I wonder how much your read the Bible, how well you know it?
Not as much or as well as you would like? Well, me neither.
It begs the question, ‘how many of the challenges that we face in theological study – the things that shock us or shake our faith, the seemingly persuasive criticisms of biblical authority that we encounter in biblical scholarship – are as difficult to deal with as they are because we simply don’t know what the Bible says well enough?’
I came across an article by Ron Frost in the Theology Network archives recently (included here as a PDF to download) that challenged me to think about my own knowledge of the Bible and how much (or little) I read of it.
Frost opens with a story that I will quote at length:
‘Sam, a retired missionary, was planting a church on the coast of British Columbia north of Vancouver, and two of us on a summer mission were helping with the building construction. We ate breakfast with Sam each morning in his beachside cottage before starting work. On each occasion we managed to trigger a delightful discourse of biblical truth. As often as not he’d start with quotes from Genesis and end up in Revelation after touching down four or five times in between.
Sam’s Bible knowledge amazed me. His Scripture awareness had penetrated all aspects of his life, not in a rote fashion, but in a way that seemed accessible and practical. I asked how he gained it and he laughed.
“I just read my Bible.”
“How much reading? How do you approach it?”
“I try to get through it at least two or three times a year.”
I almost dropped my coffee. He had been reading at that pace for most of his Christian life, about fifty years!
The challenge captured me. Within two months I finished my first Bible read-through and I was left in awe of God’s greatness, holiness, and redemptive love. I discovered the vast and penetrating strength of his personality as a compelling ribbon tightly wound through every book of the two testaments. It was the beginning of my pursuit of God, a pursuit that makes what he has to say to us the first priority. And I’ve never turned back!
Some years later I discovered that such intensive Bible reading would work as strongly with others as it had with me. John was my Army roommate. He was a believer but lacked any muscle in his faith. One morning, before I went on duty, he complained that he was being badgered for his faith while I was somehow exempt.
“Johnny,” I remember steaming, “it’s because you don’t stand for anything! You say you believe in God, but you never spend any time with him.”
I asked him why he scarcely read his Bible. In fact, had he ever read the Bible through?
When I came back for lunch at noon, he was finishing Genesis; by that evening he had almost made it through Exodus. Soon he was carrying his Bible to work. At breaks he would read segments to his amazed military police friends. He finished reading the whole Bible by the end of the second month.
John not only gained new credibility with his friends – and ended the badgering – but also helped to stimulate the young adults fellowship at the church we attended. He went on to Bible college after the Army. At the end of our two years in the service we talked about our shared Bible reading. Through it, he said, “I fell in love with God.”’
Don’t you find that inspiring? I certainly do!
It makes me wonder what difference reading regularly through the whole Bible, at pace, would make to my theology, to my ability to deal well with challenges when they come. What difference would it make to my personal witness to my friends and neighbours, to my faithfulness in living in every area of my life for Christ?
That’s why I’m going to make this the year that I read all the way through the Bible, hopefully several times.
It’s ambitious, but I’m excited to see where it takes me.
How it works:
As Frost describes it, ‘The purpose is to read the Bible for flow in the same way we might read any good book: whenever the time offers itself. That way we look at a free evening or Saturday morning as a ‘chance’ to read, not as a duty. It quickly becomes a new appetite if we give the Spirit some room to work.’
The main element is having a goal – that is a date at which to aim to complete it by. Something like four months from starting. It’s not about calculating how many chapters a day you need to read, but about having something stretching as an incentive to give as much of your free time to it as you can.
It is also immeasurably helpful to do this with someone else. Have a time each week to meet. Underline verses that stand out throughout the week and then spend 10 minutes each reading them to each other. It doesn’t matter if your goals for completion are different and that you’re reading from different parts of the Bible.
Frost says this, ‘we read at a personal pace, so we rarely share verses from the same Bible sections. This has never been a problem. In fact, it’s useful because it gives a double exposure to every section of the Bible.’
Won’t you join me in making this the year that you really get to know the Bible?
Get a friend and do this together with them. Set your goals, when you’re going to meet, and then read.