New Year’s Resolutions can feel a bit distant this year. By their very nature, resolutions are dependent on the future – that day when you will exercise more, eat healthier, clean the house – and yet when the future feels so uncertain, so unstable, it’s hard to make plans or commitments.
Yet, this is one of the reasons why setting out plans to read the Bible this year is as important as ever. Time spent with God is time on a secure foundation – stability for when the world is shaken. By placing habits of daily Bible time into practice now, you set yourself up for whatever the year holds.
Make a time and place
The important thing about developing habits is that they are just that, habits. You want to reach for your Bible as automatically as you reach for your box of cereal. Consistent daily time is helpful, but if you can’t, a moment snatched when you are awake and alone is better than none. It’s much better to make a New Year’s commitment that you can keep, rather than be over–ambitious. If you know you only have ten minutes over your first cup of coffee, make those count!
In a world where the lines of work and home life are blurred, dedicated time and space is important, and it’s helpful if that is separate from your workspace. In my old house, all we had was a tiny conservatory, but it would fill up with light in the mornings, ideal for stretches of quiet prayer and reflection. In this house, I share our living room with the cats and my family and manage a chapter or so over two slices of toast. There’s an old adage about writers that if we waited for the perfect time and place, we’d never write, and I believe the same goes for Bible reading. Find the space that works for your life and dedicate it – set it apart – for God.
Make a plan that works for you
A wise man I know said that a good goal lays out not just the destination, but the path to get there. That way, even if the path is washed away, the goal remains.
So, what’s your goal this year? If it’s to read through the whole of the Bible in a year, a Bible reading plan might be your friend. There’s lots of good options out there – the M’Cheyne reading plan, for instance, takes you through the Old Testament once and the New Testament and the Psalms twice; Reading Between the Lines works through the Jesus story in the Old and New Testaments in smaller readings. Maybe you could get together with a friend or church group to follow the same plan and swap notes and ideas. And again, don’t stress if the path gets washed away. It’s perfectly alright to start a Bible–in–a–Year plan now and slowly work through it over a few years.
If you’re new to all this Bible–reading stuff, or if you’re wanting a more in–depth look, you could start small and focused, with a single book of the Bible. Last year, I worked through the difficult book of Acts with the help of a devotional pack, making notes on the text in the journal and following along in the devotional.
And if reading isn’t your thing – how about listening? I’ve been spending my mornings on the bus or at the breakfast table in the company of Matt Whitman’s Ten Minute Bible Hour podcast, as he goes through the book of Matthew. If you’re wanting to read through the whole of the Bible in a year, or just looking for manageable ways of processing it – David Suchet’s Audio Bible is always a good shout.
Make space to hear from God
It’s important to make sure our time with God is more than just a checkmark on our to–do list. When we settle down, with our Bibles, with our plans, with our resolutions, let’s make sure that we remember the God of the universe, who we are coming before. We get to spend this time with him, and he loves to meet with us, even in our imperfect ways. But he also gives us grace for the days when we don’t get to our Bible reading, because of distraction, or exhaustion, or a million other unforeseen circumstances. As Jerry Bridges wonderfully puts it in his book The Discipline of Grace – “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”