A friend added me to a "Read the Bible in a Year" group at the beginning of the year because she knows I love to read the Bible. However, I've never been a fan of one year Bible reading programs for a variety of reasons. I thought about deleting myself from the group but decided instead to hang around and just observe. I was hoping to get some insights from the others in the group. Instead most of the discussion was about how far ahead or far behind they were and what they were going to do to catch up. I was hoping there would be more discussion of the contents of the Word itself. Many felt guilty because they had fallen behind what another person had prescribed for them from the Word. I know their intentions were noble and God-honoring, but I seriously question the method. Read the Bible in a year programs seem to be like most New Year's resolutions-good intentioned but something that pitters out pretty quickly.
I've never quite understood what the magic was of reading the Bible in a year. I do know some people have become rich selling one year reading plans, Bibles, and programs as if reading the Bible in a year is some sort of spiritual victory. I guess maybe it is for some people, but I never really understood it. I really don't think that being able to say "I read the whole Bible this year" impresses God that much. I think He's more concerned with what I did with what I read.
Ministers of previous years read the Bible several times a year. Why can't we do the same thing? Surely we can't say that we have less time than they did! We have so many more "time-saving" appliances and technology! That should leave us more time for Bible reading! And if we don't have time to read the Bible and we say we are Christian then we need to get our priorities right or take a serious look at our spiritual condition. Our time with God, our relationship with God IS our first priority. There is nothing and no one that is more important. If I never just focused on spending time with my husband because I was so busy doing things for him, our relationship would gradually grow more cold and distant until eventually we really wouldn't have much of a relationship at all.
After thinking and observing over the last year I've come to the conclusion that there are pros and cons to following these types of programs.
-For undisciplined or those weak in faith, this may be helpful. You may end up spending more time in the Word than if you didn't use it. However, reading without the desire or expectation of spiritual revelation is just that...reading. Jesus condemned the Pharisees many times for knowing but not understanding the law.
-Reading the whole Bible can help you get the whole picture when it comes to God's character and what is truly God's heart.
-After reading all of it you will know that the Bible does not say "the Lord helps those who help themselves" or "spare the rod, spoil the child", or "money is the root of all evil", and that Jesus, not Abraham Lincoln came up with "a house divided against itself cannot stand"
-When used as a SUPPLEMENT to your devotional life (not making it your devotional life) it could enrich you spiritually.
-For the undisciplined or those weak in faith, it may become a badge of honor in that you successfully read a pre-packaged passage and check it off your list making you feel more spiritual (as if works will somehow contribute to your salvation). Sorry, it doesn't. The rich young ruler was very disciplined in his religious activity but got rejected when attempting to enter the Kingdom of God.
-Using someone else's list of daily readings cancels out what the Holy Spirit may have planned for you. Most people would choose a fresh meal as opposed to a pre-packaged frozen meal that you can microwave and eat quickly. For me, one-year reading programs seem like settling for a frozen meal. Why not pray and find out what is fresh on the menu just for you that day?
-It's too easy to get caught up in the program and forget the purpose of the program. Honestly what is the purpose of the program? To read the whole Bible in a year. Very few have a specific spiritual purpose in mind other than just reading all the words and being able to say you did it. For the task oriented person or the very competitive person it would be hard to keep the main thing the main thing.
-For the undisciplined and weak in faith person, this is not a remedy for the deeper lying problem of not hungering for the Word of God. That is a heart problem and can only be settled with God in repentance and prayer.
I came to the conclusion that one year programs were surely not for me. Although there are some years that I didn't read the whole Bible in a year because I spent extended amounts of time studying a certain topic, book, or person, I usually do read the whole bible in a year without a program or the feeling that I have some kind of daily obligation to a program.
I've heard so many times that one year reading program help to keep a person accountable. Accountable to what? We are accountable to God whether we are in a group or not. For me, that is all the motivation I need! Is there any better way to be accountable? And believe me, if we do not keep accountable to God, the devil will come knocking with temptations, problems and lies of every kind. Can we really afford that?
A healthy Christian will love the Word and have no problem finding time to read it everyday. In fact, I find that not only do I want to read each day, I NEED it every day-many days more than once a day-just like I need to eat food more than once a day. (I do however eat a pre-planned natural food menu but that's only because it saves me time, money and trips to the grocery store! I hate to shop!)
If you use these programs, I'm not condemning you. It's just not for me at all.
- Because I often get stuck in passages of scripture, using a reading plan would frustrate me more than benefit me. I would want to stay put and the program would be pushing me forward.
- Because I want to hear the Spirit's voice for myself I would rather pray and discover where in the Word I'm supposed to be. I don't want to eat green beans on a day when chocolate cake is on the menu!
-Because I don't want to be lazy about my spiritual life. I want to be accountable to God not only for what and how much I read but what I do with what I read. I want to know that God is leading me to the exact passages that will develop me spiritually and move me forward and higher in Christ. A reading program would hinder that, in in my mind. (And that could be the point-it's MY mind- whose thought processes are often a topic of discussion in my household! LOL! What can I say? I'm an abstract thinker! It's the artsy-fartsy tendency.)
Truly our whole day should be the Word. If not reading it, we can listen to it, meditate on it, pray it, memorize it, and sing it thus hiding it in our hearts that we might not sin against God. The Word of God it truly amazing! So I guess the most important thing is that whatever or however you do it.....JUST DO IT!