Still thinking about resolving to read the Bible more in 2016? Wondering if the benefits will outweigh the time and energy required to squeeze it into your busy schedule? A while ago, we asked Brian Hardin, the man behind the Daily Audio Bible reading experience, to talk about why he thought Bible reading is so important. His essay is reprinted below.
The previous year had started like the rest: work hard and then work hard to get more hard work. I’d tossed a New Year’s prayer earnestly enough to God, the one about wanting to get closer to him and read the Bible more, but I had all but forgotten it by the second week of January.
By the end of the year I found myself sitting alone on my couch, devastated. The kingdom of work I’d built had crumbled before my eyes in a matter of months, and now I was in a crisis of faith. I vividly remember the prayer I prayed then. It wasn’t a sinner’s prayer, and it wasn’t eloquent.
“Jesus, I’m done with the crap. I’m finished. If you want me to go to Des Moines and make hamburgers for a living, I’ll pack up our stuff tomorrow and leave. I’m fine with that,” I prayed. “I’m going to believe that you’re nearby and that you can seize me before I hit the bottom. If you don’t, I’m dead. I believe my heart will die, and I fear it will be the last time I care about anything.”
God showed up for me that night, and began to whisper truth into my life. And then one night I received a bona fide directive from the Lord, an instruction to do something I would never, ever have done on my own: “I want you to podcast the Bible.”
Earlier that year I had started to read the Bible every day. My friend Brad and I were traveling so much for work that I had gotten into the habit of reading it aloud to him in the car. I wasn’t reading the Bible to gain deep insights into the mystical regions of the soul or to solve theological quandaries. I was just reading it for what it said, and often it said something that got stuck in a corner of my mind and loitered there for days. Stuff like, “The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life” (Galatians 6:7–8 MSG). This was my life right there on the page, echoing prophetically over a couple millennia. It not only contextualized what I’d been experiencing; it gave me a north star and a measure of hope that I couldn’t rationalize but I couldn’t deny either.
So I obeyed God’s direction and began to read a portion of the Bible every day. When I completed my first full revolution through the Bible, I recall looking in the mirror and realizing that I didn’t see anything the same. I had been unwittingly transformed from the inside out, and I looked at just about everything through different eyes.
My friendship with the Bible has taken me the scenic route from who I was to who I was created to be. My path began with an act of obedience to read the Bible every day, and it wound its way almost backward to the beginning, forcing me to deal with the stresses and compulsions of trying to carve out an identity that was mine alone with God relegated to a back-up plan. It took me back to the wounds that life can bring and invited me to compare what they were saying about me with what God was declaring over me.
It can do the same for you.
If you’d like to experience what Brian did, consider making 2016 the year you spend more time in the Bible. You don’t need to make a massive commitment, like reading the entire Bible in a year—just read regularly, even if it’s just a few Bible verses at a time. We’ve got some recommended Bible reading plans and devotionals for the New Year that might help, and if you don’t see what you want there, there are even more at our Reading Plans page (Brian’s own Daily Audio Bible is a good choice).