Reading the Bible for Our Joy

Literacy means competence or knowledge in a specific area. Therefore, Bible literacy is competence or knowledge of the Bible. Simple enough. However, studies show that most Americans who own Bibles don’t actually read them. If you’ve picked up this book, there are a couple of things I can assume: 1) You love God and love His Word, or 2) you want to grow in your love of God and love for His Word. You desire to become Bible-literate. 

That’s likely an oversimplification of who you are. You might also be someone who feels guilty because you’ve tried to read the Bible but can’t seem to make it a daily part of your life, so you need some help. Or maybe you have never read the Bible at all and wanted to take on a yearlong challenge—make a New Year’s resolution. 

I believe you and I fall into both of my simplified categories. You and I likely love God and love His Word and we desire to grow in the love of God and His Word. 

Anytime we set out to do something big—like read the Bible in a year it’s easy to start a journey with doubts. We’ve failed before we even begin. 

That’s why before I get into the nitty-gritty of how to read through the Bible, I want to ease any of your doubts. None of us have arrived. We all find ourselves struggling from time to time to read the Bible and interpret it correctly. There will be many of you who begin reading and then have to coach yourself to keep going. You’ll start and stop and start again. And here’s the good news: that’s okay. Not only is it okay, but it’s also great. The goal of this book isn’t to win some race or prize; we don’t earn more favor before the Lord. My goal is to help you get in the Word, stay in the Word, and gain biblical literacy.

As we seek to delight in God, it’s important to clarify that our reading time is not about earning His approval or favor. Trying to do so leads to the pitfall of legalism in our worship: pursuing good works to earn God’s favor. An example of legalism is reading Scripture so that God will love you and be pleased with you and ensure your standing with Him would be secure. When we work hard to earn God’s favor, we are not operating with faith. Instead, we are saying that we must add to the finished work of Jesus on the cross; that His work wasn’t enough, and therefore we must work to make Him happy by, in this case, spending time delighting in His Word.

One of God’s sweetest gifts, besides Himself, is His Word. Scripture is God-breathed. Both the Old and New Testaments are His words that reveal Him to us (2 Peter 1:21). The Scriptures are useful, binding, relevant, and true (2 Tim. 3:16–17). The law is perfect and revives the soul (Ps. 19:7). The Lord uses His Word to bring people to Himself (Rom. 10:17). God has been gracious to give you and me access to know many things about Him: His creation, His desires for us, and, most important, His Son. Are we reading and treasuring this precious gift?

I have had seasons of Spirit-filled, worshipful, and consistent times in the Word and seasons when reading has felt like a duty rather than a joy and delight. I’ve had seasons when I’ve gotten up at five in the morning to read, study, and pray. And I have had seasons when I was happy just to get in the shower and feed the kids. So, we can all acknowledge that there are times in life when reading the Bible is tough even though we long to. 

I have some good news and maybe some bad news: we aren’t necessarily after spiritual highs every time we engage God’s Word. If you approach the Word with the mindset that if you don’t feel something, then you aren’t getting anything from it, you won’t read it. Once you change the focus from yourself to God, it’s not only proper but it’s also freeing. You will need to remind yourself of this truth when we get into the depths of Leviticus or begin reading all of the names in 1 Chronicles. We find joy in Scripture, not because it makes us feel good but because it leads us to the One who spoke it into existence.

In my new book, 52 Weeks in the Word, I have developed a plan that will help you get started. Over the next 52 weeks (doesn’t 52 weeks sound easier than 365 days?), you’ll have: 

  1. Daily Scripture readings 
  2. Daily reflection questions (the same ones to make it easier to keep going!) 
  3. Prayer prompts and space for writing your own prayer 
  4. A weekly reflection on a portion of text from the assigned reading (These will vary because the goal is Bible reading, and this is a supplement, not a substitute.) 
  5. A day of rest on the last day of the week 

The 52 weeks are designed to be read sequentially; however, if you miss a week, simply start where you last stopped. In other words, it’s a 52-week read-through of the Bible that you can adapt to your needs.

This reading plan is meant to take you from Genesis to Revelation in a few chapters each day for 365 days. There are no rules for how you read it or what time of day you read it. Some of you may choose to listen to your Bible on your daily walk. Others may wake up at five o’clock in the morning and read before the sun comes up. Still others of you may read daily before you go to bed. It’s up to you. No rules.

52 Weeks in the Word is not a book about prayer. But if we desire a relationship with the Lord, we should speak to Him through prayer. And if we desire wisdom, we should ask ( James 1:5). We should ask the Lord to illuminate His Word to us. We will surely need God’s help to read, understand, and apply His Word. Let’s ask Him for it and start reading!

Excerpted from 52 Weeks in the Word: A Companion for Reading Through the Bible in a Year by Trillia Newbell. (©2022) Published by Moody Publishers. Used with permission.

Trillia Newbell
Trillia Newbell

Trillia Newbell is the director of community outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention.