How to Read the Bible in a Year

December 31, 2019

If you’ve ever been unsuccessful in an attempt to read through the Bible in one year, you probably know that Leviticus is where it starts to go wrong. Genesis is action-packed and full of familiar stories and people. The same goes for Exodus—most of it, that is. And then comes Leviticus. And somewhere among the descriptions of burnt offerings, required feasts, and the proper care of tabernacle accessories, the dream of reading through the Bible in one year meets the reality of working through passages that seem impenetrable. And the quest that began so promisingly sputters to an end.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can read the entire Bible in a calendar year. There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible—929 in the Old Testament and 260 in the New Testament. In order to finish them all in 365 days, you would have to read, on average, a little more than three chapters a day.

That’s a sizable task, but one that’s certainly manageable—if you approach it with the right game plan. Here are a few tips to consider if you’re serious about reading the entire Bible in a single year.

Choose a Bible reading plan that works for you.

Because of the Bible’s unique structure, there are several different ways you can approach it. The traditional reading plan starts in Genesis and ends in Revelation, the Old Testament followed by the New Testament.

The chronological reading plan follows the events of the Bible in the order in which they occurred (or will occur). It requires some jumping around between books, but it gives a sense of progression and establishes a helpful timeline of events.

A thematic reading plan is built on subject matter. The goal of a thematic plan is to establish as many associations as possible between different parts of Scripture and to see how different books deal with similar themes.

You can find daily reading schedules for these and other plans online. All of them will take you through the entire Bible in a year. Before you embark on your challenge, try out different plans to see which one appeals most to you.

Count the cost.

In Luke 14:28, Jesus asks His disciples, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it?” Anything worthwhile that we pursue comes with a cost of time, attention, and resources. We have a limited amount of each. So if we draw on them for a sizable project, whether it’s building a tower or reading through the Bible in one year, we won’t have enough for other areas of our life. Something has to give. Before we embark on our reading plan, we need to come to grips with what must be sacrificed in order to complete it.

Depending on our schedule, we may have to cut back on the time we spend on social media or the time we spend binge-watching TV shows. We may have to get up earlier or forgo a walk during our lunch break. Whatever the case, it’s best to know the cost beforehand so that we can prepare accordingly.

Find iron sharpeners.

A wise man once said, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17). One of the best strategies for reading through the Bible in one year is to surround ourselves with “sharpeners,” people who have a vested interest in our success and who won’t hesitate to confront us when our focus wanders or when our discipline falters.

In order to facilitate iron sharpening, we need to be transparent about our reading adventure. We need to admit when we struggle or miss a day. We need to open up about passages that are difficult to understand. We need to give our accountability partners the information they need in order to help us.

Remember your real goal.

Letting your eyes fall over the words of Scripture until you reach the end of a designated passage just so that you can place a checkmark next to that day’s reading plan is not the same as reading through the Bible.

Remember James’s warning: “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). If the words of Scripture aren’t influencing your life, it doesn’t matter whether you read them all in one year. Your goal is to understand the Bible and apply its truths to your life.

You do that by wrestling with Scripture—by not letting a passage go until you’ve wrung from it everything that you can. The Lord honors that kind of persistence, as the story of Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32 demonstrates. (You’ll get to that story in the first two weeks of your reading adventure, if you opt for the traditional reading plan.)

When you read each day’s passage, interact with the material. Keep a journal of your thoughts. Write down questions that occur to you, quotes that inspire you, and incidents that trouble you. Pray about the things you read. Ask the Holy Spirit to deepen your understanding and give you a sense of how individual passages connect to the big picture of the Bible.

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