In Sunday school, I learned that it was important to read the Bible, but the question I always had was, how do you do it?
As I mentioned in my testimony, our church has a tradition of giving Bibles to 3rd graders. I wouldn’t have minded an instruction pamphlet when I got mine. Although I loved to read, my earliest attempts to read the Bible were not successful.
The first time, I tried to read the whole thing, but I gave up part way through Leviticus. Next, I tried opening random pages to see if I could learn anything. Neither of those worked, one, because I gave up, and two, because I didn’t have context.
But through mess ups and times when reading the Bible felt like a chore, I learned to love it. I’m not a scholar nor an expert, but I am a church kid who is learning how to treasure the Word.
Here are four questions I had when I started reading, and answers I wish I had known when I was handed my first Bible at nine years old.
Why is it important to read the Bible?
“Man does not live on bread alone.”
These are the words of Jesus in Luke 4, when He is being tempted by the devil. Whenever Jesus responds to temptation, He says, “It is written.”
(Click on the link to read the passage and see the footnotes for the verses He quoted.)
Jesus knew that what Paul would later write in 2 Timothy 3:16 was true: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (NIV) He used the Scripture to rebuke the devil, and he fled from Him.
Psalm 119:9-11 says it this way:
“How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to Your Word.
I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from Your commands.
I have hidden Your Word in my heart
that I might not sin against You.” (NIV)
God’s Word has many uses. It’s for teaching us, rebuking evil, correcting ourselves or others in a loving way, and a guide for training in righteousness. We read God’s Word to know God’s will.
Where should I start?
There is no right or wrong place to start when reading the Bible. But since I remember wondering the same thing, here is a suggestion.
Start by reading the Gospels, the four books at the beginning of the New Testament. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are four accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Mark is the shortest, so if you want to see the fast paced version, start with Mark. If you would like to dig into how Jesus lived and what He taught, read John.
After the Gospels, you can continue your reading with Acts. Acts tells how the apostles spread the gospel and founded the early church. This book also introduces Paul, who was the writer of many Epistles.
The Epistles, which come after Acts, start with Romans and end with Jude. They are letters to those early churches and they are full of instruction and reminders. I read through the Epistles when I started my first Bible reading plan.
(Pssst, confused about the setup of the Bible? I wrote about that here.)
If you try to open your Bible in the center, you will find yourself in the book of Psalms. Psalms is a collection of poems and songs. Many say it’s one of the most relatable books in the Bible. It’s full of honest prayers about pain, and beautiful songs of joy. I always find something which I can relate to when I read the Psalms.
Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are two books after Psalms. These talk about what it means to live wisely and how to do that. Phrases you may have heard before, such as, “Pride comes before a fall,” or “There’s nothing new under the sun,” come from Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
I’m in the middle of reading these books right now. Since Proverbs has 31 chapters, you can read a chapter every day in a month that has 31 days, like July or August.
These are suggestions on what to read, but they are not rules. Feel free to read a different order than I suggested. You can start anywhere you like, it’s all God’s Word and it’s all valuable.
Do I have to read it on my own?
Not at all! You could read the Bible together as a family, with a group of people at church, or with a good friend. I’ve gone to many Bible studies and what I love about them is that you get a chance to learn from other’s perspectives. Seek out Bible study groups or ask a friend if they would like to read with you. The YouVersion Bible app has a feature for group studies if you’d like to check that out.
I’m really busy, so I don’t have time to read the Bible. What should I do?
We all have the same amount of time in our day, and most of us are in control of how we spend it. We make choices of what to do in our days based on what we want. Therefore, no one can say that they don’t have enough time, they can only say that they don’t manage it well.
Time management is crucial. The things we spend time on and the people we spend time with are the things that matter the most to us. This is why it’s important to pick a certain time everyday to read the Bible.
The time of day you pick is based on your schedule. During the school year, I woke up at 6:00 to read the Bible. Now that it’s summer and I don’t want to wake up that early, I read before going to sleep. Mornings or nights are convenient times because they usually don’t conflict with plans. Any time will work, as long as you do it, but pick a time that you know you will be alert but not active.
There will be days when you don’t feel like reading the Bible. You’re too tired, it doesn’t make sense, or it takes too long. Read it anyway. The goal of reading every day is to establish a habit, not to become perfect.
Hebrews 4:12 says “For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (NIV)
Reading the Bible helps us change our hearts to align with God. When we read daily, we’re not checking off a box on the to-do list, we’re being faithful.
We read God’s Word to know God’s will. There’s no right or wrong place to start, as long as you stay faithful and read the Bible. As yourself this, what can I change in my life to spend more time with God?