In a recent poll, 61 percent of all Americans—not just Christians—said they wished they read the Bible more. Maybe you're in that group. The desire is there, and you find the Bible helpful when you do get around to reading it—it's just hard to find the time. What can you do to turn that desire into reality?
There's no foolproof way to start a new Bible-reading habit and stick to it. But we can learn a few things from behavioral research that could make it easier. Try applying the "4 R's" to your Bible-reading plans and see what happens.
If you intend to spend, say, 15 minutes a day in Bible study, you need to kick something else out of your routine. You could sleep less or skip lunch or leave work a bit early, but these won't be long-term solutions. Look for non-essential things that you already do regularly, and see if you can read the Bible instead. Is there a sitcom you can stop watching in order to free up a half-hour a week? Do you spend an hour after work scrolling through Facebook? Could you limit that to 45 minutes?
It's very hard to carve out time for a new habit, but if you can replace an old habit with a new one, you're more likely to succeed. That time is already "budgeted." You're just filling it with something better.
Find creative ways to nudge yourself to practice your new Bible-reading habit instead of the old habit. Keep your Bible on top of the TV or computer. Write verses from Psalm 119 on index cards and post them around your home. Set a timer or alarm on your phone to signal your move from, say, Facebook to faith book. At the designated time, when you want to turn to the Bible, you need a reminder that is "in your face," perhaps literally, to help you make the transition.
3. Remove obstacles.
Human beings are very good at making excuses. This has been true since the Garden of Eden. I can't go to the gym today because I'd have to pack my gym bag, and I'm not sure where my gym clothes are or if they're clean. Successful habit-creators anticipate those problems and solve them in advance. The gym clothes are laundered and packed, and the gym bag is set out by the door, ready to go. You need the same sort of forethought with Bible reading.
What are the potential obstacles? Maybe you don't know what translation to use, or you don't have a Bible you feel comfortable with. Maybe you don't know where to start. Maybe you don't know where to sit. You can come up with a million excuses, but you can also solve these issues. Figure it out. Find your chair, find your Bible, and start reading (perhaps with the gospel of Luke, which gets you quickly into the heart of the Christian story and leads to John-Acts-Romans—all very engaging material).
4. Reasonable expectations.
It will take a while to make this habit stick. Experts suggest a period of 2-3 months before the new behavior becomes "second nature." You might miss a day here and there. Don't sweat it. Perfection is not necessary. Commitment is.
And you will have divine assistance in the process. You are attempting to set aside regular quality time with the Creator who made you. If you ask, the Lord will be more than happy to help.
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