Happy New Year! Many New Year resolutions have officially begun! I applaud each of you who have made resolutions for these are things in your mind and heart that you desire—that you are resolved to do in 2013. Now that you have established and confessed your convictions, it is time to carry them out. I pray that you haven’t simply blindly made resolutions without planning. I mean, who can resolve to eat healthier without planning what the next trip to the grocery will look like and which fast food restaurants will be cut from the diet? And who can resolve to get in shape without a workout plan or a gym membership? There is much planning to be done in carrying out these noble resolutions. I mean, can a 20-year smoker just quit cold turkey? Some, maybe, but most cannot. They need a plan to quit and it will be difficult requiring much discipline. The same is true for a resolution to read through the Bible in 2013. If you wish to do so, it will require a plan and much discipline. I have provided a list of multiple Bible reading plans that are very helpful for a wide variety of readers.
The Next Step–My Failure
Choosing a reading plan is merely step one. There are countless individuals who begin a reading plan—a good reading plan—but fall off the course by mid-January. Granted, there are faithful brothers and sisters who radically read through the Word each and every year. However, in my young Christian life, I have yet to do so. I have fallen off the horse and instead of getting back on, I just sat there and sulked in my unfaithfulness. Excuses began to spew out of my mouth. I complained that I needed at least two hours to study the Bible each day and just didn’t have time some days. While I had good intentions, I did nothing to fight the temptation to ignore God in his Word and make time. I should have woken up two hours earlier each morning or split up my reading and meditation time. I could have read throughout the day and then spent a focused 30 minutes studying and meditating on what I had read. The point is that I have given up all too quickly in my reading of the Word through a calendar year. I believe there are three methods I can take in 2013 to better combat the temptation to not read and to better equip myself to desire God in his Word and read each and every day pondering and meditating on the glorious splendor of God in Christ Jesus.
1. Be disciplined
Discipline is a vital factor in continuing to read throughout the year and giving up after just a couple of days. Now, the strong resolve that you have to read the Bible through 2013 may get you through the first week and maybe even the first two weeks, but once the normal busy schedule of your life returns or continues, you will be bogged down and possibly overwhelmed. The first thing that will go is that which you are not disciplined in. If you have been exercising for 20 minutes every other day at different times, just kinda, ya know, whenever you felt like it, you will soon stop “feeling” like it. It is the same with reading your Bible. If you do not have a disciplined system of reading, you will be more likely to give it up. I am a huge advocate for “just read”. Just read something from the Word every day. Now, this is assumed that you are on a reading plan. The point behind this is to combat the feeling that you need two hours free every day in order to read. No, just read! If you have 10 minutes, just read! 5 minutes? Just read! Two hours? By all means, read! However, I believe that the absolute best practice in reading your Bible is reading every day at the same time and in the same place (if possible). Be disciplined. Wake up early and read before you get ready for work or school. That, I believe, is the best time and place to read. There is no better way to begin your day—a day that will be filled with temptations from the father of lies—than in the Word of God, your double-edged sword of truth. So, when it is difficult to wake up, just do it and read! I feel like a repetitive and annoying Nike commercial when I encourage myself and my fiancé to wake up and read. When we struggle and complain, I will say, “Just do it. Just read.” I know that is overly simple. But that is exactly what we need. We need a simple encouragement and we need discipline. Discipline is saying, “Just do it…Just read”. I confess, I have failed this morning. I overslept. I took advantage of this mini-vacation that I am on from work and school. However, I will just read today. And tomorrow, I will not want to wake up early (but really…I hate waking up early). However, I will counsel myself with the clichéd phrase, “Just do it” and I will add, “Just read”. Throughout this year, discipline yourself to meditate on the glorious splendor of God in his Word. Wake early. Read. Repeat.
2. Read with a Friend
Too often, we attempt to accomplish our New Year resolutions on our own. This is, to be nice, usually futile. In our pride, we want to prove our resolve. We do not want to admit we need help of any kind! We can do it on our own! And then, we fail. It is so much easier when you are only accountable to yourself to stop eating healthy or working out. The same is true for Bible reading. If you are holding yourself accountable, anytime “yourself” wants to not read, “yourself” will be fine with that and there will be no rebuke. This was another problem for me in 2012. I didn’t read through the Bible because I had no one holding me accountable. That problem will not exist for me in 2013. My beautiful fiancé and I have resolved to hold each other accountable and use the same reading plan. We will be reading the same plan, so it will be easy for us to hold each other accountable. We will also turn this into an opportunity to do Bible study together and help each other grow in likeness to Christ. This year I will read through the Bible with my best friend who will become my wife on June 8th. It will benefit you to read with a friend. Husbands, is there anyone else to read with for you than your wife? If you question this, check out Ephesians 5:25-28, be humbled, and then get back with me. Singles, read with a friend and disciple one another for the glory of God.
3. Pray More (much more)
Is it possible to read through the Bible and completely miss the point? Absolutely. If you read the Bible with any preconceived notions, it is dangerous. If you read the Bible with the preconceived notion that life is about you and the Bible is about you and God’s salvation of you, then you are greatly mistaken. The Bible is about God and the self-exaltation of his name and the spread of his fame. God desires his glory to be praised and exalted and this is most fully realized in the cross of Christ where sinners are invited to take joy in the tremendous pleasure that God has in being God. Therefore, when we read, we must pray that God would reveal himself to us in his Word. We must pray for the Holy Spirit to give us understanding. Frustration will come as a result of our limited finite knowledge of the Holy One of Israel and his inscrutable ways. We must submit to the infallible truth of the Word of God and pray fervently for understanding. Jesus said it was good that he leave so that the Helper may come (John 16:7). And this Helper “will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). I failed in my daily Bible reading and study in 2012 because I didn’t pray enough. I will pray more this year. Before I sleep, I will pray for the power of God to wake me and fill me with a desire to know him more. Before I read, I will pray for understanding. As I read, I will pray and praise God for who he is in what I am reading. Throughout the day I will thank God for his revelation of himself in his Word and continue to meditate on what I have read. I will do all of this by God’s grace, for I have seen what my own might can achieve—nothing. Instead of relying on your own power to read through the Word in 2013, rely on the power of the Holy Spirit—the same power which raised Christ Jesus from the dead and dwells within you (Rom. 8:11)!
Glorify God Through Reading in 2013
2013 is a new year filled with new opportunities. Make 2013 a year of exalting the glory of God’s grace through making disciples of all nations and growing in holiness. Do this through prayer and diligent and radical Bible reading/study. Take your Bible reading seriously. The God of this Bible is a God of holiness, goodness, kindness, love, wrath, justice, and righteousness. Take him seriously and take him at his Word. If you want this year to be the year that you are faithful to read through the Bible, I encourage you to be conscious of grace if you fail and understand that reading the Bible is a means of grace and not a means of merit. Fight the temptation to ignore God in his Word by being disciplined, reading with a friend, and praying more. May God be glorified in your reading of his Word this year as you become more like Christ Jesus.
“And we all, with unveiled face, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” – 2 Corinthians 3:18