The Diet and Exercise of Bible Intake


December is a month to reflect on the past year and to plan for the new year. Around this time, you start to hear a lot of buzz about New Year’s resolutions. Google search popularity for phrases like, “weight loss plan” and “healthy diet” begin to skyrocket. Most people who will be gathering data on living a healthier lifestyle will find out that it all really boils down to two not-so-secret things: diet and exercise. While there are many different diets and hundreds of exercise plans, the combination of these two things are what leads to a healthy lifestyle.
When it comes to the Christian life, similar goals are being set. It’s this time of year that Christians begin to finish up reading plans or reflect on what went wrong. As Christians are in this reflecting and planning time, I want to suggest taking a similar approach to reading the Bible, that people take towards their lifestyle goals: a steady diet and exercise of Bible reading.

A diet is something that takes days and weeks of commitment. For a diet to work, you need to be committed and disciplined to stick to the boundaries of your diet for an extended period of time in order to see results. While this can feel like a grind at times, those who stick to their diet enjoy the many benefits that dieting brings.
This is exactly what Bible reading plans are for Christians. They plot out an extended plan for reading through the Bible or parts of the Bible. There are multiple different kinds of Bible reading plans. Some of the most popular are the McCheyne Reading Plan, the Chronological Reading Plan, and the 5x5x5 Plan. Of course you can also just plod straight through in a year with a plan like this one.
While I’ve always enjoyed these kinds of plans, I’ve also stumbled across more ambitious Bible reading plans. In 2021, I did a Bible-in-a-month plan for the month of January. This year, I’m finishing up the year with a Bible-in-100-days plan. Both times I’ve completed these plans, I’ve found some benefits that you just don’t get with the Bible in a year plans. For example, when you are trying to stick to a plan that requires an extended amount of time reading, you will be way less tempted to skip a day or do a “cheat day” like you might be on a Bible-in-a-year plan.
The greatest benefit of these ambitious plans is that you get an excellent overview of the Bible quickly. When reading through the prophecies that Matthew quotes over and over in his gospel, it is easy to remember reading those same prophecies in Isaiah since that was something you read only two weeks ago. The impact of Israel's decline in the Old Testament hits differently when, within a short span of reading, Israel experiences both restoration and subsequent exile due to their disobedience. While 2024 may not be the year to do a plan like this, I’d encourage you to try one sooner rather than later.

If dieting is a slow, plod over the course of several weeks, then exercise is done in short, intense bursts throughout the week. It helps a person engage a certain part of their body that had previously been neglected. With dedication over time, a person can really become skilled regarding muscle groups, cardiac rhythms, or terms like Vo2 max and HRV status.

Translating this illustration into Scripture reading looks like becoming skilled in things that you had previously neglected and becoming more competent in areas where you struggled. Does the Old Testament chronology confuse you? Put in some extra training alongside your normal diet of Scripture reading by reading a good Old Testament commentary. Do you get lost in Paul’s argument to the Ephesians? Not this year. Become skilled in it by reading the entire book each day for a month and outlining his argument. When reading the prophets, do you feel lost in space? Take a tour of the prophets with free courses from Old Testament professor Paul House and then lead a Bible study through Jeremiah.

This is a kind of Bible reading that is often neglected in New Year’s resolutions. For most people, they diligently seek to make their way through the Bible, but completely neglect the short, intense bursts that I am describing. Most of us have parts of the Bible that seem difficult or unfamiliar. You could probably list two or three without putting much effort into it. Has your Bible reading lacked exercise? You can change that in the coming year.

Planning Your New Year
As you’re reflecting on the past year and planning out your next year, plan for a healthy Christian lifestyle of both a steady diet and exercise of Bible reading. Not only will your Scripture intake increase, but all of Scripture will become sweeter and sweeter as you pour over it in the coming year.