What If You’re Falling Behind In Your Bible Reading Plan?

By this time, many who have ambitiously started the year out on a One-Year-Bible Reading Plan are quickly discovering that it is easy to fall behind.

Reading Bible - Bigstock Images

The thought of reading through the Bible in its entirety over course of just one year can be daunting. It’s basically like reading a series of 66 books in a year (Regardless of the length of the books, that’s quite an accomplishment!).

Some books of the Bible are shorter than others while some are longer, but the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament form the greatest series of books ever written.

Yet, as the length and breadth of the Bible meets the stuff of everyday life, it will take more than the initial inertia of a New Years Resolution to stay on track.

So, what should you do when you find yourself falling behind?

Remember Why You’re Reading Through The Bible

The Bible is unlike any other book you will read this year because it’s a living book.

Martin Luther wrote, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.”

“The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:12-13).

The Bible’s message transcends time because its origin is Divine. Written by approximately 40 different authors over the span of 1500 years, it is completely unified in its central story line because it is the Inspired Word of God. Ultimately, GOD is the Author.

If you want to know God’s will, it’s found in God’s Word. If you want to know the way to salvation, the pathway is illuminated by God’s Word.

All of Scripture points us to the Savior, Jesus Christ:

• The OT shows us the need for Christ and foretells and foreshadows the coming of Christ
• The GOSPELS tell of his birth and his life, death, and resurrection
• The ACTS of the Apostles tell of all he continued to do after his ascension, through sending the Holy Spirit
• The EPISTLES display his glory and teach us how to live in light of the glory of Christ.
• REVELATION shows him as the Risen Lamb who reigns supreme as sovereign over all and who will return for his own

The Bible is so infinitely valuable because it leads its readers and its hearers to Jesus! Scripture is totally sufficient to provide us with all we need for salvation and for trusting and obeying God.

Take these encouragements from Psalm 19 to inspire you in your Bible reading:

• Do you need your soul revived? – “the law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul”
• Do you want wisdom? “the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple”
• Do you long for joy? “the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart”
• Do you desire discernment? “the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes”
• Do you want to be rich in your soul? “[the Word of God] is more to be desired than gold, even much fine gold?”
• Do you crave pleasure? “sweeter [are they] than honey and drippings of the honeycomb”
• Do you seek safety? “by them is your servant warned; in keeping them is great reward”

Remember why you’re reading through the Bible. It’s not meant to be a chore; it’s meant to lead you to everlasting joy in Jesus!

Take a Long-Term Approach

Whether you decide to read the Bible in a year or you adopt a more extended plan for Bible reading (e.g. my wife and my son are on a 2-year plan), you will be much more encouraged in this pursuit if you think long-term.

Reading through the Bible is more of a marathon than a sprint.

If you go into the year thinking that the only way to accomplish this goal is by having 365 days of perfectly-ordered mornings where you carve out 15-30 minutes of reading and meditation each day, you will probably be disappointed. Life has a way of throwing us off-track on even the best of our intentions.

Many people give up on their Bible reading plans simply because they missed several days of reading by the time they hit January 15th. Discouraged by what they sense is a complete lack of discipline, they abandon the plan all-together and wait to try again another calendar year.

If you’re behind in your Bible reading, don’t give up on your plan just yet. The accomplishment of any goal is not pretty.

I would like to say that all my Bible reading has taken place on normal days, in the early mornings, in my home, with a cup of coffee in my hand… but if I review the last 20 years, I know that this is simply not the case.

I’ve read large chunks of the Bible on family vacations each year and large chunks over the weekends. I’ve read the Bible in doctors offices on my iPhone, in my car as I wait to meet a friend for lunch, and standing in line at a coffee shop. I’ve listened to Scripture on long runs and even as I brush my teeth in the morning.

This leads me to my final point:

Have A Plan for When You Fall Behind

This past year, I ran my first marathon, and it taught me a lot about life. As I’ve reflected on my marathon training, I see a lot of parallels to the way I’ve approached the Scriptures these past 20 years of following Christ.

For the marathon, I had a detailed training plan and I had specific times set for my training runs, but I often had to reschedule them. And though I maintained every long run but one (due to injury), I did miss several short work outs and many of the long runs were completed creatively. I had to work through a very full calendar, a heavy workload, family commitments, and even injury in order to achieve the goal.

My marathon training reminds me a lot of how I’ve read the Bible over the years. If you fall behind, don’t worry and don’t be discouraged, you can miss a few workouts and still achieve the goal.

Instead of getting discouraged when you fall behind, I would encourage you to plan for it. There will more than likely be times when you are sick or you sleep in and you’re swamped with urgent deadlines.

Rather than giving up on your plan, think through the cracks and crevices of your life when you have the opportunity for a lengthier time to read. In those moments, you can get back on track.

Maybe it’s a Sunday afternoon, a weekday lunch, or a family vacation, but the beauty of taking a long-term approach is that you will be afforded time to catch up and to complete your goal.

And what could be more valuable than having God’s eternal Word stored up in your heart and soul?

“This Book [is] the most valuable thing this world affords…‘God’s sacred Word… is that inestimable treasure that excels all the riches of the earth.” (The preface to the ESV Bible)

May God fill you with His Spirit, wisdom, and grace as you persevere in reading and enjoying His Word!

“Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

If you are interested in the Bible Reading Plan I enjoy the most, you can find it here.

Related Article: What’s So Special About the Bible, and Why Should We Read It Regularly?

How to Find More Time to Read

iStock_000028155448Time to Read

Sometimes I’m envious of my kids and how much time they have to read.

Yesterday, my wife took our children to the Library, a weekly ritual of hers, and they returned with a huge stack of books. Each one immediately set off to a quiet place to read and devour what he/she had received. They were occupied for hours, and I know it won’t be long before they all make their way through every bit of their reading material and will be begging for another Library trip.

It’s a lot harder for me to find time to read. In fact, in this season of life, I have to fight hard for it. I agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones sentiment, as John Piper describes it, that “the fight to find time to read is a fight for one’s life.” Piper states,

“I, for one, am not a self-replenishing spring. My bucket leaks, even when it is not pouring. My spirit does not revive on the run. Without time of unhurried reading and reflection, beyond the press of sermon preparation, my soul shrinks, and the specter of ministerial death rises. Few things frighten me more than the beginnings of barrenness that come from frenzied activity with little spiritual food and meditation.” John Piper, Brothers We Are Not Professionals, page 66.

Here Are Some Ways I Am Fighting To Find Time To Read:

    1. Plan Time To Read. You would think that if you value something so much, that you wouldn’t have to be disciplined about it. But that’s not the case for me. With the regular demands of family life, work, and church-related responsibilities, reading time does not come naturally. I have to literally plan time to read. I have found that I do my best reading and thinking in the morning hours between 5-8am, before the rest of the family is fully active. I have some very good friends who think better at night, and they use their late-night hours to read. The important thing for me has been to find a time that works best for me, and to establish a rhythm and routine of reading.

    2. Take a 20/20/20 Approach. If I wait for large-chunks of time to appear before I crack open a book, I may be waiting for a long time. However, even in the busiest of seasons, I find that I can usually carve out 3 separate 20-minute time-slots to read each day, for a total of an hour a day. I do this by reading for 20-minutes in the mornings before going to work. I can then utilize my commute (20 minutes round-trip) to listen to an audio book or sermon series. Finally, in the evening, I can read for 20 minutes before going to bed. Evening reading is the hardest for me because I tend to fall asleep, so I prefer more time in the morning.

    3. Cultivate a Love for Reading in the Home. If everyone is occupied with a book, it’s so much easier for me to be occupied with a book. Some of my favorite times are when the entire family is curled up on the couch reading separately. (This should get easier as the kids get older). My wife and I try to cultivate a love for reading in the home, first by example and then by regular trips to the Library or Bookstore, by discussing what we have read at the dinner table, and by reading together in the evenings.

    4. Utilize Weekends and Vacations To Read. Weekends and vacations provide a wonderful time for us to rest through reading. Here you have large chunks of time that the hustle of regular weekdays does not provide. It’s fun for us to think ahead and plan for what books we want to enjoy or tackle over a vacation. God has met me in profound ways through reading as a means of grace in these times of extended reflection.

    5. Be Creative and Enjoy It. I have a friend who listens to audio books while he travels. Because he has a good bit of travel time for his work, he said he is able to listen to a book a week, on average. That’s 52 books a year consumed during travel time that could otherwise be easily wasted! Taking this approach, I recently set up a speaker system in my bathroom to enable me to listen to audio books while getting ready for work in the morning. Using my iPhone, I can continue listening to the same material while I commute and when I exercise. I’ve found that doing this often affords me the opportunity to consume an extra hour a day of reading material, while making other mundane activities more enjoyable.

    6. Give Up Something Else. Finding more time to read may mean that we have to sacrifice something. It may mean that we turn the TV off by 9 or 10pm. It may mean that we limit our time online. Personally, I didn’t join FaceBook until 2011 and only joined Twitter in 2013. I enjoy them both. I’m also amazed at how much time those two sites can suck from you, if you are not careful. I can no longer use the excuse that I don’t have 20 minutes to read, because I know for certain that FaceBook and Twitter take at least 20 minutes of my day, each day.

Again, it is a fight to find time to read. And it’s a fight that’s certainly worth our attention and effort!

How do you find time in your busy schedule to read?