True Confessions: I'm Not Finishing My Bible Reading Plan...And What's the Difference Between Discipline and Obligation

I have a little confession to make. I began a Bible reading plan at the first of the year, Praying and reading through the Bible in 100 days. I began back in January reading with Candace from His Mercy Is New. Although I’ve never really used the idea of “praying through the Scriptures” I have read through the Bible in 90 days- quite a few times. So I wasn’t daunted by the amount of reading, and I really signed up without much thought. It just seemed like a good idea. I even posted about it– of course.

In the back of my mind-though it’s not something I consciously think- seems to loom the idea that a good Christian should always be reading through the Bible, at least with a yearly plan, if not something more rigorous, like the 90 day plan or this 100 day plan. Simply reading a devotional or reading through the Bible but only every now and then just doesn’t seem to be “good enough.”

And so I jumped into Scripture at the beginning of January. One element that I really liked about this praying through Scripture idea was that I read through with the idea of taking verses that I could make into my own prayers to God. I really liked this because it helped me to look at the Scripture I was reading in a new way.

Discipline and obligation in Bible reading
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I did fine with reading through the first month. I might have missed a day or two and caught up later, but, for the most part, I was right on track with the reading. As we headed into February I found myself behind and catching up more often. And soon I found myself reading through days and days at a time because I was so far behind and wanted to get caught up. There were several times I stopped to wonder if this was really a good idea for me right now. Maybe I had jumped into this commitment with too little thought (not to mention prayer). But I didn’t want to give it up.
I told myself I shouldn’t stop because reading the Bible is always the right thing. I just had to power through distractions and time wasters and keep reading. But the truth is, I didn’t want to quit because of pride. I blogged about starting this reading program. And I’ve blogged about my progress. And I didn’t want to quit because I didn’t want to admit that I quit.
After reading a particularly long several days worth this Saturday because I was sooo far behind, I realized that I probably wasn’t getting much at all out of what I was reading when I read so much at one time. Although God’s Word always speaks to me and I was able to write down a few prayer verses, most of what I read was beginning to blur together. As I was finishing up those several days of reading, I reached the decision to stop this particular reading plan for now.
I’m not taking a break from reading Scripture. I do think the Bible is pretty clear that we need to constantly be in God’s Word. But I am going to choose a plan with a little less daily reading. I have a three year plan in the back of my The Voice Bible that I just completed toward the end of 2014. It was perfect in the amount of reading for each day, and I liked the Old and New Testament alternating readings it gives. I can, in fact, continue looking for prayers in the Scripture I read. I love that way of applying what I’m reading to my daily life. I also want some more depth, not just reading through. So I’ve subscribed to a few of the daily and weekly devotionals from I love the selection of devotionals that can be sent directly to your inbox. (And I’ve subscribed for a while to different ones and then decided to stop, and it’s always very easy to unsubscribe. So don’t feel locked in if you want to try several and then decide which ones are a good fit.)
With all of the thinking through that I’ve been doing as I decided to quit this reading plan, I’ve been pondering this thought- What’s the difference between a discipline and an obligation? You see, I believe that reading the Bible regularly is a spiritual discipline- and an important one. Over and over in Scripture we can see the need for regularly spending time in God’s Word. I think it is vital to Christian growth.
Many times Scripture reading is called a “spiritual discipline.” The word “discipline” is referring to a training, a teaching, The dictionary gives this definition: behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control. The regular reading of Scripture is a teaching and training tool. Like any other form of training, sometimes it isn’t easy or fun. Sometimes we do it whether we like to do or not, whether it is convenient or not. Scripture reading isn’t always convenient or easy. But when we develop a regular habit of it, it is a catalyst for Christian growth. So I think it’s okay to say that sometimes we read because it is a habit and discipline.

In my case, however, I think that this reading plan had become an obligation. The dictionary defines obligation as: something by which a person is bound or obliged to do certain things,and which arises out of a sense of duty or results from custom, law,etc. I do not think that Scripture reading should ever become an obligation. I don’t think that anything in the Bible indicates that we are bound by law to constantly read a certain amount of Scripture daily. I don’t think that Scripture reading should be done out of a “sense of duty.” And I think, in my case, that I had set up this sense of obligation for myself out of pride.

And so, I confess. I’m quitting my Bible reading plan. I’m taking a step back, and I’m making changes. I want to read my Bible because it is an important discipline and because, through it, God speaks to me. But I don’t want to read out of a sense of obligation, especially when that obligation comes about because of my pride.

What do you think about reading Scripture? Is it a discipline that you practice? How do we keep it from becoming an obligation? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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