If I had a nickel for every time I said, “I don’t have enough time to do that,” I would be rich. For me, and I suspect most people, not enough time is an automatic excuse for things I have not thought through or prioritized. The bottom line is this: we make time for things that are important to us.
One constant we see each year at American Bible Society in our annual State of the Bible report is that more than half of Americans (56% in 2019) say they desire to read the Bible more often. However, when we ask them what their top frustration is when it comes to reading the Bible, the most common response is “not enough time.”
Fifteen years ago I was in that majority of Americans who wanted to read the Bible more, but with young children at home and a demanding job, I could not possibly imagine how to fit one more thing into my hectic schedule. Then, I learned some principles that helped me build a habit of Bible reading and I have read through the Bible every year since. It has become a necessary part of my day.
What made me want to read God’s Word more? My spiritual journey felt stale and I wanted to grow deeper in my relationship with God. Additionally, I had been asked to lead a ministry and I knew that in order to lead with diligence, as we’re exhorted in Romans 12:8, I needed to be aligned with God’s will, able to recognize his voice, and be filled with his Word. Those things could only happen if I consistently invested time to read and reflect on Scripture.
If you aspire to read the Bible more, the new year is the perfect time to get started. Why not make 2021 the year you reach your Scripture engagement goals! Here are a few practices that helped me succeed in building a lifelong habit.
Evaluate and plan.
Many times, we fall short of our goals because we try to make too many major changes at once. We decide to start exercising and immediately begin going to the gym seven days a week. Then, when we are unable to sustain such a demanding pace, we become discouraged and quit altogether. Starting small is one key to forming a new habit. Along with that, evaluating our situations and creating a plan is a must. Ask yourself these questions: Why do I want to do this? What is my goal? How much time can I realistically spend each day? What time of day will work best? What is the best tool for me? Then, create a plan that fits your goals, schedule, and preference. Start small and be consistent.
My goal was to read through the Bible in a year, and after evaluating my schedule, I decided I could set aside at least 20 to 30 minutes each morning to read and reflect on a portion of Scripture. That meant waking up earlier, which wasn’t easy, but I made it a priority and now it has become a daily habit like brushing my teeth. My tool of choice was the One Year Bible in the New Living Translation because it fit both my goal and my schedule.
I set myself up for success by being prepared and eliminating excuses. I keep my Bible, pens, and journal together in a basket by my spot on the sofa, so I don’t have to waste time searching for them. Consequently, each morning, I’m able to grab a cup of coffee, and go to my place where everything is ready and waiting for me.
Setting a consistent place is important to building a routine, too. My Bible reading place has changed depending on my season of life. When my boys were young, I would drop them off at school in the morning and sit in my car at the park for 20 minutes before heading to the office. When the weather is nice, my spot is the swing on my patio. Now that I have a morning commute, I read on the train on my way to work.
Make it enjoyable.
One sure way to stick to a habit is to make it enjoyable. I love my Bible time and feel deprived if I miss it. Each morning when the house is quiet, I curl up on the sofa with my Bible, journal, a cup of coffee, and my cat. To make my reading easier and more relatable, I use the New Living Translation. If I need a change at the end of a year, I switch to a different Bible version to keep my reading fresh.
Sharing experiences with friends is a great way to stay on track and to grow in our relationships with them and with God. Several of my friends also read the One Year Bible, and we often share what we are learning with each other either in person or online. This keeps us connected and helps us see God at work in each other’s lives.
Keep moving forward.
I am a perfectionist by nature, so when I am using a Bible plan, I want to be perfectly consistent. I used to be tempted to catch up on my reading if I fell behind, and that made me feel overwhelmed and likely to quit. However, I have learned to let go of missed opportunities and pick up where I left off or move to the current date of the plan I am using, skipping the days that I have missed.
If reading the Bible more is something you aspire to do in 2021, take some time to evaluate your situation and create a plan. Then, get started!
One great tool that will activate your Bible reading habit is The Bible App by YouVersion. It puts hundreds of Bible reading plans in your pocket via your smartphone. American Bible Society publishes an ever-expanding collection of topical plans in the app. Search for them under Plans. The plans range from three-day topical studies to one-week plans to year-long plans for reading through the Bible in a year. You can do them alone or with friends and set up reminder notifications to help keep you on track.
May 2021 be your year of greater Bible engagement!
Thanks to the support of our faithful financial partners, American Bible Society has been engaging people with the life-changing message of God’s Word for more than 200 years.
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