On a day in January some 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 the book of Psalms is only one-third completed. Every December, I tell myself: Next year, I shall restart next year.
Perhaps New Year resolutions should be called “January resolutions”. According to a 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 we start to think about what we aim to achieve this year, I’d like to share some ideas that I’ve learnt and am considering myself.
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 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.
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:
A clear goal that is specific and achievable, like finishing one book of the Bible a week or month, 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!” If your resolution is to read through the Bible, Our Daily Bread has a one-year reading plan with daily goals that you can follow.
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.
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.
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.
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 the year . . . and beyond. I know I will be using a combination of these to finish up my list of summaries.
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!