Reading the Bible Through in One Year

Warren N. Stuber

On December 31, I completed my yearly reading through the Bible. The next day I began again for the New Year. Dr. Harry Ironside read the Bible through for each year of his life, which was more than 70 times. I am not near to a record like that, but I have read the Bible through dozens of times at tremendous profit.

It all began one December in the 1940s when our Sunday school superintendent challenged us to read the Bible through the next year. To those who did this he promised a new $1 bill. To a poor, ten-year-old boy at that time in history, a $1 bill was a mighty big item. It would buy lots of things, such as ten double-dip ice cream cones, 20 bottles of soft drink, or 200 pieces of candy.

His proposal to carry out this challenge was to read three chapters a day and five chapters on Sunday, which allowed for a few days to spare. I took up the challenge and diligently read every word even though I did not understand all of them.

At the end of the year I was one of those who completed the reading and received the new $1 bill rolled up and tied with a red ribbon. That dollar bill was the incentive.

What should my incentive to read the Bible through be now? What should your incentive be? The Bible is not just another book. It is God’s Book. It is God’s complete revelation to man. It tells us all we know about God, heaven, and hell. It tells us how to live here and how to prepare for hereafter. It is God’s love letter to man with spiritual and eternal value. Years ago when I would receive love letters from my sweetheart I would smell them, open them, and read them—completely, repeatedly, and with great anticipation. The contents were savored; my reading was concluded with great satisfaction. I could hardly wait to receive the next one. Should we not approach the reading of the Bible in a similar fashion?

As Baptists we consider the Bible to be our only rule of faith and practice, yet we give the daily newspaper a better reading. If I did not read the Bible through there are some portions of Scripture I would never read. In the process of reading the Bible through I have learned many interesting facts. (For example, Og, king of Bashan, needed a bed six feet wide and 13 1/2 feet long. Quite a large fellow, wouldn’t you say?) I read for the benefit of my own soul as well as for the benefit of others who need my help. I have found many important verses. They are marked and mentally recorded for future use. I meet them again and again as old friends. The focus of the overall picture of Scripture becomes clearer and clearer the more I read.

Phrases and words I have read elsewhere are recalled, and I begin to see how Scripture fits together (for example, Isaiah 65:17 and Revelation 21:1), how Scripture explains Scripture, and how prophecy is given and then fulfilled. Repeat phrases get my attention so I want to see what God is emphasizing. I am often delighted with the discovery of new things I did not see before, new insight into the character of the author, or new applications for truth. On a recent morning, as I walked out the door to go to work, my thoughts were dwelling on Psalm 40:17. What an encouragement! During my lifetime I have reaped huge dividends from the original, small investment.

The original plan I used to read the Bible through will work today. Reading a portion of the Old Testament in the morning and a portion of the New Testament in the evening is another way to do it. I have done my reading in various translations and in a Chronological Bible. I have read completely through the New Testament and then completely through the Old Testament. Once I moved a little slower and took two years to do it.

The plan I have come to like and use is one where readings are done from the Old Testament and the New Testament every day. This schedule is available from the BJU Press. The readings begin and end at logical thought breaks, and the Old Testament is approximately in chronological order. Many of the folks at our church use this same plan, which is collectively helpful. You may, as I did, develop your own plan, as long as the objective is reached. And you may start at any time, even now.

Bible reading is best when it is done alone, in absolute quiet, unhurried so you can absorb the spiritual blessings and plunge into the spiritual depths, and morning and evening so you can begin the day with God and end the day with God, or at least in a block of time that is set aside daily for that purpose. In order to grow we must make Bible reading a daily, yearly, lifelong practice.

Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States, said, “I am sorry for the men who do not read the Bible every day; I wonder why they deprive themselves of the strength and of the pleasure. It is one of the most singular books in the world, for every time you open it, some old text that you have read a score of times suddenly beams with a new meaning. There is no other book that I know that yields its meaning so personally, that seems to fit itself so intimately to the very spirit that is seeking its guidance.” Revelation 1:3 says: “Blessed is he that readeth.”

Read The Bible Through

I supposed I knew my Bible
Reading piece-meal, hit or miss.
Now a bit of John or Matthew,
Now a snatch of Genesis,
Certain Psalms … the twenty-third,
Twelfth of Romans, first of Proverbs,
Yes, I thought I knew the Word.

But I found a thorough reading
Was a different thing to do,
And the way was unfamiliar
When I read the Bible through.
You who treat the Crown of Writings
As you treat no other book
Just a paragraph disjointed,
Just a crude, impatient look
Try a worthier procedure,
Try a broad and steady view;
You will kneel in very rapture
When you read the Bible through .

—Amos R. Wells

At the time of original publication, Warren N. Stuber served as a deacon, Sunday school teacher, and president of the Seasoned Saints at Faith Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina.

(Originally published in FrontLine • November/December 2001. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)