I’ve lost count of how many times I started out to read the Bible through in a year and failed. The number has to be less than thirty-eight, since that’s how many years I’ve been a Christ-follower. If I could count the times I’ve started out on that journey, it would be easy to figure out how many times I’ve failed—all I’d have to do is take the number of tries and subtract one.
Yes, that’s right—I did it!
On December 31, 2012, I finished day 365 of “The Bible in a Year” reading plan from the American Bible Society. I finished a day late, but I finished. I expected to experience a hootin’, hollerin’ victory-rush celebration when that last checkmark appeared on my tablet, but the reality was a quiet moment of humble thanksgiving, a moment that surprised me almost as much as the realization that I’d actually finished what I started.
When I shared my victory with a friend, they asked what made the difference this year. I’ve thought long and hard about that question and came up with this list of ten experience-based tips I’d share with anyone who wants to start—and finish—reading the Bible in a year.
Tip #1: Start Where You Are.
Your plan doesn’t have to start on January 1, on your birthday, or on any other future date that empowers you to procrastinate. The best day to start a new reading plan is today.
Tip #2: Have a Plan
The old cliché is true: Failing to plan is planning to fail. A plan is a roadmap that defines your destination and details how you’ll get there. It lets you measure your progress along the way, and helps you get back on-track if you’re off-course. Starting at Genesis and reading until you reach the maps and concordance isn’t a plan, it’s a roadmap to failure. Been there. Not pretty.
Tip #3: Got Devices? There’s an App for that!
Our brethren at LifeChurch.tv have developed the free YouVersion Bible app for virtually every mobile device known to man. One of the best features of the YouVersion Bible app are the integrated reading plans. I used one of those plans to keep myself on-track last year, and I’m using a different one for this year. The only mobile device that doesn’t have a YouVersion app available is an abacus—but I hear an abacus makes a great holder for a paper Bible.
Tip #4: Work it into your daily routine.
I generally read my daily plan in the morning over breakfast. What part of your day is best for you? Find it, and then be consistent—the experts tell us it takes six weeks to develop a habit (good or bad). Develop a daily Bible habit.
Tip #5: Give Yourself Permission to Catch Up.
Stuff happens. You will get off-schedule. Every time you do, it’s an opportunity to give up. Don’t even entertain the idea. Weekends are challenging for me because my schedule is different. When Monday comes and I’m behind, instead of flogging myself I read more and catch up.You’re never so far behind that you can’t get back on track.
Tip #6: This will not always be fun.Or convenient. Or pleasant, even.
I know it sounds terribly unspiritual, but let’s be honest here. There are days when I don’t want to read the Bible. There are days when I do my daily reading and can’t even remember what I just read. And let’s face it, there are parts of the Bible that are, well, tedious (and a little boring). I’m sure God had a good reason for all those genealogies, but that doesn’t make them easier to read. Push through those days and keep going!
Tip #7: Listen.
God not only wants to talk to you, He yearns to talk to you. He can speak to you and your specific circumstances in passages you’d never expect. Even in those tedious genealogies. He always tries to talk to us, but we’ve got to get quiet and listen if we want to hear Him.
Tip #8: Watch for the Threads.
As you read your daily assignments, look for those threads that run through the entire Bible. They’ll change the way you see yourself and the way you see God. For example, the #1 thing in God’s heart is restoring His relationship with fallen humans like you and me. We can see that agenda first in the early chapters of Genesis, and if you look you’ll find it in every single book of the Bible. Yes, even in the genealogies.
Tip #9: Watch for the Ordinary.
As you read, be on the lookout for those ordinary people who God uses to accomplish His work. God loves using ordinary people. He particularly enjoys using them to do things beyond their limitations, and He even has a sense of humor about it. Who would have thought that a former Super-Pharisee (Paul) would be the one God would use to reach out to the Gentiles?
Tip #10: Watch for Opportunities.
As you read through God’s word, be sure to look for opportunities. When you start looking for them, you’ll find those opportunities on every page. For example, never miss an opportunity to use God’s favorite word. Whenever we respond to God with this word, something wondrous and powerful happens, and we’re never the same. It’s a word that always makes God smile when He hears it on our lips in response to Him—a simple, unconditional “Yes.”