It’s a new year and if you are like me you are setting new goals, creating new habits, and cultivating ways to have a fresh new 365 days ahead. And if you and I are like everyone else, according to US News, 80% of us will fail by the month of February. There probably doesn’t need to be hard data reporting on the failure rate of new year’s resolutions, just take a look at your own life: how often do you stick with your resolutions? I know I start well and somewhere down the line things tend to come apart. But when it comes to reading the Word consistently, I have found a way to succeed. I have found a way to stick with it, and it has nothing to do with new habits and patterns and new year’s resolutions.
The secret to sticking with your Bible reading goals in the new year is less about building a new habit and more about a mindset. The way we think about engaging God’s Word is the critical factor that will allow us to stick with it. Rather than setting a goal like we do with weight loss and physical fitness, or making a new commitment to doing better than we have done before, or trying to create a new habit, we need to shift the way we think about engaging God’s Word in order to make it a consistent part of our life. That way when February hits and people around us drop the gym membership and lose the diet plan (or even if we do), engaging God’s Word remains a crucial pillar of our life. The secret is not some new strategy or idea. It’s all about one word: purpose.
Perhaps you have thought about reading the Word as a challenge to complete. You set a goal of reading X amount of pages, chapters, or books and then when you are finished you check off your goal and move along. While I don’t want to be critical of this method, I know it works for many, I do want us to think about the why behind engaging the Word rather than the process of it. For example, I served for four years in the Marine Corps. While in the service I was required to take many tests including rifle qualification, swim qualification, computer training, and even Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical warfare training. The strategy used by the USMC to help us pass these tests was the same every time. The instructor would tell us the key elements we needed to know in order to pass, then quickly give us the exam. Since the answers were fresh in our minds, we rarely did poorly. The problem is I don’t think I could tell you any of those answers even a few weeks after taking the exam. I certainly couldn’t tell you any of them now, years later. This approach works for passing a test, but it does not work for practical life usage. Since my job in the USMC did not revolve around those elements, it wasn’t crucial that I retained that knowledge. If I had been in the infantry, however, I would have taken the tests much more seriously, as my life would depend on it. That brings us back to purpose. To pass a test, it isn’t essential to retain knowledge once the test concludes. But in the trenches of warfare, you had better have more than a passing knowledge of the means for your survival and success.
Make no mistake as disciples of Jesus, we are in a battle every single day: a spiritual battle. The enemy would love nothing more than for us to take lightly the Word of God rather than engaging and applying what it says. If our purpose is merely to achieve a goal (read through the Bible), then we will probably fail. Or, if we succeed, what have we really done but checked off a box? Instead, we must realign our purpose for reading the Word. The purpose must be communion with the Father. The purpose must be partaking of the Bread of Life. The purpose must be about so much more than achievement and goals. Our spiritual lives depend on it. So the first step of sticking with it when it comes to engaging the Word of God is to refocus on the purpose of our reading. I believe you can consistently develop an ongoing practice of reading and applying the Word, but it starts with knowing why and getting beyond simple resolutions and goals.