Most Christians are aware of the importance of personal reading of God’s word. After all, the Bible is the only final and absolute authority for our faith and practice, since it is the very revelation of God himself. Here is where we go to truly know who God is and how life is to be lived. How wise is the person who is committed to a diligent input of Scripture, and how great are the derived benefits.
But just how should our daily Bible reading be done? Are there any guidelines for making the best use of our time and gaining the most from our reading of God’s word? Here, then, are five guidelines that have helped me much over many years of reading Scripture. May God grant you wisdom as you approach a new year, and may your time in God’s word bear much fruit.
1. Commit yourself to consistent Bible reading.
Since the word of God written (Scripture) is the main instrument God has provided his people to know his character, to know his plans and purposes, to know his work in creation and redemption, to know ourselves, and to know how we are to live before him and others, it only stands to reason that we need regular time in God’s word for that word to impact our lives.
Consistency, rather than haphazardness, should mark our reading of God’s word. Of course, we all know that emergencies arise and life’s messes interrupt. But it is one thing to have a few pauses in an otherwise consistent Bible reading plan, and another simply to read only when it is convenient to do so. Because it is hard to exaggerate the importance of God’s word to the formation of our minds, hearts and lives (2 Timothy 3:16–17), and because that word will only have its greatest potential impact as we read it regularly, please consider making consistency a mark of your Bible reading this year.
2. Engage in both fast-paced and slow-paced reading.
I’m convinced that every Christian would benefit much more from their reading of God’s word if they would train themselves in two different forms of reading the Bible. Fast-paced reading is necessary if we are to cover the whole of the Scriptures at some kind of regular interval. It doesn’t have to be a “read the Bible in a year” program, necessarily, but I would hope each of us would commit to reading every single book and chapter of the Bible at least every two or three years. Even at that pace, it requires that we keep moving and not get too bogged down. You might consider listening to the Bible read to you.
Slow-paced reading, on the other hand, is necessary if we are to soak in and glory in the beauty and texture of so many passages of Scripture. If you only read, say, the book of Isaiah in a fast-paced manner, how much time will you devote to thinking about the substance of Isaiah 40, for example? About three minutes total, maybe in a year, or two, or three. But Isaiah 40 is rich with glorious teaching about God—about his work in creation and providence and redemption—and rich with implications for the ways we should live our lives.