Lord willing, we will be entering a new year in just a few days, something I know many of us are looking forward to. At this point, it goes without saying that 2020 was a difficult and strenuous year. As painful as it was, however, there is still some good it might teach us.
David writes in the Psalms, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes” (119:71). In this grand poem on the wonders of God’s Word, Israel’s king reflects on the suffering he experienced in his life and recognizes how it moved him closer to the Lord’s instruction. In the latter stages of 2020, we have a similar opportunity: to become more dependent upon the nourishment in the Scriptures.
In doing so, we are moved to find our refuge in Christ, who, in order that he might pay the penalty for sin that we deserved, took on our likeness and shared in our suffering. Indeed, though he lived the perfect life we could not, Jesus experienced the same hardships we do: temptation, hunger, grief, and weariness. Yet in these moments of suffering, he always placed his trust and dependence in God’s Word. After fasting in the wilderness for forty days, he responded to the tempter’s challenge to turn a stone to bread with Scripture: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:4; cf. Deut. 8:3).
Jesus understood—and so should we—that it is God’s Word that gives life, sustains, and nourishes. Christians cannot neglect our daily bread. It is the means by which we know and hear from our Creator who made us for communion with him (cf. Heb. 1:1-2). We cannot persevere through the trials of life without the spiritual nourishment he has given us. When we go to the Lord in prayer and in opening our Bibles, we are acknowledging our dependence on him and trusting in him to supply our needs.
Committing to reading through the Bible this next year, therefore, gives us tools to make a habit of daily leaning on his grace and mercy. By holding to a systematic approach of going through the Word, we train ourselves—with the Lord’s help—to depend daily on the instruction he has given us. It helps us to make it part of our routine such that we cannot get through the day without taking in the Scriptures any more than we can without our morning cup of coffee. Even on the days we are tired and don’t “feel” like diving into our reading, we still receive God’s grace to us as his Spirit forms us into disciples that are ever dependent on him.
Just as 2020 has taught us that we are wholly dependent on God, it has also taught us that many of the things we might be tempted to idolize—politics, material well being, bodily health, and even individual liberties—are fleeting and temporal. They may provide momentary happiness, but, as James tells us, “…you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (Jas. 4:14). This revelation should teach us, as Pastor Raymond has shown in our recent studies of Mark, to cling to what is eternal: God’s Word.
We are often like the Samaritan woman at the well searching for worldly water when living water is right in front of us (John 4:10); still other times we are like the crowds asking for manna when we are offered the Bread of Life (6:48). In Scripture we find God’s words of eternal life, the rock solid truths that never waver when the rest of life does. With this understanding, committing to a Bible reading plan in 2021 not only helps us to express our dependence on God for our daily bread, it also molds us into people who find our hope in what is eternal.
What Bible reading plan should I choose?
Of course, committing to a Bible reading plan takes time and effort. It may seem like an incredibly daunting task for some, and those of us (such as myself) who have tried and failed in the past to stick to a plan for the entire year may feel so hopeless that we decide not to try. There may even be others of us who are way behind the course they started in January of this year. But take heart! There is no award for people who can complete their plans the fastest. The purpose of reading plans is not to speed through the Bible, but to encourage daily devotion and to make a habit of taking in God’s Word each day.
Another way we can receive encouragement and motivation is to go through a Bible reading plan with a friend or family member. It can be a good way to fellowship with other members of our congregation, disciple younger believers, and even evangelize to unsaved loved ones. Our understanding of God’s Word and our desire to read the Bible can be sharpened when done in community, so finding a friend to do it with can be very beneficial.
So without further ado, here are some Bible Reading plans we recommend for 2021:
● The Robert Murray M’Cheyne Plan: This is the classic plan that takes readers through the Old Testament once and New Testament and Psalms twice within the span of a year. This can easily be broken up into two years, if necessary.
● The Three Year Plan: A slower alternative to the one year plan.
● The One-Year Chronological Plan: Read through the Bible cover to cover.
● The Five-Days-a-Week Plan: Read through the Bible in a year with weekends to catch up on days you missed. For a greater variety of plans, feel free to check out Ligonier’s resources here.