Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Getting into the Word in the New Year: A How-To

 By: Rebekah Hargraves



Photo Courtesy of: Nathan Dumlao



"But his delight is in the law of the Lord,

And in His law he meditates day and night."

~Psalm 1:2


If I were to conduct a survey of believers, asking them what their New Year’s resolutions are, I have no doubt that there would be one main resolution they would all have in common – “be in the Word more”. It’s a good resolution, a most important and worthwhile goal. But how exactly do we make it happen? How do we take the steps necessary to ensure that our desire to be in the Word on a daily basis goes far beyond just being a nice idea on paper, to actually being a part of our everyday lives?

Well, for many (myself, included in the past!) this looks like beginning the new year finding and embarking on the implementation of a new Bible reading plan. For years, I purposed to read through the whole Bible in a year, most recently settling on a chronological Bible reading plan the past two years so that I would truly grasp how God’s story played out in its historical context.

But can I tell you something perhaps a bit shocking? I’m not doing that this year. I have no plan to read through the Bible cover to cover this year; I will not be following a Bible reading plan crafted and produced by someone else. Rather, in 2024, I am doing something new – something that I have felt called to for quite some time, but just never actually heeded the Holy Spirit’s conviction to really do.

Until now.

In 2024, I will be taking my message of the importance of walking by the Spirit in your everyday life and applying it directly to the area of my daily Bible reading. The how and why are what will follow in a moment, but first, a few words in favor of Bible reading plans, just so that you won’t think I am inherently against them across the board! 😉

 

BIBLE READING PLANS CAN BE GREAT IF YOU…

  • Struggle to make Bible reading a daily habit.

If you are someone who needs a clear, planned-out, measurable goal to inspire you to actually make something happen, a daily Bible reading schedule may, in fact, be very helpful for you as you seek to make it a habit to be in the Word everyday. Something to “check off”, something on your daily “to-do” list in regards to the Bible can be helpful (though it can also be one of the problems with Bible reading plans, but more on that later!). If that is the case, perhaps consider following a Bible reading plan in 2024 as you begin to make Bible study a part of your daily routine.

  • Don’t understand the big picture of the Bible or how the story of redemption plays out.

If you are not well-versed in Scripture, feel as if your understanding of the big picture metanarrative of the Bible is not very deep, or find that there are whole chunks of Scripture you have never read before, a Bible reading plan may still be for you.

  • Are a brand new believer.

If you’re brand new in your faith and are just now beginning to read and study the Bible, a Bible reading plan may also still be a great idea for you, as well! Following a Bible reading plan can quickly deepen your understanding of the big picture teachings of the Bible, help you to incorporate Bible time into your daily rhythm, and increase your hunger for the Word all at the same time.

 

If, however, none of those factors apply to you, it could be that your experience is much like mine, and you are not being well served by Bible reading plans any longer. For some time now, I have seen the downsides of following a yearly Bible reading plan, but just had not heeded the Holy Spirit’s clear direction in my life to do something else. Now, however, I’m listening, I’m heeding, and I believe I am already reaping the benefits.

 

THE REAL DOWNSIDE TO BIBLE READING PLANS

  • They can inhibit how deeply you are actually able to study any given text.

As I said above, if you do not grasp the big-picture story of the Bible, a Bible reading plan that will cause you to read the entire Bible in the span of a year can be very helpful.

If, however, you have a fairly good grasp on the metanarrative of Scripture already and now want to do a deep-dive study of the Word, a year-long Bible reading plan likely is not for you.

In my experience, your average read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan will have you reading 3-4 chapters of the Bible a day. The problem here is that, in the midst of our busy lives, this often results in a speed-read of that day’s passages in order to “get it done”. But this rushing through the Word leaves no time for Greek or Hebrew word study, a peek at Bible dictionaries or concordances, or journaling what you are learning.

Truly, if you are wanting to actually study – not just read! – the Bible, and go beyond a surface-level understanding of it, Bible reading plans may just not be for you anymore.

Which brings me to my next point…

 

  • They can turn Bible reading into just something else to check off the to-do list.

The second problem I have had arise from my own attempts at following specific Bible reading plans in the past is that my time in the Word quickly changes from being a special, meaningful, Spirit-led time to being something I just do in order to get it checked off the list for that day.

But this is never what God intended Bible reading to be. He wants so much more for us than our viewing time in the Word as merely something to do so that we can get on with the rest of the day and say we fit it in.

With that in mind, Bible reading plans aren’t always the best option.

 

  • They can turn Bible reading into a drudgery.

For me, before long, when something is done day in and day out according to my “to-do list”, it can soon become very rote. This is not at all what we want our Bible reading time to be. Granted, there will be times (whether you follow a Bible reading plan or not!) when you won’t really feel like being in the Word, and you will just have to choose to be in the Word anyway because you know it’s good for you.

But I’m not talking about that.

I’m talking about when Bible reading feels very dry, boring, and like an act of drudgery simply by nature of the face that you find yourself always having to repeat the daily practice of reading at least 3 chapters in order to “keep on track” with the plan. Again, this is not what God had in mind for us when He gave us the gift of His Word. This brings me to my fourth and final point,

  • They can potentially inhibit your making walking by the Spirit a daily practice in your life.

The final problem that came to mind as I began noticing the issues I was having with attempting to follow Bible reading plans was that in order to follow one of the plans, you have to follow a schedule that a fellow human being came up with as to what chapters you should read on January 1, January 2, and so on. I don’t want to do that anymore.

Instead, I want to be open to the Holy Spirit’s leading in my daily time in the Word. This is not to say that God is not sovereign and cannot work in and through whatever you might read on any given day if you’re following a specific plan. It also isn’t to say that you should open your Bible up willy-nilly and read whatever your eye falls upon – you need to be reading in context! But it is to say that I want the daily practice of walking by the Spirit – which, truly, is the key to living the victorious Christian life! – become so natural and important a part of my daily life that I even apply it to my Bible reading time.

This means that I want to be in prayer as to what I am going to read and study next in the Word, rather than just reading whatever some plan tells me to. I want to see the Holy Spirit at work in amazing ways as He leads me to read precisely that which I will need to have in my mind in order to journey through all of my life’s current happenings.


WHAT I’M DOING THIS YEAR

So, what does this look like for me this year?

Well, first, this looks like not having a set goal as to how much I read on any given day. Because that is not the point. It doesn’t matter whether I am reading four verses or four chapters – what matters is that I am reading, deeply studying, and growing in my understanding and application of the Word in my life. 

This means, then, that I will be remaining in step with the Holy Spirit, following Him and His guidance each day as I approach the Word. I will implement tools such as Blue Letter Bible (in order to understand the Greek and Hebrew) and Bible Study Tools (for things like Bible dictionaries and concordances) anytime something in particular from a verse I am reading catches my attention or is something I would like to learn more about.

Because of this, some days I might be able to get through an entire chapter or two of the Word, whereas, on other days, (if there is just so much to dive into and study further!), I may only get to  two or three verses. And that is totally ok! This isn’t a race; it is a relationship. 

 

IN CONCLUSION

I want to make it clear again, as we close, that this article is not meant as a diatribe against all Bible reading plans everywhere. Far from it! As I pointed out at the beginning, Bible reading plans can be great and may still be the right choice for some, depending on where you are in your walk with the Lord and what He is calling you, personally, to do.

But, for others, like me, Bible reading plans just aren’t cutting it, and it is time for a change. Whether you are in the first camp or the second, my prayer is that you will go before the Lord and seek His guidance and direction for how you ought to live out your own Bible study life. It’s not important which option you implement – what is important is that you implement the one the Lord wants you to and that you spend regular time in that Word of God that He promises will not “return void, but will accomplish what [He] please[s]” (Isaiah 55:11).


Reflection Questions:

1) What is the Lord leading you to do in your Bible reading time this year?

2) What have you done in the past? Did it work, or is the Spirit leading you to change things up?



2 comments:

  1. Over the decades I've greatly appreciated the Bible study guides of Beth Moore, Jen Wilkin, NavPress, and more. They help me see things I otherwise would have missed. I've also participated in self-guided studies using generic questions that can be applied to any passage. I heartily agree with you, Rebekah: "What matters is that I am reading, deeply studying, and growing in my understanding and application of the Word in my life."

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  2. I do better with a reading plan. Mostly because I’m a check list driven person and being able to see that helps me so much. But also because if I don’t have a plan, I feel like I might miss a book or chapter and I definitely want to read the Bible in its entirety. But I also have to be careful to not let my plan be just a check list thing!

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