I Read The Bible In 20 Days. This Is What I Learned.
Over the past 20 days, I have read through the Bible, cover to cover. I read through the English Standard Version, and utilized both audio Bibles, electronic Bibles, and hard copies of the Bible in order to accomplish this feat. It took me 15 days to read through the Old Testament, and 5 days to read through the New Testament.
The rules were simple. First, I was to read the Bible cover to cover as quickly as possible, without ignoring other things that were going on in life. Second, I could not skim the Bible. I had to read it. Every. Single. Word. I started by making a chart (found here), according to which I could have read through the Bible in 40 days, with 7 grace days. My goal was to beat the time on this chart, but I figured that, even if I didn't, 40 days wouldn't have been bad timing.
My method was simple: instead of picking up the phone to get on Facebook or some other website, pick up the Bible and read. I had a daily goal that I wanted to accomplish, and I did accomplish it for most of the 20 days. After coming through this experience, I wanted to share with you some of the things that I have learned:
1. You Have More Time Than You Realize
The biggest excuse that I hear for someone not reading their Bible is that they do not have enough time. This entire experiment has proven this to be a myth. I will fully admit that I have a job that permits me to read while I am at work. That is, unless I am addressing a situation with an employee or am writing an Incident Report. However, I did about as much reading at home as I did at work, so this means that I am not the only person who is capable of reading through the Bible like this. In fact, some basic calculations yield the following:
- The Bible takes approximately 75 hours to read, cover to cover (unless you're Catholic)
- If you dedicate approximately 30 minutes per day to Scripture, you will read through the Bible twice in one year, and part of a third time.
- If you dedicate approximately 12-15 minutes per day to reading Scripture, you will read the entire Bible cover to cover in one year.
When we make these observations, it seems easy to say that everyone should have time to read the Bible at least once per year, right? Apparently not. According to Lifeway Research, only about 20% of Americans have read the Bible at least once. Approximately 53% of those polled have read less than half of the Bible. and another 15% has read at least half of it, but not enough to claim that they have read "almost all of it." In short, we have a bunch of people who have access to the Bible, but do not read it. Of these, approximately 42% said that they have not read the Bible because they either do not have enough time or do not prioritize it. In my view, these two are the same, the latter is just being more honest. The truth is that we prioritize what we consider important. The idea that we do not have enough time to read the Bible is simply hogwash.
There is another set of statistics that I think are applicable here. Let's talk about how much time we spend "distracting" ourselves each day. By this, I mean how much time we spend on mobile internet or playing games each day. While sources vary on the exact numbers, the numbers are still high. The average American spends somewhere between 3 and 4 hours each day on his or her smart phone playing games and accessing mobile internet. If you spend more than 30 minutes each day playing games on your phone, you have no reason not to read through the Bible at least twice each year. Just make it a priority.
My rant is almost over, but I hope you get the point. You do have time to read the Bible. Simply make it a priority. Set aside a time to read it, and you will be amazed at how much you are able to read. My experience over the past 20 days proves that the excuse "I don't have enough time," is a myth.
2. Goals Matter
I mentioned earlier that I set a long-term goal of reading through the Bible in 40 days, and a short-term goal each day in the hopes of beating that 40 day mark. I have found this was incredibly helpful. Just like a person who is trying to lose weight sets a goal, so it is also wise for us to set a goal as we read through the Bible. There were several days where I found it more difficult to read through Scripture. Having a daily goal, I could always tell myself, "I just have to make it to the end of [insert book here], and then I can go (cut the grass, take a nap, etc)." Setting these goals and holding my feet to the fire really helped me along the way. I would not have been able to finish as quickly as I did without setting these daily goals. Here are some general principles I followed:
- On days when I had more time, I tried to read more than one day's assignment (according to the 40-day chart). In this way, I would get ahead, just in case something slowed me down and caused me to fall behind.
- When I knew the next day would be full, I tried to read extra the day before, to give me a head start on the next day's reading. For example, on the first day, my goal was to read Genesis. Knowing that I had stuff to do the next day, I read a few chapters into Exodus, as well. The next day, I finished Exodus more easily because of the extra "boost" I gained from the previous day. In this way, my goals for the next day were accomplished.
- I kept my goals realistic. Let's be honest, it would be difficult to read the entire Torah in a single day, even though the books of Moses belong together. It was more realistic to divide these books over a five day period.
I would advise setting Bible reading goals for everyone who seeks to read the Bible. A goal gives you a direction and allows you to keep track of where you are and where you should be. So, set a goal. Decide how long you want to spend reading through the Bible. Figure out how much time you need to spend reading each day in order to accomplish that goal. Determine not to give up on your goal. Think ahead and hold your feet to the fire.
3. Audio Bibles Are Your Friend
Although I made it my goal to read through every word of Scripture, this was sometimes difficult. I get distracted easily, and this, of course, negatively affects my ability to focus on what I am doing. This is where a good audio Bible comes in. There were two audio Bibles that helped me. The first I paid for, but could take with me wherever I went. It was the Hendrickson ESV IBible. The second was free, but was only available when I had an internet connection. This was the ESV audio Bible provided by Bible Gateway. I benefited from these in the following ways:
- The audio Bible helped keep me on track whenever I was getting distracted.
- The audio Bible helped me avoid getting bogged down on difficult to pronounce words.
- The audio Bible helped immerse me in Scripture so that I was able to retain more than I would if I were merely reading.
- It encouraged me to know that others love Scripture so much that they spend their lives simply reading it (for example, Max McLean).
Using an audio Bible is optional as you read through Scripture, of course. However, it has been my experience that audio Bibles provide more benefit than anything else. Plus, it is a great thing to have as you are walking, jogging, or exercising. If you would like help finding a good audio Bible, leave a comment below.
4. Let Others Encourage You
I have to admit that I did not accomplish this on my own. Others helped me during this time. Over the past 20 days:
- My mom and I have, at times, taken time to simply read Scripture to each other. I would read a couple of chapters out loud, and then she would read a couple of chapters out loud. This would be repeated until a significant amount of Scripture was read.
- I confided in a small group of individuals who encouraged me to continue reading and meeting my goals.
- I remembered those that had accomplished similar feats, and let their examples inspire me to continue.
Honestly, I would not have made it as quickly as I did unless there were individuals helping me. If you want to stay consistent in your reading, surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed in this. You should surround yourself with others who are:
- Love the Bible
- Know you well
- Legitimately care for you and legitimately want to see you succeed
If you can find individuals at church or in your family who meet these criteria, let them know to hold you accountable and to encourage you as you pursue this goal.
5. Study As You Read
It is important to understand what you are reading, not simply to let your eyes skim over it. You will have to study the Bible as you read it in order to make sure that you understand what you are reading. You can do the following to help you:
- Write down questions and notes as you read.
- Underline and highlight items that stick out to you.
- Look for themes.
- Leave time for meditation.
Do not be afraid to mark in your Bible as you read. The goal is not to keep the Bible perfectly clean, but to absorb the words and apply them to your life. If you have a question, write it down. If you make an interesting observation, write it down. If you are confused about something, write it down. Then, when you find time, look for answers to your questions and the items that you are confused about. In addition, underlining and highlighting in the Bible will help you find those things that stuck out to you when you read it in the future.
As you read your Bible, look for themes. There are some topics that appear over and over throughout Scripture, and if you find them, make a note of them. See how each book relates to other books. Look for themes that appear in multiple books. You can also learn much about God by watching the way He speaks to His people. When God speaks, pay careful attention!
Finally, Bible study does not end when you shut the Bible. Take time to think about what you have read throughout the day. Let it bounce around in your mind. Think deeply about how you can apply the words of Scripture to your own life. Ultimately, this should be your goal.
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