Have you ever planned a trip through unfamiliar territory, taking a route you’ve never truly explored before? Maybe you flew over the area a couple of times and were captivated by the rugged landscape as you peered from high above. You might have even driven through at midnight, when you were tired and groggy. You didn’t linger, but the streets and the lights and the stores intrigued you enough to make you want to travel that way again. This time; however, you have chosen this path. This time you’re traveling with the intent to prowl every street, soak in all the scenery, search out the history and savor the fare along the way.
Nearly fifteen years ago, I embarked on a journey to a somewhat unfamiliar territory. God kindled in me the longing to make the trip. He provided a plan, the fuel, a simple map to guide the way and allowed me to take along some traveling companions. This was no ordinary excursion and no ordinary destination. This trek would lead us closer to Jesus.
Around early 2002 (I didn’t log the exact date), I began reading through the Bible with my children. I had previously stepped in and out of Scripture, but never searched it entirely. I started this trip feeling a bit weak and ill-equipped, but with an eager desire to follow Jesus wherever He might lead. The road was bumpy at first and my preschool-aged traveling companions were lively, and sometimes lost. In no time; however, we were mesmerized, tugging on each other and pointing, impatient to share the details we were noticing for the first time. God guided our steps and we were changed as we explored each page. We’ve traveled this way again and again, each time seeing new wonders along the path and growing more focused on the final destination. (You can read more about our beginnings here, and in greater detail in Together: Growing Appetites for God.)
At this time of year, most followers of Jesus are probably taking some time to evaluate their spiritual journey. In that examining process, we almost always target the discipline of reading of the Bible. (I’ve been thinking about my own habits lately.) Perhaps you have started down the road of Scripture reading before and found the travel so difficult that you put on the breaks or even turned back. After reading the Bible with my children for nearly fifteen years, I have discovered a number of ideas and practices that have helped me along the way. Here are a few that I hope will help as you chart your course through the Word.
1.) Jesus is the way.
Let me just remind you (and myself) that Jesus has made the way. He did it all. He came to us. He lived the life we couldn’t live. He died the death that we deserved. He conquered death, making the way for our future with Him. If you have placed your faith in Jesus, you are right with God. Your Bible reading does not earn you extra favor. The goal of reading the Bible is to get to know God, to develop a relationship with Jesus, to walk in step with the Spirit. You are already deeply loved. The Maker of heaven and earth is on your side. And He wants to draw you near by revealing Himself to you as you make your way through His Word.
2.) Jesus is the destination.
My goal in studying the Word is to become more like Christ. My goal is not to check off my daily Bible reading plan. I admire those who have consistently, daily, lingered in the Word for the past twenty, maybe even thirty, years. But my admiration likely comes, not from the fact that they are so disciplined in this journey, but from the fact that they are more like Jesus. They have gone back again and again to their target. They have drawn near to the destination. And when you encounter these people, you know where they’ve been.
3.) Pray before you embark.
We often pray before we take a trip. As we pull away, we ask God to be with us, sustain us, and protect us. Ask God to walk with you as you journey through His Word. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. If you need fuel, ask Him. If you need a plan, a map, ask Him. I have often asked God to help us understand and remember what we are taking in each day. I ask Him to draw near to us and teach us and change us into the image of Christ. Pray before you step out, and continue to make your plea along the way.
4.) This is not a race.
I admire those who can read the Bible in a year. I’ve even had friends who made a trip through Scripture in 40 days. Wow! But if you’ve never read all of the Bible, perhaps you should think about taking a different approach. Think of it this way. If you’ve never left your hometown, a trip around the world might be a little ambitious. Make a plan, an itinerary, that’s appropriate for you. You may need to walk slowly. You may even need to camp out in one spot for a while. Remember, you’re trying to explore, learn and understand your destination. Your getting to know God. You’re seeking to become more like Christ. And like your favorite places, you keep going back again and again, discovering something new every time.
5.) It’s ok to take a friend.
I know we like to think of ourselves as independent, roving, free-spirited adventurers. But sometimes a journey can be even better when you bring along a friend. One person often notices details that the other one misses. You can keep each other awake and alert. When the road gets bumpy, you can help each other navigate. And when you reach a breath-taking view, it’s always that much better when you can share it with a friend. Whether you read with your friend or spouse, or you guide your children through the Word, going through the Bible with another person can help keep you accountable, fuel your desire and establish the habit. You can always return down this road by yourself later. But don’t ever hesitate to take a friend.
Whenever we take a trip as a family, it’s almost inevitable that we will wake up earlier than usual. We’re excited. There’s an eager anticipation in the air. We can’t wait to load up and go. It may be difficult for you to think of Bible reading as an exciting adventure when you never leave your living room chair or your kitchen table. But it’s in that spot that God will draw you near, speak to you and use His Word to make you more like Christ. And becoming more like Jesus is the ultimate adventure. Ask God to place an eagerness deep within you. Grab your map, get fueled up and start your journey.