FamilyLife Today® Podcast

52 Weeks in the Word: Trillia Newbell

with Trillia Newbell | November 28, 2023
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Ever felt disappointed or frustrated with your inability to study the Bible consistently? Author Trillia Newbell inspires you with both the “why” and the “how.”

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Ever felt disappointed or frustrated with your inability to study the Bible consistently? Author Trillia Newbell inspires you with both the “why” and the “how.”

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52 Weeks in the Word: Trillia Newbell

With Trillia Newbell
November 28, 2023
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Trillia: Someone had such good intentions!

Ann: Yes.

Trillia: “Let’s do this Bible study!”

Dave: Right.

Trillia: That is excellent—great intentions—but didn’t think how to execute a Bible study because they’d probably never been taught.

Dave: No.

Trillia: I would say that’s probably the bigger problem: we’re not teaching people to read their Bibles or how to read them.

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at


Dave: This is FamilyLife Today.

Dave: One of the joys of my life—

Ann: Uh-oh! I didn’t know you were going here! What is it?

Dave: Well, besides you—[Laughter]—you are the joy of my life!—it’s your love and passion for this book.

Ann: Oh! I didn’t know you were going to say that.

Dave: Yes; I just realized that this Bible we have on the FamilyLife® table here is Ann Wilson’s. I didn’t even see/how did it get to be your Bible? [Laughter] Anyway, I mean, when we get in the car, and you pull out your One-Year Bible and say, “I love the Word of God! Let me read it to you out loud.” I don’t always love the “read out loud” part.

Ann: You hate it when I do this.

Dave: I don’t hate it; but it’s like, “Really?”

Ann: —annoying.

Dave: You just love to do it. But your passion—I don’t know—is it 17 years in a row you’ve been going through the One-Year Bible?

Ann: Yes, I have. And I think the reason I feel like that is because it’s only Scripture that you can read every single year, and every single year, I think, “How did I not notice this before?” It talks to me right where I am in life! There is Scripture where God is just speaking to my heart, and it’s exactly what I needed for that day. And every year is different, so I feel like He’s speaking to me in different ways every single time I go through it.

Dave: Well, enough about us; who cares about us? [Laughter]

We are here with Trillia Newbell, who really, we’ve just gotten to know a little bit over lunch. I have a sense, Trillia, that you have the same passion.

Trillia: I do! I do have the same passion, but I have not done it for 17 years.

Ann: That’s because I’m way older than you, Trillia! [Laughter]

Trillia: Okay, that’s what it is. [Laughter] No, I long to; I long to. But I do love to read His Word/to study His Word to know God. It’s a gift! It’s such a gift. Also, thank you for that example, Ann; I think that’s awesome. May we all be like that!

Dave: Yes, I’m trying to catch up.

Ann: It’s not because I’m better, guys; it’s because I’m needier. I need Jesus so much! [Laughter]

Your book—you have a devotional out—which is called 52 Weeks in the Word: A Companion for Reading Through the Bible in a Year. What made you create this and write this?

Trillia: Yes; it’s interesting—because it’s going to sound, probably, counterintuitive—but what made me write it is that I’d written Bible studies. I’ve only written two Bible studies; but as I studied, and wrote them, and taught them; and received feedback from others, who were doing it, one of the things—and it was a lament that a couple people said was—“There’s so much Bible reading in it.” I thought, “Well, that’s an interesting critique!” [Laughter]

Dave: That should be a good thing!

Ann: It’s called a “Bible study!”

Trillia: Yes, I was a little perplexed.

Ann: Yes.

Trillia: So I thought, “Well, okay.” What’s interesting is the Bible studies that I have written are only one chapter—it’s Romans 8 and Hebrews 11—those are the studies that I’ve done.

Ann: Oh.

Trillia: But in order to understand Romans 8, you’ve got to read the Bible. You’ve got to read all of Romans to get it in context and to study; you’ve got to do some digging. And [for] Hebrews 11, you’re pretty much reading the whole Old Testament—not really—but you’re reading, at least, a couple of the first five books, at least.

Dave: Right.

Trillia: Because you’re digging into so much of the narrative of Scripture—that was their lament—that led me to look at some studies about how people are engaging with the Word. I don’t remember exactly what the percentage is; but I believe Lifeway® did a study that [showed] 75 percent of people have a Bible in their home, but they don’t read it.

Ann: Yes, you said that in the first few lines of this book: “Studies show that most Americans, who own Bibles, don’t actually read them.”

Trillia: Yes.

Ann: I think that’s true; I never did!

Trillia: Oh, yes.

Ann: Before I was a Christian, I didn’t; but then later, I thought, “I don’t even know how to do this!” I think a lot of people don’t even know where to start.

Dave: I don’t know if everybody’s like me, but I was scared of it. You know, I grew up in a home with a single mom, and she took me to church, and we had this big black Bible. We also had a picture of Jesus above the fireplace. As I walked through the living room, I always felt like Jesus was following me with disappointed eyes, especially when I was a teenager. I mean, I was afraid to walk in that room! It was like, “Oh, I messed up again; and He’s disappointed.”

The Bible felt the same way to me: “I don’t understand it. It's intimidating. It’s a bunch of rules and laws. I don’t want to read it.” I was afraid of it. Obviously, I have the opposite opinion now; but I think a lot of people feel that way.

Trillia: One hundred percent! And I would have felt the same way—not fear—but daunting—

Dave: Yes, yes.

Trillia: —"There’s so much!”—

Dave: Right.

Trillia: —until I realized, “Oh! I’m never going to exhaust learning about the Lord. I’m going to forever be a leaner.”

Ann: And none of us have arrived.

Trillia: No one will ever arrive!

Ann: Yes.

Trillia: Once I got that, the intimidation and the fear went away; I just realized, “I will have to learn about the Lord and grow in understanding His Word for years, and years, and years. I still won’t know, until the day I see Him, and my faith becomes sight. Then, it will all make sense!”

Ann: Yes.

Trillia: Until then, we are—we’re just learning—but we do have to start somewhere; and that’s what this book, I hope, helps people do: start somewhere. When I was receiving that critique about Romans 8, and how much Bible they were having to read, I realized, “Oh! We need to renew or gain a muscle of just reading the Bible.” That’s a muscle that I think has atrophied. I love Bible studies; I love studying the Word; but if you don’t read the Word, you’re not going to understand it in order to study it.

Ann: That’s a good point.

Trillia: Yes; so trying to get people to build that muscle again so that we can understand all of what God has to say in His Word and, really, to be able to put it together; it’s all one connected story. If we don’t read it, that’s why we get errors—when we pull it out of context, and we do this and that—well, it’s because we haven’t read the Bible. So that’s the hope and goal of 52 Weeks in the Word:that it will get people in the Word so that they can know Him better.

Ann: And I think, for FamilyLife—I mean, this ministry, FamilyLife Today, too—everything we do is grounded in God’s Word. We want people to know God’s Word; so as the end of the year approaches—this is kind of fun; you know, we all start out with these New Year’s resolutions for the next year—we’re going to offer your 52 Weeks in the Word free if you make a donation to FamilyLife.

Dave: Yes, it’s free; but please make a donation. [Laughter] No, it’s a gift from us to you. We want you to go—we’re going to go on the same journey—January 1 is coming; it’s a great time to start One-Year Bible or whatever. This is a 52-week—every week, Trillia is going to walk you through—as I did it; we’ve done it—it’s not intimidating! You’ve written it in such a way—and you say over and over in the Introduction—“If you miss a day, or you miss a week, okay! Just start again!”

Trillia: Yes.

Dave: Don’t get—

Ann: —or just start where you left off.

Dave: Yes.

Trillia: Yes; there are no rules! No rules! The goal is—and as a matter of fact,

January 1st is the date [when] most people start. I encourage people to start there, but I intentionally didn’t put dates on it.

Dave: Right.

Trillia: Because when you come to March—[Laughter]

Ann: —yes!

Trillia: —and you’re like, “Oh, man! I missed a week or two!”—you can just start; you don’t have to feel like you have to catch up. You can just start where you left off and keep reading the Word—because part of the goal is Bible reading—but the real goal is knowing God; that’s the real ultimate goal. And that’s my real heart’s desire for people—is to know Him—so when we get in the Word, we will!

Ann: Yes.

Trillia: And He will be so faithful to us. That’s my prayer and hope. Yes, I hope that people will give and receive this free—that’s just so great, and generous, and kind that y’all are doing that—I really look forward to hearing testimonies, because I have heard them.

Ann: I know; it’s kind of cool to think that so many people, who listen to FamilyLife Today, could all be starting at the same place. You know, that’s kind of fun.

Dave: Yes; as I think about your life story, is your life story a story of the Word?

Trillia: No.

Dave: Because I know, for me, I didn’t come to Christ until my junior year in college; but the man who discipled me—actually, he was a student; he was a senior student who was married—day one, Bill said to me, “A man of God is a man of this Book, the Word.” I remember sort of smiling like, “I’m never going to be that guy!” because the Book was boring to me and daunting.

Trillia: Yes.

Dave: I remember him saying, “I’m going to start you and teach you through the Word of God.” I realized, day one: “This is what a follower of Christ does.” You’re a workman of the Word, 2 Timothy [says]; I had never heard language like that.

Is that your journey?—was it always, from a young girl?

Trillia: No, not even close! [Laughter] I call us “holiday Christians.”

Dave: “Chresters!”

Trillia: Yes!

Dave: Yes, Christmas and Easter.

Trillia: Christmas and Easter!

Dave: We pastors have names for those people—we love you—but we know when you come.

Trillia: I was one of them! I was one of them.

I grew up in a very loving home—a very loving home/common grace loving home—not Christian. When I became a Christian, I was 22; I was just graduating college. A girlfriend shared the gospel with me when I was 19; it just took that long before I submitted my life to the Lord. But when I did—oh, I did!—He transformed my heart; He transformed my mind. The whole trajectory of my life changed—everything—it was pretty radical for me. I’m really—yes, I’m grateful for that—but at that moment, I realized, “I don’t know anything!” All I knew was that I needed Jesus! But I couldn’t even tell you where to find Genesis, which is the first book of the Bible.

Dave: Right.

Trillia: I would not have been able to tell you that.

It really dawned on me when, I think, I was saying something to one of my college friends at the time—I think she was just joking around—but she said, “Do you even know the gospel?!” She was joking around—but it hit me; I thought—“I gave my life to Jesus, but do I know how to articulate it? I don’t know!” From that moment, I started to dig into the Word. Funny enough, I started to read big books, like systematic theology books.

Ann: Woah!

Trillia: I just went—well, I didn’t know what I was doing—[Laughter]—clearly, some other people didn’t know what to give me. So I just started to read His Word, and haven’t stopped, by the grace of God.

Dave: Well, let me ask you this: “As you sat down to create a devotional, you could have gone every single day; you went weekly. You know, what’s sort of your hope?—how would people use this?”

Trillia: Yes; 52 Weeks in the Word is really about getting people into the Bible! There’s a reading plan, where you’re going to read about three chapters every day; and then, it’s either a reflection, or it’s pointing you back to something you learned, or showing you how it connects to the gospel. It’s really not a devotional; so if you approach it, and you think each fifth day or sixth day, you’re going to sit down and hear some kind of teaching, I don’t necessarily do that every single time. It’s a little bit more of keeping you going, and guide, and cheerleader.

Ann: Yes, it’s not like [how] sometimes you think, “Oh, it’s a devotional; I’m going to read one page. There’s going to be Scripture, one verse at the top, and a prayer at the bottom,”—it’s not that—because you’re going to go through the Bible in a year. You’re giving us prompts;—

Trillia: Exactly!

Ann: —but then, you’ll have a page of talking about this Scripture.

Dave: Look at that! You just gave her whole book.

Trillia: That’s it!

Dave: There it is.

Trillia: Thank you. You said it better than I did, Ann! [Laughter] But that is it!

That’s it; and then, there’s a rest day. That rest day is meant to either help you catch up, or you can read the devotional or the reflection at that time, or you can study; because studying is still very much a part of my hope for us, that we dig deep into the Word. The reality is: it’s a lot of reading. You’re reading, so it’s hard to go—

Ann: —to go deep.

Trillia: —to go very deep.

I did provide questions for you to think through while you’re reading, so you don’t read passively; you can engage your mind and heart while you’re reading. That rest day could be used for going back and digging: “Is there something that caught your eye?—that you want to go back and ask, ‘Alright, Lord, what were You saying here?’ or a text that you could dig into deeper?” That is a day that could be used for that as well.

Ann: Can you think of a time, that you were reading Scripture, and then you had a time that you thought, “I need to go deeper into that”; and you did?

Trillia: Oh, when have I not? [Laughter] Absolutely, absolutely! It’s interesting—I love Ephesians 2; well, all of Ephesians; the whole book is remarkable—but that chapter is just something that has meant a lot to me. I think it’s probably because

Ephesians 2—I believe it’s [verses] 8-10—says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and it is not your own doing. It’s a gift of God, so that no one may boast.”

Ann: I remember the first time I read that, as a believer. I was like, “What?! Are you kidding me? It’s a gift?” I always thought—maybe you did, too—“I need to be good enough.

Trillia: Yes.

Ann: “I need to be good enough. It’s a gift?” So you got stuck there.

Trillia: I got stuck right there, and “Before the foundation of the world He had good works planned for us”?

Ann: “What does that mean?”

Trillia: “What does that mean?” That will always stick out to me; because I had always thought—very similar to what you [Dave] probably thought about when you were approaching the Word,—

Dave: Yes.

Trillia: —about not wanting to stand in front of the Jesus picture or whatever. [Laughter]

Dave and Ann: Yes.

Trillia: I thought it was/salvation was earned, like you had to work for it. To know that it’s a free gift—and it’s by grace, and God gives this free gift of salvation—was remarkable to me, because I had always earned everything. I’ve had to work really hard for everything that I’ve done.

Ann: And if you’re a performance-oriented person, it doesn’t even make sense.

Trillia: It doesn’t make a bit of sense! It doesn’t make a bit of sense. To know that Jesus—He died for our sins—and that He did so, willingly, just blows my mind. It’s remarkable, and so amazing, and such a gift. So, when I read Ephesians 2, I thought, “Could this be real?” I went into digging into grace: “What is grace?” “What does it mean?”

I know there are all sorts of definitions, and there are different types of grace. I’ve heard: “unmerited favor”; and I’ve heard people explain justification as: “Just as if you’d never sinned,”—all of these things. I believe Jerry Bridges says that: “When we confess, we’re confessing forgiven sin.”

But this was all—I’m digging!—“What does it mean?” It all came from that. So, yes, I’ve had moments—and I still have those moments—but that one just really stood out to me, because I needed to understand this good news.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: I did not know, in the early days—first of all, [that] the Bible was relevant, practical, insightful—I didn’t know! It was just boring, dead, full of contradictions; “Old people read it.” But [then] I became a follower of Christ and realized, as Bill said, “This [is] going to be your life; you’re going to become a man of this Book!” There are so many men, even today, who wouldn’t even know where the book of Malachi is; because it’s just not important to them, and it has to be!

I remember, when I was pretty new in my faith, I went back to my hometown after college. My mom said, “There’s this men’s Bible study; you should go to it.” I started going. It was mostly businessmen and doctors, men older than me.

Ann: I forgot you did this.

Dave: Yes; and I remember thinking, “Okay, I’m in a Bible study with these grown men. I want to be like them someday.” I was 20, 21, or 22. Here’s what the Bible study was every week: you walk in, [and they say], “Hey, today is John 3:10-21; read it.” Literally, 15-20 men: “What do you think it means?” “What do you think it means?”—it was an hour of everybody sharing their opinion about it—and there were different opinions!

Trillia: Oh, yes!

Dave: “It means this,” “No, it has to mean this!” Nobody was arguing; nobody knew.

Trillia: No one was teaching.

Ann: This was before we were in seminary; is that right?

Dave: Yes, this was way before! I mean, we weren’t even married, just dating and going to get married. I remember, after a few weeks of that, I thought, “This can’t be; somebody must know,”right?” [Laughter] “It can’t be just:—

Trillia: “What are we all debating about?”

Dave: —“What do you think?” “What do I think?”

Trillia: Yes.

Dave: It was like, “Nobody knows?”

I did not know there were Bible tools; there’s original language; there are commentaries. I knew none of that! Obviously, now, I think you need to know how to handle the Word of God accurately;It can’t be your opinion! I didn’t know “author’s original intent”; I’d never heard those words.

Ann: —or context.

Trillia: Yes, yes.

Dave: So how do you navigate that world? I’m sure you’ve gone on a similar journey.

Trillia: Oh, yes.

Dave: Now, you’re putting in a 52-week thing. You don’t want people just reading it—and coming up with their own ideas—

Trillia: Absolutely.

Dave: —you want God to meet them. There are tools that can help you get to the real meaning and history of what’s going on.

Trillia: Absolutely.

Dave: What do you say to that?

Trillia: I say you’re exactly right. It’s so interesting, because that, to me, causes some lament in that there’s just a lack of discipleship in the church.

Dave and Ann: Yes.

Trillia: Someone had such good intentions!—“Let’s do this Bible study!”—that is excellent—great intentions—but didn’t think how to execute a Bible study, because they’d probably never been taught. I would say that’s probably the bigger problem: we’re not teaching people to read their Bibles or how to read them.

Ann: That’s a good point.

Dave: Yes.

Trillia: So that’s a problem.

But then, yes, I didn’t experience anything, where I went to a small group or a Bible study, and they were taking the Bible out of context—well, maybe—but [not] completely opinion, you know? I’ve always been kind of taught to go to a resource or to try to figure out, whether it’s a Bible study tool; or even using your Bible, cross-referencing to learn;—

Dave: Right.

Ann: Yes.

Trillia: —or there are so many study Bibles! There are people who are gifted!—they have learned these languages; they are studying—that’s not me! [Laughter]

Ann: But you’re reading what they’ve written about it.

Trillia: Yes; and you can—there are tools now—where you can even look for yourself: “Okay, this is what that means in the Greek; that’s what that word means. Okay, how does that make sense in the context of what I’m reading?”

We really do need help. Most of us aren’t going to know that the book of Romans was written in [56-57] A.D. or whatever.

Dave: Right, right.

Trillia: Most of us aren’t going to know that. Someone had to study that to teach us that.

Dave: Right.

Trillia: I think that we have to be okay with knowing our own limitations and our lack of knowledge; and then, running to and looking for resources that do.

I really do believe that, often, the Bible interprets the Bible; so we can use cross-references and other tools within the Scriptures themselves to learn. I think that’s where we struggle most.

Ann: Yes.

Dave: I was just going to say—because you don’t have the Bible in your book—you say:—

Ann: —"It’s called a ‘companion’ for reading the Bible.”

Trillia: Yes.

Dave: So why not use a study Bible when you’re reading through Trillia’s book?

Ann: I would say, “If you don’t have a study Bible, get a good study Bible.”


Dave: Yes, and I would just end with this: Thanksgiving just passed—it’s a day of giving thanks—and I would say this: “If you’re thankful for what we’re talking about right now, and it’s impacting you, and you want to share it [FamilyLife Today] with other people, make a donation. It’s a way to say, ‘Thanks,’ to God for this very thing.”

And you don’t realize this: “But if you make a donation, you’re getting something!” Usually, it’s just that you give a donation; but [at this time,] you get 52 Weeks in the Word by Trillia. You will bless, not only FamilyLife, but you’ll bless your neighbor. Somehow, your giving helps us do what we do and puts this program in family rooms, and kitchens, and cars all around the world—

Ann: —workout rooms.

Dave: —workout rooms—[Laughter]—yes. And I hope you don’t just get the resource and put it on a shelf. I hope you get through the Word of God this year; it will literally change your family.

Ann: Because what will happen is: you’ll fall deeper in love with Jesus as you do that.

Trillia: Amen.

Shelby: I’m Shelby Abbott; and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with our guest today, Trillia Newbell, on FamilyLife Today. You know, we would love for you to partner financially with us in our ministry here at FamilyLife Today—it’s such a partnership—that’s exactly what it is. And when you do, you get to link arms with us and be a part of what God is doing in the ministry of FamilyLife. Not only that, but you’re also going to get something special, written by our guest today, Trillia Newbell.

Here's actually what she had to say:

Trillia: “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” I would love to invite you to read, with me—52 Weeks in the Word this year, every year, all throughout the year—just to soak in God’s Word and enjoy Him.”

Shelby: Yes; when you partner with us in our ministry, we’re going to send you a copy of Trillia’s book, 52 Weeks in the Word. And thanks to the generosity of others, every gift you give between now and the end of the year will be matched, dollar for dollar, up to $2.5 million. That’s right, every gift you give will be doubled between now and the end of the year.

You can go online to and click on the “Donate Now” button at the top of the page, or you can simply give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329; again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Or you can feel free to drop us something in the mail if you’d like, too. Our address is FamilyLife, 100 Lake Hart Drive, Orlando, FL 32832.

The themes of suffering, perseverance, and hope appear all over the Scriptures. Tomorrow, Trillia Newbell is going to be back with Dave and Ann Wilson in the studio to talk about that and so much more. We hope you’ll join us. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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