For the past thirteen months, I’ve been reading through the entire Bible, cover to cover. This morning, I finished! It’s been a thrilling, challenging, amazing adventure that has forever changed my relationship with God. In this post, I’m sharing about what God has taught me on this journey.
If you read the Bible, you will know God more. Period. The Bible is the word of God, and when you want to know someone, you let them talk to you. You listen. You make time to communicate. That’s what the Bible is. It’s listening to God speak to you.
It’s honestly difficult to describe how much better I’ve gotten to know God through this experience. I’ve never understood His bigness, His essence, what it means that He is God, this clearly. I’ve never seen Jesus this fully. I’ve never experienced Holy Spirit this closely. And the cool thing is, the more you get to know Him, the more there is to know.
I heard a pastor this fall put it this way (paraphrased): So many of us want to see God and hear His voice. Reading the Bible is how to do that. We don’t realize that we have what we so desperately want, sitting right there on our bookshelf.
Reading the Bible requires discipline, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no magical formula, at least not that I’ve found, to make yourself excited to read genealogies at six in the morning. I’ll be the first to tell you there were days I snoozed the alarm and squeezed in my Bible time later in the day, or forsook it altogether. I won’t pretend that I’ve jumped for joy opening my Bible every morning, craving the message of Obadiah. Some days, I’ve only read the day’s passage out of habit and my motivation to finish this goal. Other days, I haven’t read it at all.
Reading the Bible is deepening your relationship with God, and relationships aren’t always rainbows and cupcakes. Relationships require work. It’s not wrong to not feel like reading the Bible. The proper response to God’s word is certainly awe, but this response takes practice and time to occur naturally.
The best way to get a good attitude about reading the Bible is to read the Bible. If you make it a habit to explore God’s word, you realize how amazing it is. Over time, that cultivates a deeper sort of excitement: one that lasts.
I feel like people talk smack about reading the Bible as a habit, but I’d like to counter that. When you make reading the Bible a habit, you’re telling God: what You have to say is more important than what I’m feeling in the moment. What You have to say is so important that I’m regularly carving out time to listen to You. I want to make Your word part of the fabric of my life. I want to put in the work to hear You and see You. I want to need Your word every day. Doesn’t that sound a little more like awe than hoping for fireworks every time we turn the page? Don’t despise the discipline; glory can be found in the hard work, too.
Start with what’s clear, then move on to what’s not. The last book in the Bible is Revelation, arguably the least clear book in the entire thing. But through this lens of focusing on what I understand, I was able to find some pretty cool, fairly obvious truths: God will be worshiped eternally. He is victorious and will reign forever. All that stuff about the dragon (y’all, there is a dragon in the Bible!) is certainly important—after all, it’s in the Bible—but it’s not clear yet. I can trust God to help me understand what He wants me to know when He wants me to know it. God is endlessly revealing His mystery, and it’s easy to get bogged down in what we don’t comprehend. Instead, I’ve started to come back to the essentials again and again: God loves me. Jesus died for me. Holy Spirit lives inside me. The details are important, but they aren’t worth forgetting the core of God’s word.
The Old Testament gets a bad rap. I went into it expecting to find God harsh, even mean, because Jesus hasn’t arrived on the scene yet. What I found instead?
A consistently sinful people, loved by a consistently faithful God.
The Old Testament chronicles the failures of God’s people. Time after time, they fall short of holiness and righteousness. They worship idols a lot. They stubbornly ignore prophets. Their family drama showcases hatred, bitterness, and jealousy.
Isn’t it amazing that God’s response is never permanent abandonment? How good must God be to still want these people? He disciplines them so they will turn to Him. He’s not being mean; He’s being loving. He chooses people who choose everything but Him. His voice, through the prophets, tells of His hope for the future: “They will be My people, and I will be their God” (Jeremiah 32:38). He longs for a right relationship with His people, even when they don’t want it back.
The story of modern Christians is so evident throughout the Old Testament. We are still a consistently sinful people, loved by a consistently faithful God. God isn’t different in the Old Testament, because He never changes. The story changes, though, when you get to the Jesus part. And man, I am so much more grateful for the Gospel now.
When you read the Bible, celebrate little victories. The Bible is a big book. Maybe you’re inspired to read it cover to cover now. Maybe every January 1 you start a “Bible in a year” reading plan and give up by February. You look at that big book, and it seems daunting. Impossible.
But I’m a big believer in little victories. I didn’t finish the Bible by waiting for a year to celebrate God’s work in me. I rejoiced when I finished a book, or a week. Honestly, I wish I had celebrated even smaller wins. I wish that I had finished every day of reading not just thankful for God’s word, but also thankful for what He had done to bring me to the point of waking up and reading Obadiah.
Every time you read a Bible verse, that’s evidence of God’s faithfulness to you. Don’t forget to thank Him for that. Not in a “thank You for helping me find the earring I lost” way, though I don’t want to discredit that kind of gratitude. Thank Him for orchestrating your life so that you can read an easily accessible Bible. Thank Him for calling you to know Him more fully. Thank Him for stirring your heart to read His word. Thank Him for propelling you through whatever you read and speaking to you the whole time.
Don’t the little victories seem like kind of a big deal now?
One last thing: The Bible is seriously so amazing, but it’s not God. It’s His word, alive and powerful and true. It’s one of His avenues for helping His people get to know Him. He reveals His mystery through those pages, and that’s so cool. But the word of God is only powerful because He is powerful. It’s only good because He is good. And even this holy, sacred book of His word to humankind—it pales in comparison to the Author.