Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Are you behind yet?

When a new year rolls around, it's not uncommon for Christians to recommit themselves to the spiritual discipline of Bible reading.  It's a great goal, and our spiritual lives are fed by such a discipline (Mt. 4:4). 

Was that one of your goals for 2020?  Is this the year you're finally going to read through the New Testament?  Or maybe the whole Bible?  There are resources on the internet and your phone that can help you stay on track.  You can even create your own customized Bible reading plan.  In our congregation, we offered three different plans to help people read the Bible daily.

Lots of people make resolutions, and lots of people plan to act on them.  But today is January 7, and my question is: When it comes to your Bible reading plan, are you behind yet?  Maybe not.  Maybe you're still getting up a little earlier, staying up a little later, or eating lunch at your desk to stay on task.  Excellent!  Stay at it!

But maybe you're behind.  Maybe you started with great zeal, but you've started hitting the snooze button instead of popping out of bed.  Or you're staying in front of the TV too long at night, instead of shutting it off and reading.  Maybe you've missed a day.  Or two.  Or more.  Now, even as you read this brief post, you feel the pressure to "catch up."

Well, it would be great to catch up, but I think there are some bigger questions.  Why did you set this goal?  Why did you want to read through the Bible?  What are you hoping to accomplish?

In my childhood, I went to a church that had special offering envelopes.  On the outside of those envelopes, there was a checklist.  It had several items on it, including things like this: Attended Sunday School.  Attended worship.  Brought Bible.  Read Bible daily.  Prayed.  Made visits. 

Looking at the list, there's nothing bad on it.  They're all good and beneficial activities.  However, if my heart is focused solely on finishing the list, I will miss out on all that is good and beneficial.  My heart has to be in the right place if my spiritual disciplines are going to have the right effect.

This is true of our Bible reading plans.  We can get so focused on finishing our Bibles that we fail to focus on fellowship with God through reading the Bible.  If that's the case, at the end of the year, we will have read all the words of God, but we probably won't have a greater grasp on the truth of God.

So, what should you do if you're behind?  I'd suggest four things.

  1. Don't worry.  To do so would violate the very Word you want to read (Phil. 4:6).
  2. Ask yourself, "Why am I behind?"  Is it because of uncontrollable, providential events?  Is it because I was lazy and neglected what I knew I ought to do?  Is it because something else captured my heart today?  In response, repent of any sin you discover, change what needs to be changed, and pray for God's help.
  3. Start again with today's reading, and keep going.  If you can come back later and pick up what you missed, great.
  4. Keep your heart focused on seeking the Lord through your Bible reading.  It's better to know more of God after reading less of the Bible than to know less of God after reading all the Bible.
God's Word is precious.  Reading God's Word, especially in our own language, is a privilege.  Read on...and stay steady.