Have you ever read the entire Bible, Genesis to Revelation?
If you haven’t approached the reading of all the Bible with an intentional plan and regular effort, then you probably haven’t read the whole Bible. I’ve seen some surveys in the last few years that report a little less than two-thirds of evangelical Christians have read the whole Bible at least once in their life.
For several years now I have been encouraging people to read the Bible through every year using some sort of plan for daily reading. At an average reading speed, it takes about 70 hours to read the whole bible. 70 hours works out to about 10-15 minutes per day in a year’s time. All that averages to around three or more chapters a day of reading to read the whole Bible in a year. The point here is that reading the whole Bible in a year’s time is very doable.
For the last several years I have also been surprised by the objections to the aforementioned reading. Honestly, it baffles me how anyone could be opposed to reading the Bible, but there it is. I want to deal with the most common objections I have heard, but first let’s ask: Should a Christian read the whole Bible? The Bible is typically printed in a little over one thousand pages. One thousand pages? How many one thousand page books have you ever read? I have heard that about 70% of adults in America read one book per year. If you’re only reading one book per year, I doubt it’s a thousand page tome.
Yes, Christians should read the whole Bible. No, there is not a command: Thou shalt read the whole Bible. Consider just a couple of verses about the Scripture.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
– 2 Timothy 3:16
Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
– Proverbs 30:5
If all scripture is inspired and profitable, then we should get around to reading all scripture at some point. If every word of God is pure, then we should get around to reading every word of God at some point. If God bothered to give us one thousand pages of words that are for our instruction and good, then we should bother to read them all.
Three common objections to reading the Bible in a year
Out of a sense of fairness, which comports with my mountain-bred roots, no one I’ve talked with has actually objected to reading the Bible at all, only to reading the whole Bible in a year by a plan. I’ve heard various reasons expressed variously, but I’ve collected them here into the three most common.
- I don’t have enough time. I broke it down earlier that this can be done in about 10-15 minutes per day. With the mobile devices we have today, we can always have the Bible with us making it even easier to find this time. Besides, if you seriously don’t have 10-15 minutes in a day to read the Bible, your’re seriously overbooked and cardiac arrest is in your near future. I understand that everyone is busy. I have seven children. The oldest is starting college next week and the youngest isn’t yet two-years-old. I have my own business where I regularly work 50+ hours a week, which at times can be significantly higher. I pastor a church and regularly preach three messages a week. Despite all that, I am currently reading through the Bible in a year. I could go on, but the point is that we are all busy. I don’t think I’m special or any busier than anybody else. If you seriously do not have 10-15 minutes a day to read the Bible, then your priorities are out of order.
- I think it’s better to read just a verse or two and get something out of them than to read three chapters and get nothing out of it. I question how you could read three chapters of the Bible and get nothing out of it, but I do have two main answers to this objection. First, reading and studying are not the same things. I think this objections confuses the difference between the two. I’m not suggesting that you should read the Bible in a year and not study the Bible. I am suggesting you do both. They are not the same thing. I live by the idea that you should read broadly and study deeply.
Second, does the reading of a verse or two to get something out of them result in reading the whole Bible? Using that approach, how many times have you read the whole Bible? You don’t have to answer out loud. Without an intentional plan and consistent effort over time, most of us will not read the whole Bible. I set out many times to read the whole Bible, but I never accomplished it without a reading plan and a daily commitment.
Besides these, did Paul write a whole letter and send it to a church with the intention that they would read the letter or just a sentence or two every now and then? Obviously, the letter was intended to be read start to finish. There is no other way to grasp the context and, therefore, the meaning of the letter.
- I don’t think it would be right to read the Bible out of a sense of obligation rather than desire. The objection is that reading the Bible by a plan results in you reading out of obligation to check off the day’s duty rather than reading because you want to. I’ve never experienced that myself. I’ve never experienced reading the Bible grudgingly out of obligation. I’ve found the more I read the Bible by plan daily, the more I want to do it.
Let’s assume you have a spouse and afore posited spouse has a birthday, which you must admit is extremely plausible. Let’s also assume that your recall of said annual events is not impeccable, which you must also admit is plausible. So, in order not to be the heel of the century, you mark your beloved’s birthday on a calendar so that you’re amply prepared on the appropriate day to shower your beloved with attention and jovial celebration. A wise thing to do and a free marital tip. Is it better to mark the date in advance and plan to remember the birthday, or to only celebrate that day when you happen to remember it at the right time? Did the fact that you planned beforehand to remember mean that you acted sheerly out of obligation in whatever affections you directed to your spouse on the day of?
One way to look at planned reading is obligation and another way to look at it is discipline. I have my suspicions that this is the real heart of most objections. We are not very disciplined and chafe at the thought of discipline. The Bible does teach that we are to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness (1 Timothy 4:6-8; 1 Corinthians 9:23-27). In every good thing we endeavor to do, we must wrestle against the flesh that opposes us (Romans 7:14-25; James 4:13-17). Finally, as long as we are in this flesh, we are not sanctified enough to only and always want to do good. If you’re waiting to read the Bible until you feel like it, you won’t read it much.
Benefits to reading the Bible in a year
If you read the whole Bible regularly, you will be benefited. You will grow in grace and knowledge. You will be better prepared to hear sermons well and get more out of them. You will be better able to fight and overcome sin by taking heed to the Word and hiding it in your heart (Psalm 119:11). Your mind will be renewed through the Word (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 1:17-18; Colossians 3:10, 15-16). You will be better prepared to speak a word in season to edify, encourage, and comfort the afflicted. If you think about, what could possibly be beneficial about not knowing more of the Bible?
Maybe there is another reason why we’re not reading the Bible every year
The thought of obligation, duty, and discipline is so odious to us. While I understand the substance of that objection, I ask: What is the alternative? Seriously, what is the alternative to a disciplined approach to reading the Bible. The alternative to discipline is a picture that looks alarmingly similar to the picture of the sluggard in Proverbs.
- The sluggard is indecisive and will not get started to work though he may talk about it (Proverbs 6:9; 26:14).
- The sluggard makes excuses or rationalizes his inactivity and lack of accomplishment (Proverbs 20:4; 22:13; 26:16).
- The sluggard puts responsibility off until later (Proverbs 6:10).
- The sluggard does not plan ahead and suffers for it (Proverbs 6:8).
- The sluggard has no self-discipline but must have an overseer to make him do something (Proverbs 6:7).
- The sluggard does not have a hard-work ethic (Proverbs 6:8).
- The sluggard does not have the follow-through to finish what he does start (Proverbs 12:27; 19:24; 26:15).
More could be said, but I will leave you with a serious question. Do you really have a good reason not to read the whole Bible, or is it just an excuse for laziness? Let each of us examine our own heart before the Lord.
A devotion for prayer meeting.
This devotion calls for one of those rare moments of honesty. I know that’s the last thing many expect when coming to church—someone being honest. If we are all going to be honest though, we grow dull in prayer too often. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I can speak for myself and my own experience in times of dull dryness in prayer. Sometimes I let the busyness of life push prayer from the center. Sometimes I’m tired and feel scattered and prayer is not fresh. I find in those times that prayer becomes repetitive and mechanical. I find that prayer becomes general and vague. I also find that prayer at those times becomes much more focused on me and what I need or want.
Simply put, there are times we need a reboot in our prayer life. We need a refreshing and refocusing in prayer. To help us in that, I want to look at some specific prayers from the Bible. This will not include everything we are commanded to pray for in the Bible, but some key things that will help us to refocus. In order to recover fresh zeal in prayer, we often need to come back to specific prayer needs in our own life and for others around us.
Pray for the salvation of the lost
It’s good to begin outside of ourselves and consider the needs of others. Paul gave us a good example of praying for the salvation of the lost.
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
– Romans 10:1
He testified that he had “great heaviness and continual sorrow” for his “kinsmen according to the flesh.” i.e. Israel (Romans 9:2-3). He had a great desire and prayed for his fellow Jews that they might be saved. Likewise, we have family who are lost. We have neighbors who are lost. We have co-workers who are lost. Let us repent of our indifference and pray to God that they might be saved.
We do not only pray for salvation, but we also give witness of the Gospel to those we pray for. In that regard, we should also be praying for the free course of the Gospel among those we pray for.
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
– 2 Thessalonians 3:1
We should be praying for appropriate boldness in our witness.
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that i may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
– Ephesians 6:18-19
We need the boldness that the Word deserves when it is proclaimed. It may sound contradictory, but we also need to pray for meekness and humility in our witness. We need to speak the truth in love and not become angry or shout at others when we face opposition (1 Peter 2:21-23).
We should also be praying for other churches and missionaries in their work of evangelizing. We should not only be concerned about ourselves or our church, but we should have a burden for our fellow laborers and pray for them and rejoice with them when the Lord blesses them.
Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; That I may be delivered form them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints;
– Romans 15:30-31
We should not be all wrapped up in what we are doing. We should remember others and their labor for the Lord.
Pray for ourselves and our brothers and sisters
As we pray for our own needs, we must also remember our brothers and sisters who have the same needs in several areas. We should be praying for an increased knowledge of God and his will.
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
– Colossians 1:9
We should pray for the flourishing of hope in our lives.
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
– Ephesians 1:18
We should pray for unfailing faith and help for our unbelief (Mark 9:24).
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
– Luke 22:32
We should pray for strength to stand.
Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
– Colossians 1:11
We should pray for fruitfulness in our lives. Fruitfulness glorifies God and should be our desire (John 15:8, 16).
That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
– Colossians 1:10
Lastly, we should pray for deliverance from temptation.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
– Matthew 6:13
We are daily engaged in a great warfare against our flesh, sin, and the devil. We must never take it lightly, but pray continually to be delivered (Matthew 26:41).
Every preacher worth his salt, and probably many who aren’t, get asked questions frequently. One common question is in the form: Is it wrong to do X? People are not usually asking this in contemplation of murdering their neighbor or stealing his car. They ask, Is it wrong to play the lottery? Is it wrong to watch that movie? Is it wrong to listen to this music?
The questions are seldom of some theological import or about some passage they have been wrestling with to understand. They are usually not all that serious. The older I get, the more I esteem the wisdom of George Washington. He was not highly educated and had a keen sense of it. However, he was continually sought after for advice. Though he wrote some seventeen thousand letters in his lifetime, he seldom gave advice. He said that he had come to see that those who most sought advice least wanted it. Insightful.
I have found that many who ask the is-it-wrong questions are those who are going to do or continue to do what they’re doing regardless of anything you might have to say or show them from God’s Word. They just want a quick justification or affirmation. At best, they wait for your mouth to stop moving so they can say, “Yeah, but…”
A Better Question
Perhaps there is a better approach when dealing with more difficult questions. There is something to be said about circumstances. There is something to be said about strong and weak consciences. There is certainly something to be said about moderation, but maybe we should consider something else first.
One of the results of maturing in Christ is growing in discernment between things that are good and things that are evil (Hebrews 5:13-14). If you want to ask if something is wrong to do, let me first ask you some questions about your growth in wisdom.
- How committed are you to the regular reading and studying of God’s Word (Psalm 1:2; 119:9; Acts 17:11)?
- Are you in a sound church under the sound preaching and teaching of God’s Word (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22; Hebrews 10:25)?
- Are you praying regularly for wisdom and seeking it tenaciously (James 1:5; Proverbs 2:1-5)?
- Do you have wise, godly companions who edify and encourage you in a good way (Hebrews 10:25; Proverbs 13:20)?
- Do you receive correction and instruction when it is given (Proverbs 1:5; 9:9)?
If you answer, No, to any of those questions, then asking if it’s wrong to wear a certain article of clothing or go to some event is the wrong question. You’re starting at the wrong place. If you’re not using any of the means of growing in wisdom that God has instructed and provided for us, then you’re probably not going to receive good counsel when it is given. You’re also ill-equipped to discern between good and bad counsel.
A better question to ask in this regard is the question of expediency. Paul wrote, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” (1 Corinthians 10:23). Expedient means helpful or beneficial. He wrote this in the context of eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. As he reasons through it, you can see it’s more complicated than yes or no. If you are interested in this verse in more depth, you can go to a past article I wrote about it here.
Rather than asking if something is wrong, you should ask if it’s expedient. Is it helpful, beneficial? How is doing this going to affect my closeness to God? There are things that stir our thoughts and affections for God and there are things that stunt them or kill them cold. How something affects you is a question that others can’t really answer for you, unless you’re walking with wise friends who know you and see you over time. Then they can help, but they still don’t know fully what is going on within.
Solomon taught that the relentless pursuit of entertainment is folly (Ecclesiastes 7:2-6). Everything in life doesn’t have to be a sermon to be beneficial but you do have to have wisdom to have the good kind of enjoyment of the things of earth (Ecclesiastes 2:24; 3:12-13, 22; 5:18-20; 8:15; 9:7; Proverbs 5:15-19).