Reading the Bible is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions Christians make. It’s so common – and so commonly broken – some make the same resolution every year! Here are seven tips to making this year’s commitment finally stick.
1. Resolve to make it through January first.
Any new habit is difficult to establish. Don’t make it more difficult by making your goals too large to reach. As an example, if you need to lose 100 pounds, the task will seem so overwhelming, you’re likely to quit after a few days. It would be wise in that case to first aim for smaller goals. Today’s goal would be to lose one pound. This week’s goal is to lose three pounds. In time, such a small-goal philosophy would add up to some wonderful weight subtraction. The same idea holds true for reading the Bible. It’s a big book, perhaps the biggest you’ve ever tried to read. It can be a confusing read for a first-timer. So instead of setting a goal to read the Bible through in a year, just aim for a month of Bible reading. Aim for a week. Mark off each book you’ve read in the Table of Contents. Seeing the progress you’ve made will encourage you to stay the course. If you celebrate the small victories first, you’ll be much more likely to finish the entire Bible. Whether it takes nine or 19 months to accomplish your goal is irrelevant. Just get through January.
2. Get at least two bookmarks.
Genesis and Exodus are interesting. Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, not so much to a first-time reader. A great way to read the Bible through is to put one bookmark in the Old Testament and a second bookmark in the New Testament. If you’re struggling to get through a chapter describing how many bulls should be sacrificed during the Feast of Tabernacles, a passage from the Gospels will keep you reading. If you like that idea, you might want to add another bookmark in Psalms and Proverbs. That would cause you to read passages from three locations each day. Try it! You’ll likely find this to be one of the best techniques to get you all the way through the Bible.
3. Establish a place and a time for your Bible reading.
You already have a place and time for the successful habits in your life. This is true for eating meals, taking showers and showing up at work or school. There’s a place, a time … and a habit. So find a comfortable, quiet place and commit to being there at a certain time. Keep your Bible there. It’ll wait patiently for you, day after day.
4. Keep a pen, highlighter and notebook handy.
Don’t be afraid to make notes in your Bible. On your next trip through, you’ll glean insight from the notes you made on your first journey. The notebook? There may be a day when something really makes an impact. Jotting down what you learned is a proven technique of education. Ever take notes in a classroom? Consider your Bible your teacher. You’re the student. And yes, there will be a final exam.
5. Get a study Bible in a readable translation.
Plain talk: If you’re trying to read the Bible without some help, you’re going to struggle mightily. If you’re trying to read an already difficult text in the Shakespearian-era English of the King James Bible, you’ve just made the job incredibly more difficult. Several modern, reliable translations are available. Use an online Bible program like BibleGateway to compare translations. Pay particular attention to the New International Version, New American Standard Version and the New Living Translation, three of the most popular English translations available today. As for study Bibles, the NIV Study Bible from Zondervan is the world’s best-selling study Bible. Start there if you’ve never had a study Bible. The next study Bible to purchase would be the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, also from Zondervan. Visit christianbook.com to see these products and – literally – hundreds of other study Bible products. Don’t skip this step. You’ll need a basic study Bible to help you know the context of what you’re reading. The more you know the context, the more interesting the Bible will become. And the more interesting it becomes, the more you’ll read it!
6. Pray when you’re done.
You’ll know when you’re done. There’s no requirement to read a certain amount on any given day. Some days, you might read only a few paragraphs. Other days you might get caught up in a story and read several chapters. But however much you read, be sure to pray when you finish. If the passage covered the topic of sin, forgiveness or grace, ask forgiveness for your own sin. If the passage had a specific instruction that caused you to immediately think of a situation in your own life, pray about that. If the passage was a celebration of God’s majesty or the glory of God’s creation, join in the celebration. In time, you’ll come to cherish this time of Bible reading and prayer like nothing else in your life. And in time, you’ll actually hear from God through His Word. Nothing you’ve ever known will ever match such an experience.
7. Don’t quit.
See someone who’s physically fit? It didn’t happen by accident. The key to good physical conditioning is staying the course, no matter what. Runners run on holidays. Gym rats show up even when they didn’t sleep well the night before. Likewise, great musicians keep playing, even when it feels like work. Authors write, even if they’re struggling for inspiration. Painters paint, bakers bake and designers design … whether they feel like it or not. Reading the Bible is all about spiritual fitness. It’s a discipline that will require a daily discipline, no matter how you feel, no matter where you are and no matter how much needs to be done later in the day. Please don’t quit this incredible experience. Your Bible is a treasure chest waiting to be opened and explored. You’ll never regret the time you spend reading the world’s most important book.