(New Year’s resolutions were never something I was committed to in the past. However, I’m approaching 2018 differently. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing my goals and focus for the New Year, I’ll also share thoughts and tidbits about how you might join me. You can read the introduction here: http://www.trillianewbell.com/2018/01/02/goal-setting-new-year/)
Apart from God and his sustaining grace, I can do nothing. This was true in 2017 and will be true for 2018. In my introductory post on goals for the New Year, I shared that I would be setting one goal in each of the following areas: spiritual, professional, technological, marriage, and family. I want to begin this series of blog posts by sharing my experience and encouraging you to think about your spiritual goals for the year.
I’ve never spoken to someone who doesn’t desire peace and contentment, but I have spoken to many who are running and searching for it in the brokenness of this world, in idols that leave them empty, in people who disappoint them, and in themselves, which will never deliver. If we want true peace and joy, we need to learn and relearn to run to the only One who can truly satisfy.
If you desire to have a fruitful and encouraging 2018, I would encourage you to exercise the spiritual disciplines, including but not limited to, Bible reading, prayer, and rest.
Perhaps that’s a bold statement to make, but as I look back to 2017, I am thoroughly convinced that God used these spiritual disciplines as a means of grace to sustain me during difficult times and encourage my heart during joy-filled days. And why would they not? Read what God has said about it:
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, not stands in the way of sinners, not sits in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path” (Psalm 119: 105).
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you” (Isaiah 26:3).
“In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears” (Psalm 18:6).
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (1 Corinthians 12:9).
Today, I’d like to focus on reading God’s Word.
First, notice that I wrote that God sustained me, giving me peace and joy. What I didn’t write was that all my circumstances changed. This is not true. As a matter of fact, one particular circumstance not only didn’t change, but also got worse! But as circumstances became more confusing, God’s Word and promises became sweeter. God isn’t a Mr. Fix-it or a self-help guru. He is our only refuge and we must run to Him as such. We go to Him because we want to know the God who is ruling this world. We go because he loves us and we love him.
Something I’ve continually asked myself over the past year and into this year: Do you believe what God says? If so, then proceed in all things accordingly. No half-heartedness. No wishy-washy. Walk in this faith you proclaim. I need to continually preach God’s truth to my heart and mind. In order to do that, I must get in the Word, speak the Word, meditate on the Word, and rest in the Lord. But I don’t simply want to read it, although that is wonderful, I want to delight in it—I want to enjoy the one who spoke it into existence (2 Tim. 3:16).
Frankly, Bible reading is something I do every single day simply because of the nature of my work. I read to write; I read to speak. I am in the Word. What’s been difficult for me in the past, however, is spending time in the Word simply to delight and enjoy God. The last part of 2017, I felt a conviction that I might be using God’s Word for work but not savoring the God of those words. So, I asked God to help change my heart that I might love Him with all my heart, soul, and mind. I wanted and needed to delight in the Lord (Psalm 37:4). God has answered that prayer and I desire for it to be a continued focus for me this year.
Your Bible Reading Goals
I realize that most people don’t read God’s Word as part of their work. A 2017 Lifeway Research article claimed, “Americans have a positive view of the Bible. And many say the Christian scriptures are filled with moral lessons for today. However, more than half of Americans have read little or none of the Bible.” Out of 1,000 people surveyed only 11 percent of those who said they have a positive view of the Bible have read it. Many have read parts of it, but survey after survey continues to reveal that although we make claims that we believe God’s Word and that the Bible is important, many do not read it.
Knowing that most of us don’t actually read our Bibles for various reasons and knowing that most Christians list Bible reading as their top resolution for the year, I thought I’d share a few practical, flexible ideas to help you read this year:
- Schedule and plan your reading time…and stick to it.
- Use a reading plan.
- Find a good devotional.
- Invest in a study Bible.
- Find an online class.
- Join or start a Bible study group.
- Listen to the Bible through a Bible app.
- Find accountability.
The keyword to all of the above is flexible! You can read, listen, or watch the Bible any time you want. This year, let’s make Bible reading a priority—not because it earns us anything before the Lord, but because we get to learn about our Savior and most holy God. It’s a resolution worth pursuing, however you decide to do it.
Questions for you: What has kept you from reading your Bible? How might you prioritize reading? Why do you think it’s important to read? Maybe you read, like me, but it’s become routine; how might you ask God to help you delight in it?