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We are a little over a month into 2018 and many of us have already given up on our New Year’s resolutions. Just a few weeks ago, you may have had all kinds of resolve to eat healthier, begin a workout routine, and read through the entire Bible in a year. But this morning, you skipped the gym (again) and now the guilt of not getting up early enough to read your Bible is ruining your Bojangles biscuit. If this sounds familiar, there is good news. It’s not too late to start over!
The goal of this post is to offer three encouragements to those who are already more than a few days (or weeks) behind on your Bible reading goals for 2018.
Set a realistic goal
Reading through the entire Bible in a year is a great and worthy goal! However in my experience, I've seen many Bible readers (myself included) fail at this goal because their goals exceed their current abilities. When our goals overstep our abilities, we fall behind, and the frustration of falling behind sometimes causes us to quit altogether!
If this describes you, remember that Bible reading is a discipline. Like any discipline, it takes time to cultivate skillfulness. Let’s say you decide that you want to train to run a marathon. Any good coach would tell you that before you attempt to run a marathon, you should train for and run some shorter races (5K, 10K, Half-Marathon etc.). In running shorter races beforehand, you appropriately discipline your body and build up your confidence to run a longer race.
Bible reading works in a similar manner. If you’ve never read entire book of the Bible from beginning to end (for our purposes Jude doesn’t count), then your goal to read the entire Bible in a year probably outstrips your current abilities. Perhaps instead of reading the entire Bible in year, you set a goal to read the Gospel of Matthew in a month. Or Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in a week. Meeting these shorter goals will help you to discipline yourself to read the Scriptures and build your confidence to take on larger portions of God’s word over longer periods.
Have a personalized plan
You have undoubtedly heard the phrase “A goal without a plan is a wish.” This pithy expression is truthful and helpful when it comes to accomplishing anything we set out to do. A well constructed plan is essential to realizing our goals. This is particularly true when it comes to Bible reading. If we are going to grow in our knowledge of and obedience to the word of God, we must be engaging with the Bible daily. And this type of consistency requires an action plan.
When making a plan, it is always helpful to ask the questions:
The “what & why” questions define your goal, while the “how & when” questions form the basis of your plan. When forming a plan remember, your plan needs to fit you. God has uniquely wired each of us to respond and function in different ways. My “how & when” may look different from your “how & when”. The important thing is not necessarily what your plan is but that you have a plan in the first place. Make a plan that works for you and stick to it!
One of the best resources I've found for customizable plans is the YouVersion Bible App for iOS and Android. They have numerous types of reading plans for all types of Bible readers. You can also use Bible.com as a great resource on your computer. Remember, the most important thing is not the plan you use, but having a plan in the first place!
Don’t give up
You might read this third heading and say to yourself “Too late”. But I want to encourage you that it is not too late! The faithful Christian life is nothing if not a recurring reminder of our need to start again. To begin again each day with a fresh reliance on the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us for God’s glory, our joy, and others good.
The reality is everyday is a day which requires us to repent of not believing or following through or doing what we should. That’s why the writer of Lamentations reminds us that “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam 3:22-23). God’s mercies are new every morning because every morning presents new opportunities which cause us to recognize our need to fully rely upon his grace!
Don’t be deceived into believing that you can’t start over. The Lord’s mercies were new for you this morning and they’ll be new for you tomorrow morning. Don’t worry about what happened yesterday or what tomorrow holds, press into the truth that God’s mercies are available to you by choosing to meet with the him in his word today.
Set a goal. Make a plan. Don’t give up. Isaiah reminds us that, “Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you and therefore he exalts himself to show you mercy” (Isa 30:18). Experience that grace and mercy through his word today.