How Not to Break A New Year Resolution (And Don’t Just Read Our Devotionals)

Keeping up on a personal pledge to read the Bible can be a real challenge. Here are some ideas on how to keep going.

Leslie Koh

How Not to Break A New Year Resolution (And Don’t Just Read Our Devotionals)How Not to Break A New Year Resolution (And Don’t Just Read Our Devotionals)

Five years ago, I made a simple resolution. I would read one chapter of the Bible each day, and summarise it in one line. By the end of three years or so, I would have a nice list of summaries of the Bible’s 1,189 chapters. It would be a convenient reference for looking for key biblical stories and developments.

Five years later, my list has just over 650 items. I stopped at Lamentations, and Psalms is only one-third completed. Every December, I tell myself: Next year, I shall restart next year.

Perhaps New Year resolutions should be just called “January resolutions”. According to a recent report by social fitness network Strava, most people are likely to abandon their New Year’s fitness resolutions on—guess what—19 January. Amazingly, within 19 days of pledging to stay in shape, many people give up.

I wonder, is it a similar story for those who make resolutions to read God’s Word? For me, it certainly was. Much as I love God, I have to confess myself, reading His Word regularly is a challenge.

And so, as 2020 comes to a close and we start to think about what we aim to achieve next year, I’d like to share some ideas that I’ve learnt and am considering myself. Can I share them with you?

If Our Daily Bread has been your staple devotional for each day, I’d like to suggest: don’t just read Our Daily Bread alone. It’s probably odd to say this, considering where I work, but at Our Daily Bread Ministries, we honestly do believe that followers of Christ need to also dig deeper into God’s Word directly.

There are days and times when Our Daily Bread can offer a quick spiritual lesson for the day, but for us to really know God, we also need to spend time praying as well as reading and reflecting on His Word in greater detail. Our Journey Through Series can help you cover the Bible, book by book, in a systematic way that is not too onerous.

Trying to finish the entire Bible can be a challenge. JourneyThrough Series takes you through one book at a time, with faithful Bible teachers to help you understand and apply God's Word, a little bit at a time. Choose from titles available, read them online or get the devotions in your email.

Go To JourneyThrough Series

Second, let’s try to make a resolution we can stick to—or find some practical ways to commit to whatever resolution we have made about reading the Bible.

The Strava report showed that cyclists were more successful in keeping to their fitness regimes when they cycled in groups rather than individually, set clear goals, and aimed to exercise more consistently.

Based on their recommendations, 5 possible tips on keeping resolutions come to mind:

1. Set a goal

A clear goal, like finishing one book of the Bible a week or month, that is specific and achievable can help us keep going in our journey through God’s Word. The satisfaction of reaching a goal can be a great motivator, as we can tell ourselves, “I can actually do this!”

2. Join a group

Accountability and fellowship are great motivators, too. Just as people are more likely to keep to their exercise routines when they join a group or meet up with friends, having a group of like-minded believers (or even just one other friend) can encourage us to keep reading the Bible.

3. Stay consistent

People who run or cycle in the morning are apparently more likely to keep up the routine. Having a consistent time or way to read the Bible can help us stay disciplined. For example, we could make it the first thing to do in the morning after having a nice cup of coffee.

4. Have some variety

Athletes don’t train the same way every day; they do a variety of exercises on different days to work out different muscles in different ways. There may be days when we feel tired or just mentally unable to absorb one chapter of the Bible. We can spend some time praying, reading a short devotional, an interesting commentary, or an inspiring Psalm instead. God is always delighted when we want to be in His presence.

5. Give yourself a break

Effective diets and exercise routines often have “cheat days”—days when you are allowed to give yourself a break. While discipline is important, I believe we don’t have to beat ourselves up if we occasionally really don’t feel like reading the Bible. If we skip a day, let’s not be overwhelmed by guilt or a sense of failure. Following Jesus is not about keeping rigorously to a Bible reading plan, it’s a journey of perseverance dotted with falls and failures that do not discourage us from our ultimate goal: to be like our Lord Jesus.

Perhaps you might want to consider one or more of these 5 ideas as you start thinking about your resolutions for 2021—not just for January, but for the whole year . . . and beyond.

May we, in our journey through God’s Word, come to love God and His Word with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and say:

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
(Psalm 119:103)

Leslie Koh spent more than 15 years as a journalist in The Straits Times before moving to Our Daily Bread Ministries. He’s found moving from bad news to good news most rewarding, and still believes that nothing reaches out to people better than a good, compelling story. He likes eating (a lot), travelling, running, editing, and writing.