In more recent days I have been gripped by a deep concern to encourage every Christian in the world to read through the whole of the Bible at least once in their lifetime. Many Christians, I find, have their favourite passages of books but, valuable though it is to study them and meditate on them, just to focus on these and nothing else means they have a truncated version of Scripture composed of their favourite passages, but missing out many other parts of the Bible. The only way to make sure such passages are not missed is to go systematically through the Bible and take in its message as a whole.

Some years ago I sat down with a colleague and planned a strategy of reading through the Bible in one year chronologically, that is following the events of the Bible as they happened. The programme is called Cover to Cover - through the Bible following the events of Scripture as they happened.

At the beginning of the year 2000 I set a target of getting one million people around the world to commit themselves to making the first year of the new millennium the year when they would read through the whole of Scripture. Now as we approach the end of the year, over half a million people have taken up the challenge, and there is evidence that in the year 2001 that number may well be exceeded.

The letters I receive from people who are participants in this programme are quite incredible. One person said: "What began as a duty turned out to be one of the greatest delights of my life." Another said: "Scriptures I have heard preached on came alive in a new way as I saw them not only in the context of the chapter or even the book but set against the great backdrop of the whole of God's Word." Still another: "Delving into the Word of God in this way (chronologically) has given me a sense of God's Story in a way I have never seen before. Truly history is His Story." With all the conviction of my being I say this: every Christian I believe would profit in ways beyond their utmost imagination from reading through the whole of the Bible at least once in their lifetime.

To quote Dr W E Sangster again:

The tooth of time gnaws at all books but the Bible. It is relevant to every age. It bears the living water that comes sweet and untainted to the thirsting souls of each succeeding age. It has passed through critical fires no other volume has suffered and its spiritual truth has endured the flames and come out without as much as the smell of burning.

Nothing fortifies the soul, prepares it for the day and tones up the spiritual and mental health of a person like time spent in the Bible. The old aphorism is as true now as it was when it was first uttered: The more your Bible is falling apart the more likely it is that you are a  "together" person.

 

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H J Wilmot-Buxton, a Christian writer tells this story:

I heard of a young man who was left heir to his father's property but, when the father died, another disputed the son's claim. The matter came into the law-court and the young man was told that if he could produce his father's will, his inheritance would be secure. One day he opened the family Bible, seeking comfort and guidance in his troubles, and from between its pages a paper fell out. It was his father's will which showed quite clearly the property was distinctly left to him.

Spiritually speaking, that sort of thing is a regular occurrence amongst devoted readers of the Bible. Like the psalmist they are able to say: "I rejoice in your promise like one who finds great spoil" (Psalm 119:162).

Let the last word be with the patriarch Job who said: "I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my necessary food" (Job 23:12, NKJ). I wonder how many of us see time spent in the Bible as more important than our daily food? If we believe that the Bible is truly God's one and only published work, and is in a most special sense the Word of God, then we will count any day ill-spent which does not include some time spent perusing its pages.