Did you include reading through the Bible as a resolution this year? Frankly, I prefer the word “intention” to resolution because I know how quickly my resolve melts away. I usually manage to hang on to an intention or two, unless it happens to have something to do with a Yearly Bible Reading Plan. If confession is good for the soul, I’m about to claim some of that goodness. I’m the biggest slacker and washout when it comes to Yearly Bible Reading Plans. Up until now, I have started and stopped these many times. You know how some people can tick off the different diets they’ve been on? That’s me, only with all the different reading plans I’ve tried. Up until now.
That’s right! I am on track to finish my first ever Yearly Bible Reading Plan. It has taken me longer than a year. It has taken me longer than two years. (I’m hopeful it won’t take me three! Please feel free to ask next time you see me.) I can hardly believe it myself and I plan to have a party when I finish.
What made the difference this time? Homer and The Iliad. Yes, a blind poet and his epic poem have taught me, by the grace of God, some important lessons.
The book is long. One of the scariest things about reading the Bible cover-to-cover is the sheer size of it. Oh sure we can dip into a chapter here and a Psalm there, but the whole thing? Guess what? The Iliad is pretty long as well. But when I was assigned to lead a group of teachers through it, I had no choice but to dive in. The good news is that I finished. You can read a long book the same way you can do any hard task: one step, or page, at a time.
The book was written in another language. True, but like the Bible, The Iliad has commentaries. There’s no reason to be intimidated by the content when there are readily available tools to help you along the way. On my Iliad shelf I have a children’s version, several translations, a series of reflections by a gifted teacher, a line-by-line commentary, and a study guide where I can record my own thoughts. Hmm….sounds familiar doesn’t it?
The book requires attention and focus. Sure Homer knows how to sling an epic simile or two (hundred) and he can describe gory battle scenes like nobody’s business, but it’s still a slog sometimes. Let’s be honest. Scripture can feel the same way. But that’s not the Bible’s fault! Rather it’s a challenge to me to find a way to actively involve myself in my reading. The easiest way, for me, is to ask questions while I read: What does this mean? Who is saying this? What’s going on? Where are they? How is this like the last chapter? What was the cause of this? What is the result of this? What do others have to say about this? When I read closely and actively, the words become precious treasures. I can’t wait to see what the Lord will reveal through his “word that is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.” (Hebrews 4:12)
The book doesn’t have to be a solitary pursuit. If it weren’t for my study group, this would have felt insurmountable. But instead, we cheered each other on, shared insights, told of how the book changed our teaching, and provided each other the accountability we all needed to finish the task. Might I suggest that whichever Yearly Bible Reading Plan you choose, that you find a way to involve someone else? My friend Amy and her husband read from the same plan and shared the daily devotions with each other. My friend Lynne posts her updates online so we can rejoice in her progress. My particular plan features a guide written by my friend and former pastor. I can post a quick Facebook message on his wall and he’s very encouraging (and never reminds me how long I’m taking!). The idea is that the Lord has placed you in a family called The Church. Let your sisters and brothers in Christ help you! “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
As much as finishing The Iliad felt like a huge accomplishment, it will not compare to the joy that is waiting for me when I reach Revelation 22:21. And then I plan to start all over again!
About the Author:
Renee Mathis attends Christ Church PCA in Katy, Texas. She serves on the women’s ministry team, as a regional advisor for the PCA women’s ministry, and an advisory board member for Covenant College. When she’s not enjoying her 5 children and 7 grandchildren, she teaches English, reads books, and drinks coffee.