It’s the beginning of a new year, and like most well-intentioned Christians, you’ve probably set out to read the Bible at least once this year. But also like most well-intentioned Christians, you’ve probably struggled to form the habit of daily reading that would last beyond the first few weeks of January. You are certainly not alone in this regard. Life comes at you fast after the holiday break, and it can be very difficult indeed to maintain a new routine if you aren’t prepared for the challenge.
So here’s five tips for maximizing the likelihood of success in your Bible reading journey — and not a few of them can be applied to other habit-forming goals as well.
1. Make a Plan
Every worthwhile goal needs a solid plan in place if there’s going to be any chance of accomplishing it. That plan may be simple — setting an alarm, for instance — or more complex — like planning a new garden or homeschool curriculum. Either way, the clearer the plan, the more likely you are to stick to it and accomplish your goal of forming a new habit or routine.
When it comes to reading your Bible, a plan is needed. Determine what you will read, and when you will read it. A Bible-reading plan may be helpful to you here. Will you read in the morning, or on your lunch break, or after dinner or when the kids finally go to sleep? Will you read everyday, including weekends, or only on weekdays? Will there be make up days? Answering these questions and planning how you will accomplish your goal each day is key to starting the year off right.
A last reminder: a general sense of order will be needed here, as well as flexibility. Your kids may wake up earlier than normal and keep you from finishing. You may have certain interruptions to your day that keep you from breaking away from work. Or maybe your time at community group or having friends over runs long, and by the time you’re free to read, you’re completely exhausted. Plan for these things, know what you can expect, and try to plan for the unexpected. However you do it, make sure you have a real plan in place.
2. Start Early
While there is never really a bad time to read the Bible, I think certain times in the day lend themselves more readily to productivity. One of those times is first thing in the morning. When we first wake up, we’re more ready to take on the day than at almost any other time (the need for coffee notwithstanding!). My advice is to start your day with reading, rather than attempting to finish it.
The benefits aren’t only biological, but also doxological. Giving the first portion of your day to devotion and study will engage your heart and prepare it for the day’s troubles. Like a good cup of coffee or tea, taking in God’s word at the start of our day will nourish and motivate us to finish the day well. Don’t neglect this well-attested lesson!
Like a good cup of coffee or tea, taking in God’s word at the start of our day will nourish and motivate us to finish the day well.
Obviously, this can be a challenge to some who are already waking early for work or to deal with kids. That’s why your plan is so important. Waking up 15 minutes earlier to read and mediate on the Bible, however short it may be, is better than rushing through the morning and hoping for an opportunity later in the day. Be creative, diligent, and purposeful, but make the most of the morning by starting reading first thing.
3. Eliminate Distractions
Another benefit to reading the Bible early is that, if you time it right, you’ll be the only one awake, and thus free from the distraction people (and little people) bring. Distraction is the enemy of focus, so being intentional to eliminate distractions is a key way to set yourself up for success. Not only will it allow you to read more of your Bible in less time, it will also equip you to read your Bible better.
So leave your phone on the night stand. I recommend using a physical Bible as to give that tactile separation between what you’re reading and what will likely be the thing you’ll spend the rest of your day looking at — a screen. Additionally, you may need to find a quiet spot in the house, or maybe even stay in bed, if that’s the best place to be free of distraction.
Again, your plan is crucial here. Plan to eliminate distraction beforehand, so you’re not spending time battling them when you could be reading. For me, this means waking early, brewing my coffee, and sitting in light of the kitchen window to read — no phone, no computer, just a Bible.
4. Seek Accountability
An often overlooked part of the habit of daily reading is reading in community with others. Bringing another person or a group of people into the reading journey with you will increase your odds of sticking to your goal through the long haul. But accountability isn’t simply agreeing to read together and then not following up, except every now and then. To be effective, accountability must be frequent and must be intentional. Ask each other what barriers you might be facing to daily reading, or what you’re learning through the reading. Encourage each other, and follow up. A group chat or message is an easy way to make the most of the community we’re a part of as we seek to establish a healthy habit of daily Bible reading.
5. Pray, Don’t Panic
Lastly, don’t forget to pray. The goal of reading isn’t to say you’ve done it, or even to gain knowledge or insight into Scripture. It’s to be drawn closer to God by the Spirit of Christ though his holy word. This task should drive us to prayer beforehand, and the result of such labors should be further prayerfulness. Daily reading isn’t a routine for routine’s sake, so don’t panic if you’ve missed your window or didn’t make the goal for the day. Pray for faithfulness and diligence, and begin again, confident that God’s word is doing its work in you. Every time you engage with God’s word, you are equipping yourself for godliness and renewing your mind in Christlikeness.
The goal of reading isn’t to say you’ve done it… It’s to be drawn closer to God by the Spirit of Christ though his holy word.
So at the risk of contradicting myself, don’t be so bound by your plan that you miss what God wants from you. Rather, plan above all to be used by God as you seek to establish a new routine that will grow you into a mature disciple of Christ. This is only way you will find joy in the discipline of daily reading.
Of course there are many more ways to maximize your time in God’s word — mediation, journaling, study, to name a few. But don’t let the desire to do it all perfect or nothing at all keep you from the good and rewarding work of reading the Bible. In time, you will be glad you did.