Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needed not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)
For Christians, daily Bible reading is a popular resolution for the new year. But any time is the perfect time for a renewed commitment to engage with God regularly through His word.
This year I’m planning to read my Bible more regularly. However, I’m no super Christian. Life is busy, and there are a lot of things that could derail my best intentions. Bible reading doesn’t just happen on its own, so I’m making a plan for success. These are my three strategies to keep on track.
I’ve always tried to keep up with my Bible reading through my own willpower. Of course, one of the key points in the Bible is that as imperfect humans, we don’t accomplish spiritual things without God’s help.
Even the great apostle Paul struggled with doing the things he knew he should do, as he discussed in Romans 7:
15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (NIV)
We’re all innately susceptible to failing at the good, spiritual things we want to do! We need to pray for God’s will in our lives, as Jesus modeled for us in the garden of Gethsemane when he prayed, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matthew 26:39, KJV)
I love the promise of John 15:7, where Jesus says: “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” (KJV). This verse is the perfect affirmation that He will help us be faithful to Bible reading if we pray about it, since it is the means by which His words abide in us.
Because reading our Bible is the will of God, He will answer our prayers about it. I’m making it a matter of prayer for both faithfulness to read and help in understanding the Bible when I read it.
2. Have realistic expectations.
I’ve made daily Bible reading resolutions in the past and haven’t kept them. I wasn’t realistic about what I could accomplish. Sometimes I’ve tried to live up to reading plans others have suggested, like the whole Bible in a year, starting with Genesis 1:1. That may be practical for some, but not for me. I failed on that one several times.
This year, my goal is to read through the New Testament. I know that is a goal I can achieve. And for the first time, I’m not starting my Bible reading plan with a feeling of dread about the monumental task ahead.
Communing with God should not feel like a drag or burden in our lives. If it feels like that, something is wrong with our approach.
This was a recent realization for me that unburdened my soul. In the past, I felt like I had to approach Bible reading someone else’s way, and I didn’t feel comfortable with it. This year I have my own personal goals, and I’m excited about achieving them in my own way, on my own timetable.
3. Establish a plan, but don’t be limited by it.
I’ve heard it said that failing to plan means planning to fail. Planning is helpful for engaging in consistent, focused Bible study. But I’ve learned that it has to be the right plan. As I mentioned above, the plan has to be individual and realistic.
This year I asked myself, what do I need to read to improve my Christian walk, encourage myself in the faith, and increase my knowledge of God? I realized that I want to read the full New Testament. I need it all, and it’s an attainable amount of reading.
To focus on the gospels, I’m going to spend a month each on Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I’ll just work through the rest of the New Testament during the remainder of the year.
I’ve structured it that way because I know my personality. In general, I like having a solid overall plan, but I also like to leave room for spontaneity. Since I know this about myself, I don’t have everything scheduled out. I don’t want to feel too beholden to a list, because I know it will start to feel tedious – I’ve tried that before.
Of course, other people like more structure. In today’s world, we have access to a variety of Bible reading plans and resources online.
The most important thing about the plan is that it works for you. If you try a plan and it’s not the right fit, modify it, find a new plan, or make your own. Don’t feel stuck with the wrong plan and try to push through.
I’ve received and read advice many times that part of a Bible reading plan should include a set time and place. I’ve gotten off track with this in the past, so I’m trying to build it into my schedule better.
To this end, I’ve decided to read the Bible immediately after I drop off my kids at school in the morning while the house is quiet and I haven’t started anything else yet. This will be five days a week, and not every day, which goes back to setting realistic expectations.
With this general plan, if I miss a day or two, it’s OK. The goal is to spend time in God’s word without making it feel like a daily grind with a stringent schedule.
Overall, with these three strategies, I feel like I’m set for success in meeting this goal.
How do you keep on track with Bible study?