Monday is New Years and, as is often the case, people’s minds turn toward things they’d like to do in the new year. Whether that is eating better, exercising, or spending more time in God’s word, the new year is a time for pausing and thinking about goals for the next leg of the journey.
Perhaps you are thinking that you want to spend more time reading the Bible and wondering where to start. Let me offer a few possibilities.
First, of all—I think that the attitude with which you approach your daily reading is extremely important. One of the biggest problems with New Year’s resolutions is that they tend be herculean and, therefore, destined for failure. If you set a goal that you are bound to miss, you are setting yourself up for defeat and discouragement, which tends to lead to giving up. I think a better plan is one that is flexible enough to meet reality.
This tension is most clearly seen in the “Read the Bible in a Year” plans. This is a great goal, but requires reading about three to four chapters a day. Typically people start off well, but then they miss a day and determine to read six or seven chapters the next day. But the next time that happens, there is simply not enough time to read that much so they put it off til the next day and then it’s nine or more chapters to get caught up. Eventually “catching up” is just not feasible so they give up and determine to do better next year.
My question is this—“Why does it have to be in a year?” Wouldn’t it be better to take a year and a half or two years to read through the Bible and actually finish it rather than not finish because you were not able to keep some arbitrary schedule? If it is your goal to read the Bible all the way through (and this is a great goal), give yourself permission to take a year and a half or two years. Make it your goal to read the Bible, not to hit a goal that you know you won’t reach.
If that is your goal, there are a number of different ways you can read through the Bible (in order, chronologically, etc). Ligonier Ministries just posted a collection of Bible Reading Plans. Some of these are “do it in a year” plans, so I recommend adapting them to a more realistic schedule.
Another approach to your daily reading would be to focus in on one book at a time. For example, you may want to understand the book of Ephesians better. Why not read through the book several times for a month (or two)? It’s six chapters long. If you read two to three chapters a day, you could easily read through the whole book five to ten times in a month. I guarantee that you will appreciate it more on each read.
A different plan would be to read the passage for the upcoming sermon several times during the week in preparation for Sunday. How often do we show up to worship, not having given any thought to what we will be studying together? We put the passage for the upcoming Sunday in the bulletin each week so that you can prepare. Try reading the passage each day for a week and see how much more you are prepared to hear the sermon.
These are all suggestions. Please don’t try to do all of them. The goal is to be in God’s word regularly. Five, ten, or fifteen minutes a day is far better than an hour, once a month. The more time you spend reading the Bible, the more you will desire it. It’s part of building healthy habits and nurturing your soul. There is no time like New Year’s to work on building new habits.
One final thought. If you are going to read through the Bible straight through, I highly recommend a Reader’s Bible. We did a blog post on this a few months back if you’d like to learn more about those.