We’ve all been there. A new year starts with high hopes and renewed commitment to be more faithfully consistent in reading the Bible devotionally. The first few weeks go pretty well. However, by the end of January, you’ve already missed a few days. As you move further into February, discouragement increases. By March, it’s quite possible you’ve given up altogether. Defeated and exasperated, you resign yourself to a walk with God devoid of faithful devotions. Discipline and consistency must be for super-Christians, right? No matter how hard you try, you never seem to make the cut.
If this scenario sounds even remotely familiar, you’re not alone. Every Christ-follower experiences struggles with devotional discipline. Sometimes, the struggles are momentary or seasonal. Other times, they are chronic. Regardless, spiritual disciplines, such as personal Bible-reading, don’t always come easy for the disciple of Jesus. I think that’s why the biblical writers present the Christian life as a race and a fight (1 Corinthians 9:26-27).
Since the Christian life is a race and fight, we should train and fight well. This truth is instructive for us when we’re struggling with reading the Bible consistently. Rather than giving up in a state of desperation, we should lean in and fight through our perceived failures.
In my own personal experience, as well as my time leading others spiritually, I have found that tools exist to help us read better and more faithfully. More often than not, the presence of these four practices makes it far more likely to persevere and far less likely to give up in reading the Bible faithfully.
Get a plan. Many of us fail to read the Bible consistently because we just don’t know what to read. We start out okay, but once we finish what we’re reading now, we just don’t know where to go next. That’s where a good Bible reading plan comes in. Numerous reading plans exist. Some plans vary readings with Old and New Testament selections each day. Other plans take you through the Bible chronologically. There is no one right way to read the Bible. Choose a plan that fits your schedule and maturation level—but get a plan!
Begin to pray. Jesus calls God’s Word our daily bread (Matthew 4:4), and Peter refers to it as our spiritual milk (1 Peter 2:2). God’s Word, then, is our spiritual food. If we’re having a hard time craving it, we should pray for different taste buds. Get on your knees asking God to give you spiritual desires you can’t explain. Don’t pray it once or twice. Pray it consistently.
Enlist a partner. When training for a race, how much more enjoyable are the workouts when you’ve got a workout buddy? The same principle is true for Bible-reading. Personal Bible-reading is still meant to be done individually. But, why not enlist a partner or two who might go through the plan with you? Then, make it a point to intentionally meet up together every week or two to talk about what God is teaching you through the reading. When you do this, you’re not just reading for the sake of yourself, you’re also reading for the sake of others.
Commit to persevere. When we experience inconsistency and failure in reading the Bible, the temptation is to quit because it’s too hard. Instead of quitting, we should persevere. That’s actually one of the most important lessons I’ve personally learned in 23 years of reading the Bible: Being devoted to God’s Word isn’t defined by following a reading plan perfectly but by persevering in it even when you don’t.
Chris James serves as Boston Collegiate Coordinator for the Baptist Convention of New England where he serves as Pastor of Mill City Church & Christian Student Fellowship, a multi-site ministry reaching students at UMASS Lowell. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi (BA) and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv).