There is a world of difference between knowing that we should do something and actually doing it, isn’t there?
Think how wonderful it would be if doing what we know we should do was easy. When information about the best course of action for our lives came to us, we would flick a switch—pop!—and just like that, we would be the people we are supposed to be, acting exactly as we are supposed to and doing exactly what would be best.
Of course, that isn’t how people are. We do what we know we shouldn’t and don’t do what we should. We forget. We ignore, let slide, procrastinate.
Take the habit of daily Bible reading, for example. A 2012 LifeWay Research study found that just 19 percent of surveyed Christians read their Bible daily. Per a Barna Group survey, 47 percent of people whose Bible reading decreased in 2014 listed their top frustration as “never having enough time” to read it.
As Christians, we believe that the Bible is God’s Word. We say that God has superintended its creation by the miraculous inspiration of its many authors. We agree that the Bible is a fully sufficient record of God’s communication to us—a comprehensive narrative of his redemptive work from start to finish.
Getting into a habit of daily Bible reading is a discipleship issue. Discipleship happens at the levels of both the head and the heart, mind and desire. Understanding these two things gives us a stronger foundation on which to build a daily Bible reading habit.
1. Change your mind.
Sixty percent of Americans wish they read the Bible more. The wording of the phrase is more instructive than it first appears: “wish they read.”
Look at that word, wish. Is this how you feel about time in God’s Word? Like it’s an old college buddy you lost touch with? “It sure would be great to stay in touch. I wish we could, but gosh darn it, we’re both so busy with family and everything, and we live in different states now. One of these days, though, I’ll pick up the phone and give ’em a call, right? Won’t that be great? One of these days.”
Would you make time for something so weak that it only evoked a “wish” inside you? Something that you just kind of, sort of thought might, maybe, be a generally good thing?
Of course not.
What you would make time for is something that you thought was the pulsing lifeblood of a heart dedicated to Jesus Christ. You would make time for something you were utterly convinced was the single most important thing that you could do on a given day. You’d make time for something that was so critical to your life that you couldn’t survive without it.
Here’s the truth: Without a regular, daily habit of encountering God’s Word, you will live your life without ever touching even the nearest horizon of the disciple you could have been.
So change your mind. Stop wishing you had time to read the Bible. Tell yourself the full value of doing it, as often as necessary, and make it your deep conviction.
2. Shape your desires.
Our minds can be changed. Our desires have to be shaped.
The flip side of beginning a daily Bible reading habit is understanding that it is natural to not want to read the Bible every day.
Don’t be discouraged by the fact that everything inside you wants to do something else. Don’t lose heart because you don’t naturally have an appetite for reading God’s Word, or because your interest fights against being captured by Scripture in favor of some other activity.
This is normal.
This is normal because your desires are not like your mind. Your mind can be changed by new information. Your desires can’t. Have you ever tried to tell yourself to stop feeling something, or to start wanting something that you really didn’t want? How did that go?
Your desires don’t understand data. What your desires understand, in part, is repetition. Your heart is like a clay glob on a pottery wheel. It has to be shaped by repeated formative practices, over time.
This is why reading Scripture every day is so critical. Your appetite for God’s Word is the opposite of your appetite for food. With food, first you feel hunger, and then you eat and immediately get full. With God’s Word, you read it first, even if you feel full. Over time, you grow hungrier and want more and more.
Knowing this can keep you from being discouraged when the process doesn’t seem to be working. The habit shapes the desire—not the other way around.
And, Just So You Don’t Have Any Excuse . . .
So now that you’re equipped with a better foundation, how do you start reading the Bible every day? Of course the cheeky answer is “just start doing it,” which you should. But there are so many resources that can help if just sitting down with your Bible isn’t working for you. Below are just a few suggestions:
Buy a One Year Bible, or download a “Bible in a year” reading program/app.
Join a Facebook community of daily Bible readers.
Follow a daily Bible reading Twitter feed.
Read the Bible over your lunch break.
Buy books on habit formation to help you build this habit.
Be ruthless with your daily schedule. Find time somewhere, even if it means getting up earlier, skipping lunch with friends, or giving up a favorite TV show.
Listen to the Bible in audio book format on your iPod.
Try a different translation, or use multiple translations.
Challenge yourself to learn to read passages in the original Greek or Hebrew.
Experiment—try different times of day and different locations to find a routine you prefer.
Be flexible with your goal. If you can only read a chapter a day or even a few paragraphs, do that.
To spend time face-to-face with God is as simple as opening the pages of his Word. No habit in your life will reward you more than a daily practice of it. So change your mind, shape your desires, and go do it.
Image by twentyonehundred productions team member Matt Kirk.