It’s that time of year when we start making lists of New Year’s goals.
Losing weight, settling into an exercise regime and, for many of us, finding time to read the Bible and grow in our relationship with God.
Come February, a few of those goals will have been forgotten. How can you avoid being a statistic? Developing a Bible reading habit is a balance between perseverance and letting God work in you. Here are some tips for striking that balance and finding a habit that brings you life over the long-term.
1. Find a time that works each day and stick to it
There isn’t one time of day for everyone, but it’s important to find a time that works for you. Early morning or before bed, after the kids are off to school or before work or classes, make it a habit.
Keep your Bible handy and set reasonable goals – either following an annual or three-year cycle Bible reading plan, or follow a Bible reading devotional or study notes. If you find yourself getting stuck or bogged down, shift to a different part of the Bible, but try to keep to your routine.
2. Dig into the ‘other world’ of the Bible
The Bible is written in a world very different from our own. Be curious about jugs and chariots, scrolls and temples, kings, and palaces and armies.
What was slavery all about? How were women treated? What was the ancient attitude to religion? Be curious about that world and take a moment now and then to look something up in a reference book or online. Be intrigued by the world of the Bible – God was.
3. Weave the Bible into other parts of your day
Bible reading is not about getting some nuggets of knowledge to prepare for the off-chance of appearing on the quiz show University Challenge. It’s about a journey of transformation.
That transformation is about you and your life, but it’s also about our whole world. Make sure what you are reading seeps into other parts of your day, at work or at home, with family or a partner or colleagues and friends. It’s important to see the world in the Bible, but also the Bible in the world around you. That means applying what you’ve learned, but also testing what you are learning to make sure it’s life-giving and of God.
Some Bible reading notes such as Fresh from the Word provide daily prompts of ways to further explore the readings or challenges to put your faith into action.
4. Read the Bible with other people, choosing those different to you
We’re all guilty of reading the Bible to be affirmed in our own opinions. A sure-fire way to avoid that is to find a Bible study group that meets now and then, a minister or pastor or friend at church you can have a chat with, or a devotional that intentionally includes diverse perspectives on scripture.
Why not ask a friend to meet in January and read through the book of Genesis together? The Bible has a depth of meaning and significance that can’t be wholly grasped by any one of us alone. Make a decision early on in your reading to challenge your own thought patterns and ideas, and you’ll find your faith will be stronger, not weaker.
5. Let yourself be seen by God
Strange to say, reading the Bible is as much about letting yourself be seen by God as it is grappling to understand the world within it.
Reading the Bible can actually be a way to keep God at arm’s length. It can become a way we seek to control our lives and even control God. It can be uncomfortable to let yourself be seen by God, and at times we might want to run in the other direction, like Jonah did. But Bible reading can be a way of letting God be God.
Despite it all, God delights to look on the world and is as close to you as you’ll allow him to be; God delights in you, while you read the Bible to understand him more. Let God see you, warts and all.
Nathan Eddy is editor of daily Bible reading notes Fresh from the Word 2018: The Bible for a Change. He and his family have eight chickens and a cat.