It took me three years to read through the whole Bible for the first time, but I finished. (Just call me a tortoise.) a few years later, I read it in seven months. I wasn’t trying to read it that fast, it just happened. Over the years, I’ve read the whole Bible many times. Only once have I purposed to do it in a year, but have used several one-year Bible reading plans. I’ve used multiple versions of the Bible and a truckload of colored pens, pencils, and highlighters.
In my commitment to continue to read through God’s Word, I’ve borrowed and developed various Bible reading methods and tips. Some worked well and others . . . flopped. In this article, I’ll share my greatest successes and biggest flops along with the single best advice I’ve discovered for faithfully reading and enjoying the Bible.
The Best of the Best: My Top-Recommended Bible Reading Plan
Most people wait to share their top recommendations until the end of an article, but not me. The absolute best Bible reading plan is the plan that enables you to read the whole Bible.
Here’s how to find the guaranteed most successful reading plan: don’t look for the perfect plan. Set the right goal, instead.
The first time I read through the whole Bible, I didn’t begin on January 1. I wasn’t trying to join the “I’ve read the whole Bible” club or seeking to become a more godly Christian. I had only one goal: to know the God of the Bible—to know Him as well as I humanly could.
I was desperate to know God, and I felt like I’d tried everything except reading the whole Bible. So I started in Genesis and read straight through to the last verse of Revelation. It took me three years to reach the end, but only a couple months for God’s Word to change me forever.
All I had was the text, the study notes at the bottom of each page, and a passion to know God through His Word. And I succeeded. Or should I say, God succeeded. In answer to my prayers and perseverance to read every day, His Spirit opened my eyes to understanding.
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jer. 29:13)
The Truths in the Bible awakened in me an undying passion to continually seek to know Him more. I came to realize an important Truth: we’ll never truly know and love the God of the Word apart from the Word of God.
Bible reading plans are great, but they don’t create the passion or conviction in us to read. The goal to know the God of the Word through the Word of God drives us to our Bibles every day. This goal still drives me.
At the end of this article, along with my greatest advice on Bible reading, I’ll share my current favorite Bible reading plan. But first, allow me to share my failures.
The Worst of the Worst: My Top-Flopped Bible Reading Plan
Before my three-year journey through the Bible, I never used a Bible reading plan. I preferred to enjoy my freedom in Christ. To let God or someone else lead me in what to read each day.
No one ever told me to read the whole Bible. (Apparently not even God, or so I thought.) Instead, I parked in parts of the Bible and ignored the rest until such time as I thought God would inspire me to read more.
My Bible reading habits confirmed the truth of a wise old saying: Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.
After twenty-five years of no reading plan and no success in reading through the Bible, I feel qualified to offer my expert opinion: the least recommended Bible Reading plan is no plan at all.
Side note: If God were truly leading my Bible reading all those years, I would’ve finished the Bible numerous times. He didn’t write the whole Bible so that we’d live in only pieces and parts of it. Every word matters.
My Top Three Favorite Bible Reading Plans
1. A Bookmark with the Books of the Bible
I created a large bookmark on which I’d printed the name of every book of the Bible. After I finished reading a book, I simply checked it off on my bookmark and then started reading another book. I jumped around the Bible, reading whole books at a time until I’d read it all. The bookmark helped me keep track of what I’d already read.
2. A New Bible and Colored Fine Point Pens
A new Bible thrills my heart. All those crips pages waiting for me to mark up the margins with notes using my favorite .7mm pens. (A fine point allows me to write detailed notes clearly in a small amount of space. I prefer blue and red ink because they stand out from the black font.) Once every book in my Bible is marked with notes and underlines, I know I’ve read it all. I hope to one day have enough note-filled Bibles to pass one on to each of my children and grandchildren.
3. The Five-Day Bible Reading Plan
The first time I used a “read through the Bible in a year” plan, I put too much pressure on myself to conquer the Bible by December 31. This goal drew my eyes off the better goal: to know God. I vowed never again to let the date I finished the Bible matter more than the Truths found within.
The brilliance in this particular Five-Day Bible Reading Plan is its reading order. It uses a beautifully coordinated and chronological order—as chronological as possible and reasonable. And like most plans, it includes chapters in both the Old and the New Testament.
On the day I read about Joseph coming out of the dungeon and being exalted in power by Pharaoh in Genesis 41, I read about Jesus rising from the grave in Mark 16. What a stunning juxtaposition!
Another benefit of this plan is that it leads readers through the whole Bible in only five days each week. This gives us days to catch up if needed or to study other books of the Bible.
My Greatest Bible Reading Advice
Years ago, I was talking with my wise mentor about the need for more Bible teachers in the church we attended. When considering one possible teacher, she said, “She’s not ready yet. She’s more concerned with mastering the Bible than letting the Bible master her. God will get her there in time.”
That message sank deep into my heart.
“Lord,” I prayed, “am I more interested in mastering Your Word than letting it master me? Do I read the Bible for information more than transformation? Oh, Father, may my focus always be not on conquering the Bible, but on letting the Bible conquer me.”
So I leave you with this vital piece of advice as I encourage you to read through the entire Bible for the rest of your life:
Don’t set a goal to conquer the Bible. Let the Bible conquer you.
And never, never give up.