2 Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
Every Christian should read the Bible in its entirety. I truly believe this. But if you are anything like me (and a good portion of believers I know), every new year you start in Genesis and somewhere around March or Deuteronomy (whichever comes first) you start lagging in your daily routine and pretty soon you get sick of playing catch-up.
Well, friends, the good news is that you're not alone.
I've tried everything.
A chapter in the New testament, two in the old, a Psalm and a Proverb. Check. No.
From Genesis to Revelation in order. Check. No.
A Proverb a Day and whichever book I fancy. Check. This feels like it's getting nowhere.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Well, my friend. after ten years in the faith, a Bible College Certificate, and a life-time of being a Pastor's Kid but still never having gotten through the entire Bible myself, I finally got fed up.
No more, I told myself. This is way overdue.
So what happened? You may ask. Did you finally muster up the will power to get through the entire Bible in a Year?
See, the issue with trying to get through the Bible in a Year is that unless you are gifted with an impeccable record of follow-through (not me), trying to read the same amount of chapters per day for a year without fail often seems so overwhelming!
See, we look at the Bible as a single book, but in truth, it is made up of a collection of books, and most believers through out scripture were not blessed with al 66 books at one time!
In fact, Old Testament believers like David, only had the Law. Reading each book by itself is already an amazing accomplishment, and there is so much depth to the history and the language in the smallest sections of each!
So, what is the best way to read the Bible?
I came to the Lord with this question, except, I worded it in the following way:
"Father, how do you want me to read the Bible?"
His answer came almost immediately as a stirring in my heart.
"Small books first."
And then it hit me: of course! God didn't use cookie-cutters to create us, so why should I try to conform my way of Bible reading and study to fit what everyone else is doing?
The best way to read the Bible is whatever way best suits you and helps you to grow in the Lord!
And so I set out to find out the order of the books of the Bible from shortest to longest... which, of course, just means I googled it.
Here's the list I found:
Song of Solomon
My first instinct was, "well, if I'm not reading in order, how will I know what's been going on?"
It wasn't long after I posed this question that I came across The Bible Project channel on YouTube:
The Bible Project gives significant insight into the Bible, and the creators behind it have gone out of their way to make videos that cover all sorts of questions, topics, and yes, even the context of each book of the Bible. By reading from smallest books to the largest and watching the corresponding video, I never felt I was missing out on information.
Here's what I did:
I started reading the Bible from the smallest book (based off the least amount of chapters) - 3 John.
I looked up the video synopsis of the book.
I took as long or as little time as I needed to get through each one.
I created a system to keep track of my bible reading.
Now, I know this may not work for everyone, but it's what worked for me,, and if it can help you, by all means, try it!
Here's what I found:
By starting with the smallest books of the Bible, I felt a larger sense of accomplishment early on as I was establishing my new Bible-reading routine. Why? Because I was flying through the first books on my list!
It was awesome!
As someone who loses patience when she doesn't see immediate results, the fact that I was reading three full books of the Bible on my first day was a HUGE boost.
In short: I felt accomplished!
The second thing I found is that by the time I got to books that took me more than one day to read, I was already immersed in a routine that was difficult to break and I was truly enjoying myself.
Third, since I began the reading of each book with a video synopsis, I was understanding way more than I used to!
I am a visual person, so watching each video caused me to retain information that (as I went through each book,) would be brought back to my memory.
It's important to note, that even if you don't watch the videos, it's just as easy to get the background of each book by purchasing a study Bible that prefaces each book with a history lesson, or synopsis, or by looking up the information yourself. What worked best for me was the videos.
Lastly, perhaps the best thing about reading the Bible in this way, is that no mater how long I fell off the wagon (whether days or weeks), it was easy to get right back on because of how I was keeping track.
Whether you like to plan or wing it, it is imperative that you find a way to keep track of where you're at.
1. If you wing it:
At the very least, you'll need the list of the books of the Bible from smallest to largest saved somewhere you can easily access it. Whether you print it out and stick it in your Bible, or you copy and paste it to a note on your phone, be sure to have the list at the ready.
2. If you don't mind going a little further:
With visual-learning in mind, I brought together my bu-jo (bullet journal) and incorporated my Bible reading plan into it. Now, you can use a regular journal, but if you're interested in getting a bullet journal yourself, here's the link for the one I got.
For those DIY people out there, here's what I did by hand:
For every book of the Bible, I made a small graph. Each square representing each chapter in the book. As I read each chapter, I cross off a square.
Visually, this helped keep me motivated because I could clearly keep track of my progress.
In addition to the graphs, I created a master list of the books of the Bible (you can have them in order from smallest to largest here if you wish) and colored a heart each time I got through with one of them.
You may notice the majority of the books colored in are the Minor Prophets and the Letters to the Churches, as these are the smallest books of the Bible.
Another way of accomplishing the same goal is by saving yourself some time and spending a few dollars to buy the same system online that you can print yourself:
Here's a digital example I found (you can purchase it by clicking on this link):
Like I said before, God didn't make us with cookie cutters. You don't need to follow my way or anyone else's, the most important thing here is that you're reading the Bible!
Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
If you've tried every other way but have never tried small books first, it's worth a shot! You may notice that in the pictures I provided, not all hearts are filled in. That's because I'm still working on it! It hasn't taken me a year, it's taken longer, but guess what? That's okay. I'm going by my pace and the Lord is revealing Himself to me in a Mighty Way every time I open up scripture with the intent to Be Still in His presence.
"Holy Father, we come before you today knowing that we cannot do anything of our own accord. We can't read scripture without you, and we certainly can't understand except by your divine revelation and the teaching of your Holy Spirit. We come before you today in humility and ask that You would reveal Yourself in a mighty way in our lives. Direct our paths, Lord, and teach us the ways in which You want us to get to know Your Word. In Jesus' name, amen."