us about the critical real-life circumstances surrounding each book of the Bible: who wrote it, why they wrote it, and where. You'll be amazed at how much these things can impact your understanding of what you read.
Not only that, but Study Bibles also provide notes as you read through every chapter. These notes shed further light on what you are reading, guiding you deeper into the text. Just as when you were picking your translation, do some research into different study Bibles. You can find them in digital or print form, whichever suits you. Take the time to find the perfect one that is available in the language that makes sense to you and has the tools you need to help you understand the Scriptures. You will be spending a lot of time with these new Bible, so don't rush the decision! Do your research!
Pray as You Read
Communication is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Prayer is how we talk to God. When we speak with Him regularly, He guides us, leads us, and restores us. If we saturate our lives in prayer, we find constant encouragement and guidance in our faith. When we pray through our Bible reading, God helps us to hear what He is trying to tell us through it. He provides us with clarity, focus, and insight beyond what we'd be able to achieve alone.
Make your reading routine time spent with the Lord as well. Ask Him about questions you have. Tell Him how specific passages are making you feel or what they are teaching you. Pray that He would lead you deeper and deeper into a relationship with Him through this time spent together. The more comfortable that you get in your routine and in prayer, the more you will hear His voice and feel His presence. He will illuminate the Bible for you, and you will be amazed at how it changes your life.
Read with Others
Diving into God's Word with others can be an eye-opening experience. We all understand things from a unique perspective available only to us. Seeing things through others' eyes can help us understand something about the Bible that we would never see on our own. God speaks through each individual's background and life experiences and allows them to understand things uniquely. We will only become a more well-rounded person of faith when we listen to the perspectives of our brothers and sisters in the faith.
The ministries of our local church are a fantastic way to engage in the Word of God with others. Small groups allow us the space to discuss the Bible with our spiritual peers. Outreach ministries will enable us to express the Word to those we serve, hearing their outlook on the Bible as well. Through serving others, we also gain a special relationship with the Scriptures because we are seeing them in action. We are living out God's redemptive plan and continuing the restorative work that Jesus has called us to do.
Building up a healthy routine when it comes to reading your Bible takes time. There is no substitute for consistent, daily reading. You will progress each day in your level of understanding, intimacy with God, and knowledge of the Scriptures. As with anything worth striving for, this is not something that happens overnight. Be humble, and accept that fact. Enjoy the journey, and ask God to walk alongside you throughout every step of it.
If you fail to stay consistent, you will never reap the benefits of a vibrant relationship with God's Word. You must make the Bible the standard and center of your life. There is nothing else worthy of taking that place in your heart. Make the time in your schedule, no matter how small it is, to start. Even five minutes is ok, as long as you are doing that five minutes every day. Increase it from there as you can. As you become settled in this new way of life, you will find yourself craving more and more time in the Word.
God wants to lead you to His Word. He longs to speak into your life through it. You are precious and invaluable to Him. The Bible is our manual for our life, presented to us by God out of His desire for us to know the truth of ourselves and the world in which we find ourselves. Nothing is stopping you from starting your adventure reading through the Bible today. Make the commitment to spend daily time with God, unraveling the beautiful, mysterious, and awe-inspiring entity that is the Bible. You will not regret it. Today can be the day that starts a transformation in your life. Don't let this opportunity pass you by.
Thank you Zach Wessel for this helpful article on reading the Bible. Join Calm Christian Music and listen to the many online radio music channels for Christian Instrumentals music, Gospel music, Worship and Praise music, Hymns Spirituals and Psalms, and Christian Choir music channels.