1. Plan – The Training Plan
As the old saying goes: Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. It is difficult to accomplish anything of significance without some planning and effort. It is very difficult to make any progress with anything unless you approach it intentionally. God does do the miraculous but maybe you’ve noticed that he’s not in the habit of performing miracles for the purpose of compensating for your laziness.
When I’m preparing to run a marathon, I don’t show up at the starting line saying “Which way do we go and how long is this thing anyway?!” That would be a disaster. “Hey God, I totally didn’t train for this. You know I wanted to but… If I snap my fingers, would you mind giving my body the power and energy to finish this race? Thanks a bunch!” It doesn’t work that way. I have to think ahead. I design a training calendar, and then I do things on the calendar, and then I measure my progress and make adjustments as needed in order to accomplish my goal.
The best way to plan and to measure progress is to use one of the many Bible reading plans that are available. I suggest starting here. Or download an app that will send you daily reminders and keep track of what you’ve read. Or if you want to keep it simple and you want to read the Bible from front to back, just look at the total number of pages, divide by 365 and read that many pages every day.
2. Prioritize – Do It First, Every Day
We can accomplish much if we make very simple but solid commitments. Try this one: “Before I do anything significant each day, I [state your name] will read my Bible.” That’s it. Before you read the paper, before you check Facebook, before you read anything else of do anything else, open your Bible. Prioritize. If some variation of the statement, like “Before I go to sleep at night…” works for you, go for it.
3. Prune – Make a “Stop Doing” List
Pruning is a practice that involves removing parts of a plant like branches, buds, or roots. This is done in order to remove deadwood, more favourably shape the plant, improve its health and to improve the quality of its fruit. Pruning is a process of targeted removal.
On a regular basis, our lives need pruning. There are things that shouldn’t be there that need to be removed. There are areas of our lives that aren’t shaped like they should be. There are parts that are unhealthy and all of this leads to diminished fruit-bearing. In some cases we need to prune things that aren’t necessarily harmful to us but are keeping us from more important things.
What are you going to stop doing? What is important to you? What are the easy or fun or urgent things you’re doing that keep you from doing what’s most important? If you are committed to reading God’s Word, what are you willing to sacrifice in order to make that happen? This is the end of a year and the beginning of a new one and this time of the year lends itself to resolutions. What will you resolve to do this year?
4. Persevere – Just Do It
To borrow a phrase from the sporting world: “Just Do It!” I love the simple meaning of that phrase. Once you commit to doing something, do it. Expect excuses to present themselves to you every day – especially if you commit to something as significant as reading God’s Word. Believe me, the excuses will come every day.
I really need to get my homework done…
This kitchen is a mess…
I’m too tired to read…
If I do this I’m going to be late!
I wonder what’s happening on Facebook
How did the my favourite team do last night?
What is the front page news this morning?
And then there will be the voice of the enemy…
“This isn’t doing you any good anyway…”
“These are just words on a page…”
“This is too difficult for you understand…”
“Leviticus?!? Seriously? You don’t need to read THAT!”
“Read the Bible, even if I don’t feel like it?! That sounds like legalism.”
Yes, reading the Bible can be an exercise in legalism, but approaching it with discipline and commitment is not legalism. And why should we do this? Is it just so we can pump our heads full of knowledge? Is knowledge the end goal? No. Knowledge is the first goal, but knowledge is not the end goal. Here are some wise words from Eugene Peterson:
“Christians feed on scripture. Holy Scripture nurtures the holy community as food nurtures the human body. Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son.” (Eat This Book, p18)
We read the Bible, we consume the Bible, in order to get the life-changing truth of God into our lives. Make 2014 the year you make a resolution, count the cost, and then intentionally rearrange things in your life so that the most important things get done.
Listen to the sermon: What To Do With God’s Word in 2014