Why do some habits seem easy while others do not? Engaging in the Bible and creating a consistent habit of this spiritual discipline seems to come naturally to some while being a significant struggle for others. Consider the diametric nature of weightlifting and overeating.
When it comes to physical fitness one component seems to trump all others: repetition. Lifting weights one time a week might be slightly better than not at all but it certainly won’t lead to significant improvement. You need to lift a few times a week or more. And you can’t just lift a weight one time and cross it off the list; you’ll need repetition in lifting that weight until you’ve exhausted the muscle. To clarify, lifting weights leads to muscle tone and weight loss only when repetition is at work. Consistent, ongoing repetition.
Now consider overeating. Unlike lifting weights, you probably don’t imagine yourself applying repetition to unhealthy eating habits. But you do. It isn’t one single bite of cake that causes major problems; it’s several bites. And it isn’t just that one piece of cake, it could be healthy foods eaten in excess that leads to poor health. Repetition is a crucial factor. We don’t just take one bite and then hold off until the next meal, we take several bites, potentially eating more than we need to which leads to overeating and eventually poor health.
Lifting weights and overeating are two areas where we can see the positive and negative effects of repetition. The results drive the habit, but so too does the action. For example, people who overeat probably don’t enjoy being overweight or feeling unhealthy, but they do enjoy the eating. Likewise, consistent weightlifters enjoy the practice of lifting weights in addition to the results of being more fit. Just like I mentioned last week: the purpose is critical if we are going to be consistent in our bible engagement. But it has to be more than just focusing on the end game if we are going to engage long term.
The challenge to stick with our Bible engagement is intrinsically affected by repetition just like lifting and overeating. What happens after you read the Scriptures one time, in one sitting? What happens when you skip this practice? Every disciple of Jesus knows reading and applying the Word is vital to the Christ-life, yet, many give up on consistent Bible engagement. Is it possible that we have focused so much on the end result that we miss the blessing in the action? Or, like the overeater, perhaps we ignore or miss the connection between the consumption and the result? Either way, repetition plays an integral role in sticking with our Bible engagement. Here are three keys to helping make repetition a positive practice in reading and applying the Word:
Create Positive Cues
Habits are ignited by cues, something that triggers how we respond. If you have struggled to engage in a consistent Bible engagement habit, perhaps creating some positive cues will help. If you try to read first thing in the morning, you might begin with the alarm going off. For many people, this is a negative cue as it disturbs their peaceful rest. This cue then starts everything off on a bad note. Instead, start your Bible engagement after you’ve prepared for the day, or once you feel settled at the office. You may even find it easier to engage with the Word through audio in route to work (there are plenty of apps and recordings to make this work). With positive cues, you can help develop the habit of Bible engagement something you look forward to rather than something with which you struggle.
Connect Bible Engagement with Other Habits
Creating a new habit isn’t easy, but it is possible. One way to enhance repetition in reading and applying the Word is to connect it to another habit you already have. Do you have the same morning routine every day? What elements of your daily routine already include a habit? Do you enjoy breakfast at home before heading in to work? Do you get a fresh cup of coffee when you sit down at your desk for the day? Look for places to engage with the Word that key off of elements of your schedule that you enjoy.
We talk about accountability a lot on this blog, but we believe it is the primary element missing from the lives of so many believers who struggle to follow and obey Jesus. It is one of the critical components in discipleship groups. The truth is, without accountability, it will be tough to sustain repetition in your Bible engagement. Even if you don’t have a discipleship group find someone, your friend, your spouse, your child, or even your co-worker, who will ask you consistently if you are engaging with God’s Word.
Repetition doesn’t sound all that exciting for most people, but it is the foundation for ongoing Bible engagement. The more we read and apply, the more we know and grow in our relationship with Christ. Stick with your Bible engagement by increasing and sustaining repetition.