Reading Through the Bible? Begin With This Book, Says Billy Graham

May 26, 2017 09:12 AM EDT

Although rewarding, it can be difficult to read the Bible in its entirety. That's why renowned evangelist Billy Graham has encouraged those taking on such a feat to begin in the middle - and not the beginning - of the Bible.

"Instead of starting at the beginning (as we do with other books), I suggest you start at the center - that is, with one of the Gospels that tell us about Jesus Christ (I often suggest John)," Graham, the founder of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, says in a recent blog post. "He is the Bible's center; the Old Testament points forward to Him, and the New Testament tells us about Him. You can discover other parts of the Bible later."

Graham, who himself has read all 66 books of the Bible several times, goes on to identify the benefits of reading the Scriptures -- even the more difficult Old Testament books.

"If we are ignorant of God's Word, we'll always be ignorant of God's will," he explains. "Yes, the Bible tells about things that happened thousands of years ago, and these may seem strange to us. But God does not change, and neither does our human nature - and just as God worked in the lives of people then, He wants to work in our lives today."

He adds, "They lived in a different world - and yet they had the same problems and doubts we have. The Bible says concerning them, 'These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us' (1 Corinthians 10:11)."

In an earlier blog post, the 98-year-old Baptist minister advised reading the Bible intelligently, systemically, and obediently.

"Get a Bible you can understand - a reliable modern translation with print you can easily read. (My wife used to say that the devil liked nothing better than Bibles with print so small you couldn't read them!) Your local Christian bookstore can help you with this," he offered.

Second, he encourages readers not to "skip around" when reading the Bible: "Begin reading a portion of a book every day," he said. "I suggest beginning with Psalms, or with the Gospel of John, which tells us who Jesus is and what He has done for us. Don't try to read too much; you might read only a paragraph or so at first. Before you start, ask God to help you understand it, and then read it thoughtfully and carefully. What does it tell us about God, or Jesus, or how God wants us to live?"

Finally, read the Bible obediently: "What does God want to teach you through this passage? What difference should it make in your life? Make the Bible part of your life every day, and God will use it to change you into the person He wants you to be."

Here is a Bible reading plan for 2017, beginning in May. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association provides additional tips and methods for successfully reading through the Old and New Testaments.