If you are a Christian and you haven’t read the entire Bible at least once in your life, then it will be really awkward in Heaven when you meet some of the authors. Oh, uh, hi Obadiah . . . yeah, well, sorry I never got around to reading your book . . . OK, I can’t lie anymore, I didn’t even know you had a book in the Bible . . . oh look – a squirrel! [runs away].
More importantly, if you really love God and trust in Jesus for your eternal salvation, wouldn’t you want to know what He took the time to reveal to us? Remember, the original writings turned out exactly as He wanted them to and they have been reliably transmitted to us. His word, properly understood, trumps any other messages you hear or feelings you have.
In-depth, verse-by-verse Bible study is vital, but I also encourage people to go through the entire Bible fairly quickly now and then. Don’t worry about catching every little nuance, just immerse yourself in it. It will accomplish what God promised it would.
There are all sorts of reading plans available, including my current favorite, the chronological approach. It is especially useful when going through the Old Testament, as it lines up the history and associated Psalms and Prophets better than reading it straight through.
One of the best things about reading it all is that when you come across popular verses you can automatically consider the context. I memorized a lot of individual verses years ago and was surprised how different they sounded when I came across them in context. That was humbling! Now I ensure that if I memorize a verse that I know what was being addressed in the broader passage.
For example, if you’re used to hearing Jeremiah 29:11 (For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope) used as a one-size-fits-all bit of encouragement for believers (and even non-believers) then you’ll be very surprised at what it really means. You’ll realize that it could have just as easily said, “For I know the plans for you, declares the Lord, plans to punish you for your disobedience by keeping you in captivity for 70 years, not just 2 as the false prophet said.” (I’ve listened to Jeremiah the last couple days so that one really sticks out.)
If you are too busy to read the Bible, then you are too busy. You need to change your priorities immediately. And whether you are busy or not, consider using an audio Bible. Faith Comes By Hearing is a ministry that produces audio recordings of the Bible in hundreds of languages and all are available for free downloads. (Some countries are 80-90% illiterate, so getting the spoken Word to them via solar-powered audio devices is a powerful tool for evangelism and discipleship.)
But it is a great tool for us as well. Having the Bible on your phone or MP3 player means you can listen to it throughout the day — commuting, errands, doing chores, exercising, etc. I usually listen to 8-10 chapters on my way into work. It is a great way to start the day.
So just dive in and read or listen to all you can! Don’t get hung up on exactly how much you cover each day. Some days will be better than others. Satan loves it when people set expectations too high and then quit when they miss a day or two. Just read some . . . then some more . . . then some more . . . and never stop.