In 2019, I bought the CSB Day-by-Day Chronological Bible and attempted to begin in late March only to have found myself lacking discipline, focus and good tactics. At the end of 2019, I knew I needed to read the whole Bible in 2020 and resolved that I was going to stick with it, a decision that changed my life.
Through reading the whole Bible, I realized many things about it and about myself that I would not otherwise have seen; if you’re thinking about reading the Bible in 2021, or you’ve already started, here are five things I learned that might be an encouragement to you.
- The Bible is long
In college, I read Les Miserables and deemed it one of the greatest accomplishments of my life, but now I sit here having completed the world’s greatest masterpiece, and I found the length of it, spread out over 52 weeks, completely manageable. For a society inundated with short, concise, dramatically flippant messages, reading through the Bible faithfully in a year takes discipline.
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11 ESV).
- The Bible is one big story
From Creation to New Jerusalem, through the law, prophets, poetry, gospels and letters, there is one story: Christ Jesus and His mission to redeem creation. Jesus was foreshadowed by Adam and Isaac and Boaz and Elijah, and each while sinful, raised anticipation for the fully perfect Christ to come. While inside the covers you’ll find 66 books, they serve as one large picture of God’s redemption plan for mankind.
“Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being;’ the last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45 ESV).
- The Bible isn’t arranged chronologically
If you’re new to the Bible, it’s helpful to know that the Bible is not laid out chronologically. In fact, one of the things I liked about the Day-by-Day Chronological Bible is that as I read 1 & 2 Kings I was also reading 1 & 2 Chronicles where their content matched. Just as the gospels are essentially reporting the same event from different perspectives, so, too, other books of the Bible generously give us different angles from which to see these moments in history. Don’t let format overwhelm you!
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4 ESV).
- The Bible has purpose on every page
Sometimes it’s easy to gloss right over passages only to realize you read nothing while reading all of it. A strategy I use is to read so as to teach. As I read, I am searching the content for something to write down and be able to teach; I learned through looking for teachable content that on every page there is something from which we can both learn and teach. The Lord completely saturated the Bible in purpose.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:10-11 ESV).
- The Bible is worth reading
Repeatedly throughout my college career, I would fail to read the material needed for, say, learning the subject matter. I would rely on skimming and context to get me through, consistently finishing with mediocre scores and a poor GPA. If you are anything like me, your method of ingesting the Bible has taken a similar approach, and as you hop around chapter and verse following topics, suggestions or study materials other than the Bible, you skip over such important material necessary for your spiritual development. Studies about the Bible are good, but they do not replace studying the Bible. Rest assured, you cannot skim the Bible and ace the test.
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40 ESV).
Several weeks ago, as I began to see the end in sight, I emailed George Guthrie, author of the supplementary content and format of the CSB Day-by-Day Chronological Bible, to express my gratitude for his faithfulness in giving Christians this strategy in reading the Bible. He responded with such a poignant and timely statement: “I believe with all my heart that one of the most basic aspects of discipleship is our time being shaped by God’s good word…”
Today, my prayer for you is that you would have a deep desire to study God’s whole word and submit to it as it impacts your life, and that you would find yourself in the middle of a new discipline that will mark the rest of your life.