When many Christians realize they’ve gotten off track with their Bible reading, the first step they often take is the wrong one. They resort to guilt. They know they’ve blown that promise they made to God about staying in His Word. All those big plans have gotten sucked away by the busyness of life.
But guilt won’t help here. Sure, you can acknowledge that you’re not where you want to be, but the moment you start beating yourself up is the moment you’ve pretty much assured that you’ll do it again. Sound strange? The truth is that when we dive into guilt about failed goals, we really just attach a heavy load of negativity to the things we’re trying to accomplish. Don’t put Bible reading into that negative, guilt-laden category.
Let’s try something different. Here are 3 steps to take when you stumble in your Bible reading plans:
1. Work on Establishing the Habit
How often have you been driving home from work, gotten lost in thought, and realized that you’re almost there? Your mind took the right turns without you even thinking about it. Why? Because you’ve gotten into a routine, a groove that you follow on a consistent basis. The first drive home became several drives home became a pattern that you stick to for the most part. It’s a habit.
Anything can become a habit with the right mindset. But forming a habit takes some work and some time. Here’s how you can get it started:
- Pray. God always honors prayers for those wanting to make His Word a priority.
- Set a time for Bible study. Yes, your schedule is probably packed, but time and time again, you’ll find that the only way something becomes automatic is if you specifically set aside precious moments for it. Put God in your calendar. Set up reminders. And go.
- If you miss a day, push away the guilt first and then see if you can make your Bible more obvious in your life. Put the app front and center on your phone or put the book where you can’t miss it.
- Don’t have a set expectation about how much you need to read each day. That makes it easier to feel like you “failed” if you only read a chapter instead of a whole book. Just read.
The more your Bible reading becomes a habit, the more you’ll likely look forward to it. (Bonus tip: If you’re reading a narrative section of Scripture, leave off on a cliffhanger, such as Paul being thrown in prison or Gideon taking on the Midianites. That makes you look forward to finding out what happened.)
2. Work with Other People
If you’ve ever tried to start an exercise regimen, you know that going it alone makes it incredibly hard to stick with it. You’ve got no one to keep you focused and accountable.
Studying Scripture can be much the same way. When you hit the Book by yourself, you have no one to bounce your thoughts off of and no one to share insights with. You’ve also got no one to make sure you’re keeping at it. Especially while you’re forming the habit, you’ll always do much better if a Christian friend works at it with you. That doesn’t mean you have to study together in the same room at the same time (although that’s great if you can), but it does mean that your Bible partner(s) will ask you about what you’ve done today or this week.
Thanks to Skype and FaceTime, you don’t even have to live in the same city or continent with those who hold you up. You just need a phone or the Internet, and you can discuss what God’s teaching you.
But make sure you pick a friend or friends who are dependable.
3. Work to Increase Your Love
Here’s the truth: The more you love reading Scripture, the more you’ll do so. We humans spend more time with the things that get us most excited. And as you get into the Bible reading habit, you should find that you enjoy it more and more.
But you can increase your enjoyment in other ways as well:
- Do what it says. Applying what God’s Word says can be difficult or even scary at first, but as you obey, you’ll see how God can continually transform your life. That’s always exciting.
- Get more information. Find commentaries and sermons on the books of the Bible that you’re studying. You could even listen to them on the way to work. That way, you’ll see how the Bible continues to be relevant to us.
- Pray it. Be bold in praying what Scripture teaches, especially in the Psalms. You’ll find that your love for God and His Word will grow as you do.
At some point, all of us stumble in our Bible study—often more than once. Don’t let guilt derail you. Instead, use these 3 steps to dust yourself off and go at it again.