So you want to start reading the Bible … but you’re not sure how to start. I get it. Too many times in my many attempts to engage more regularly with God’s Word, I started at the beginning. Seems like a good place to start, right? The first book in the Bible, Genesis, would go well. The second book, Exodus, went okay … but then I usually got stuck halfway through the third book, Leviticus.
It can be intimidating to start reading the Bible. It’s a huge book full of history, laws, poems, and more. When I first started reading the Bible, I wondered how this ancient book could connect to my life. To be honest, I found it confusing. Can you relate? If so, know that you can get started on a life-giving journey connecting with God through Scripture; He wants to use the Bible to speak to you today.
Why Should We Read the Bible?
This was the question I asked myself when I realized it had been three years since I had consistently read the Bible. I knew God was telling me it had been too long—that He longed for me to get to know Him more through His Word. And I’ve only really been able to answer that question now, after building a better habit of reading God’s Word every day and looking back at the difference it has made in my life. Because it has made a difference.
2 Timothy tells us why we read the Bible:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV
Simply put: The Bible is God’s Word that equips us to live the lives and do the work He’s called us to. Through the words of the Bible—the instructions, encouragement, and words on what not to do—we grow closer to God and can become the people God intends for us to be. This is true for me, and I know it can be true for you.
Now that we’ve talked about the reason we read the Bible, it’s time to discover how to actually do it. How do you build a habit of daily engagement with God’s Word? Let’s look at three simple ways you can set yourself up for success.
So How Do I Start Reading the Bible?
1. Start small.
You might see a lot of Bible reading schedules to read the entire Bible in a year or even less. And that’s great for some people! Others might need a different approach.
Consistently engaging each day in God’s Word is a habit that must be built. If you try to do too much too quickly, you’ll likely get burned out, become discouraged, and quit. I have been there and it’s not something I want for you.
Try reading just one chapter each day. And if that’s too much, try just a passage (often designated in the Bible with headings) or even just a verse or two. It’s not about how much you read or how quickly you make it through the entire Bible. It’s about how you’re able to connect with God and grow deeper in your relationship with Him. Consistency is more important than quantity.
2. Start with what you like.
The book we call the Bible is actually made up of 66 “books”—collections of writing from different authors in different time periods. Each book has a unique purpose, audience, and genre. Turning just a few pages in the Bible will bring you on a journey through world history, eloquent poetry, and vivid prophecy. And while some books flow as parts of a series, for the most part they can be read in any order—which means you can start with any book you’d like!
What do you find yourself reading in your free time? Try to find a similar genre of book in the Bible. For example, if you enjoy reading poetry, the book of Psalms is a great place to start. Or if you enjoy stories of war and royalty, you might enjoy starting with 1 Samuel.
Another method is to start with what you need. Are you in a season of life when it seems like any bad thing that could happen is happening? You might resonate with the story of Job. Or maybe you’re new in your faith and want to understand what it means to be a Christian. Colossians and Ephesians are great books for you.
A quick Google search like “What is the book of _____ about?” or “Bible books about ____” can help you find what you’re looking for.
Still not sure? You can’t go wrong reading the stories about the life of Jesus found in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These books were written by Jesus’ friends and men who were close to Him, and they tell us who Jesus is and what He did during His time on earth. The Bible says that if we get to know Jesus, we are actually getting to know God the Father too (John 14:7).
3. Start today.
It’s common to have the faulty mindset that we have to read the Bible a certain way or read a certain amount, and that if we don’t, God will be disappointed with us. But that’s not who God is. He loves us and blesses our efforts to get to know Him better.
There isn’t one right way to read the Bible. If you’re faithful to take even just one small step toward God by opening up His Word, I know He will meet you and speak to you through what you read.
So start today. Read a chapter or a passage or just one verse. Read it on your phone through the free YouVersion Bible App, or find a paper Bible. Set a reminder on your phone or ask a friend to hold you accountable. Just start.
A Quick Note on Different Bible Versions
You might occasionally notice a series of letters after a reference to Scripture, such as John 7:37-38 NLT or Matthew 4:4 NIV. The letters “NLT” and “NIV” here indicate the version of the Bible—in this case, New Living Translation or New International Version.
Throughout history, different scholars have translated the original biblical texts in slightly different ways. Some translations aim for a more literal rendering of the original text (such as the English Standard Version, ESV), while others aim for more modern phrasing (such as the New Living Translation, NLT). All versions fall somewhere on this spectrum of word-for-word versus thought-for-thought translation. The New International Version (NIV) falls right about in the middle, so it’s a great version to read from if you’re just getting started.
Here’s the thing: There will be parts of the Bible that are confusing or don’t make sense to you right away. There will be days when you don’t make time to engage in God’s Word. It might even sometimes feel like reading the Bible isn’t making a difference in your life. I’ve personally experienced all of these.
But let me encourage and challenge you: Don’t give up. As Pastor Craig Groeschel often says, if you miss a day, don’t miss two. Start again the next day. God knows you might feel intimidated or confused or guilty, and He wants to share something with you through His Word anyway. He wants to tell you that He loves you and He’s for you and He’s always with you. Don’t wait another day to hear those words from your loving Father.